I’m officially a Second Year graduate from BSSM Online! 🎉 There’s so much I could say about my experience and none of my words seem adequate, but the past two years have been exactly what I needed. BSSM is truly a life-changing experience and I’d wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone!
I don’t want to repeat too much from last year and I don’t want to make this list go on forever, but here are some of the things I think other potential students might find interesting or helpful.
As always, be aware that I’m in the pioneer class of BSSM Online and things are subject to (and likely to) change in the future! I know the BSSM staff evaluates things each summer and makes adjustments for the next year, because they are committed to excellence, something I really admire and appreciate. The school just keeps getting better and better! 😊
Things I Loved:
Getting to meet classmates in person! After all this time in school, it finally worked out for me to meet a friend from my First Year RG, and it was so great to connect face-to-face. I’m excited to meet a few others this summer!
The super-small online class size in the AMTs. Sometimes there were less than 10 students watching live. I loved the intimate feel with just a few people chatting throughout the sessions or having discussions in the breakout rooms.
The reading. As per usual. As a bonus, this year I hadn’t already read most of them, so the majority of our assigned books were new to me – yay!
Being trusted as a leader by leaders. This was a theme all year.
Gabe Valenzuela. He is hilarious. I love when he tells people to “Shut up.” 🤣
That missions trips were, again, not required. I saved a ton of money I didn’t have, and – just being honest, even though I know this isn’t the politically correct answer – it wasn’t something I was super excited about doing, anyway.
That we did have the OPTION to go on a missions trip. I chose not to, but many of my classmates got to go – with on-campus students, too! – and had incredible experiences. They saw miracles, signs and wonders! (And that’s the part I missed out on by staying home. There are pros and cons!)
That we didn’t have to take all the risks the on-campus students did. I know…BSSM students aren’t supposed to say that. 😉 Trying to keep it real here. 😁 As someone who does not come from an extremely charismatic background, I felt like I could ease into the Bethel culture better through the online program, rather than being fully immersed in person. I think I would’ve been pretty overwhelmed if I had gone in person, and this felt like it was more my speed. I’m still eager to visit Redding someday, though!
That we didn’t have to tear down chairs after every class. Haha, I’m not actually sure how it worked on campus, but they sure seemed to talk about it a lot. 😊
No Kingdom Foundations homework!! 💃🏼
That they hosted BSSM Online events around the country throughout the year. Though they didn’t come to my area this year, I love that BSSM facilitated these!
That we again had our own Second Year class and RG Facebook groups.
How kind and loving people were with their feedback for Preach Week. 🥰 God bless ‘em.
Having some repeat faces in my RG from last year.
The community. Even those on campus have commented on how there’s a different level of connectedness within our online group. Maybe that’s because we have the chat option or maybe we’re just extra intentional because we know we don’t have face-to-face opportunities, but it is so great how everybody supports and champions one other.
Home groups. These were made up of two small groups – so, around 10-12 people – and I appreciated this opportunity to get to know more people more intentionally. We didn’t start home groups until the end of February (which is different from BSSM on campus) so we actually only ended up having three home group meetings total, but it was nice to start later in the year because the faces were already familiar; we just got to connect deeper with those who’d become familiar to us.
Things I Didn’t Love:
Book reports. They were longer than last year’s assignments (although still less than 1,000 words) and not my favorite.
Preach week! I didn’t know about this before applying to Second Year or I probably wouldn’t have applied. 😜
Having to preach AGAIN! 😱 Just when I had finally gotten over having to do it once and been told by former students it wouldn’t happen again…PLOT TWIST! It did. For online students only. I was hoping to just breathe and enjoy the rest of the year, but alas, the anxiety returned. (I will say that round two was less intense, because at the last minute, our leaders decided to let us preach to our regular small groups instead of to a random group. PTL!)
Having very few AMTs to choose from compared to on campus. This is expected to change as soon as this fall – yay!
Larger small group sizes. As an introvert, I always prefer groups to be on the smaller side, but I also feel that it’s harder to get to know each other on a deep level the bigger the group gets. I had larger-than-average small groups both years, and it was great to get to know more people; it was just harder to get to know each one personally as quickly.
That we didn’t get the weekly e-mails until Monday night, when we’d already finished at least one class. I really appreciated the details that were included, but sometimes it seemed like they were too little, too late.
That more assignments (AMTs, preaching assignments, Activate assignments) were added a month or two into school instead of right away. This made it harder to adjust once I was already in a rhythm. I think I would’ve been able to handle it better if I’d been told in advance that more was coming. Instead, it took me by surprise and I felt mentally unprepared. For, like, the whole year.
That some AMTs were scheduled at the same time as other live classes. This wasn’t a huge deal because neither required live attendance, but some weeks I felt like I was missing out if I chose one over the other and then missed certain opportunities the live attendees got (such as the ability to ask questions of the speaker).
That many sessions didn’t end on time. *Note: I found that this was less of an issue as the year went on.
That we didn’t know ahead of time when our breaks were. I loved that we had breaks, but they generally weren’t announced until a few days before they began. (For the record, future students: you have three weeks off for Christmas and a week-long spring break over Easter!)
That when in-person events were hosted in Redding, there wasn’t much notice given. At one time in particular, we were notified that Randy Clark Week was coming up but that BSSM would need to know within two days if we could attend in person. That was not even close to enough time for me to make a decision and secure travel arrangements! I need lots of notice. 😊
How difficult Redding is to get to! I’ve tried to make travel arrangements a few times now and so far, it hasn’t worked out. Most of the time, airfare is expensive and/or you have to drive at least three hours from one of the major airports. This year, due to supply chain issues, there were also no rental cars available when I wanted to go. If you’re from out of state and want to visit Redding for graduation or another event, be sure to book way in advance so you don’t run into this problem!
We didn’t always get the monthly book assignments right away on the first of the month. I would’ve preferred to have the assignment BEFORE then, but at the very least on that day.
The time of my revival group. I realize there weren’t many RGs in this pioneer class so the options were limited, but my RG was over the dinner hour and into the evening, and I think I was tired every single week. My group would often run late, and although I wanted to connect with my classmates, my stomach would be growling and my energy would be spent by that time. I can’t complain too much because one of my classmates in Nigeria had to be on Zoom at 2:30 a.m. (!!) but I just felt like I was chronically worn out this year. As a result, I was less engaged.
Activate assignments. These felt kind of forced to me. (I think sometimes people who saw my out-of-character social media posts felt a little like “projects,” although this was not the intention at ALL.) There was a huge evangelistic focus, which just isn’t my passion – I would’ve loved to see more activations related to all five offices or to even have five different options every month! I did really appreciate when there were options (There often were) so we weren’t boxed in. These generally weren’t very time-consuming tasks, but they were definitely out of my comfort zone (not always a bad thing) and sometimes felt disingenuous.
It was another great (albeit much busier!) year. I am so grateful I was able to complete Second Year. I’ll never not be grateful for my BSSM experience. I think the world of Bethel and the people who run it, and these two years have shaped my life forever. I hope this post has been helpful to anyone considering Second Year and that you get the opportunity to do it in a season of life that works for you! It’s a lot of work and more demanding than First Year, but you won’t regret it.
Hey! I'm Brianna and I'm a millennial. I'm also a reader, writer, God-lover, introvert, and recovering perfectionist. ☺️
I want to inspire millennials to retain their morality, hope, and faith as they transition into adulthood and full-fledged "adult."