Who is: Colin Bennett?
Colin Bennett is the Vice-Principal of Development at Moorlands College. He is also the Director of Training for the Community and Family Studies Course.
You can view the video of Colin's talk at Wessex Filling Station at the end of this article!
It All Began In Coventry
Colin was born in Coventry. His parents were quite poor yet he and his sister were brought up to go to church from a young age. His mother was Roman Catholic so took the children to church with her each Sunday. His father though was a nominal Anglican and this caused a tension in the family home. Of this time Colin remembers:
"I went to Roman Catholic Church as a child until I reached 12 when I rejected it all, much to the disappointment of my Mum who followed Catholicism all her life."
The Chemistry of Life:
Colin went to secondary school in Coventry and found that he loved studying the sciences and excelled at them. He decided to pursue this when he left school and rather than go to college stayed on until he was 18 when he went to work in a large textile laboratory. This gave him the space he needed to throw himself into studying Chemistry to degree level on a part-time basis in Wolverhampton. However, as his studies continued he began to feel unsettled within and a growing disillusionment began to set in as he tried to fathom his place in life. As all this was happening he found that he had a real talent for supporting other young adolescence in their personal, social and educational development; plus a real desire to see them reach their full potential in life.
As a result, he decided to give up the work in the textile industry and enrol at Westhill College in the Shelly Oak area of southwest Birmingham to study Youth and Community Work.
In retrospect it is interesting to see how God leads and guides an individual; the roots of Westhill College go back to the beginning of the 20th Century, when Quaker George Cadbury (of Cadbury's Chocolate fame) and American Author George Hamilton Archibald (The Modern Sunday School - it's Theory and Practice) founded college in 1907. Both men had a strong Non-Conformist upbringing and their aim in setting up the college was it to be a centre of education where they might train Sunday School leaders to teach Christianity to ordinary folk - especially young children, through the growing Sunday School movement that was beginning to sweep across both American and England.
The College began with a mainly female student body but developed through to the 1940's with the addition of male students and courses in youth work. This soon expanded to train youth and community workers as well as primary and infants school teachers, and it became a pioneering teachers training college. In 2001 Westhill passed into the hands of the University of Birmingham.
It was at Westhill that Colin met a young lady who was studying for her teachers degree; plus both religious and theological studies. Yvonne and Colin talked deeply about faith and religion and together began to desire a deeper and more personal knowledge of God. Colin says:
"We became Christians through friends at Westhill and we went to St. Johns Wimborne where we both went [forward] to give our lives to Jesus"
After graduating Colin and Yvonne were married and moved to Sheffield where he secured a job as a Community worker. During the ten years that they lived in Sheffield their family grew as Yvonne gave birth to 3 children - Ruth, Sarah and Dan. Colin also changed roles from Community worker to a freelance Management and Training consultant, still though with an eye on guiding and supporting young people as their lives developed both physically and spiritually so that he could help them reach their full potential in life. He had known the moment he turned his life over to God that he wanted to serve Him wholeheartedly and believed with a growing passion that God wanted him to work full time for Him.
In 1991, ten years after moving to Sheffield, the dream of serving God was fulfilled when Moorlands College in Dorset offered him the post as Director of Youth and Community Work. This was a role that he readily accepted!
Christchurch ~ here we come!
The family moved en masse to the Christchurch campus in Sopley village and lived in a house within the college grounds which gave the children a wonderfully big garden to grow up in; plus a very short walk to work for the new college lecturer.
Colin continues to this day working within Moorlands College however now he is the Vice-Principal for Development and also Director of Training for the Community and Family Studies Course. He is a regular writer and speaks on family, youth and community issues. He has also authored 2 books 'FREE FROM FEAR' and 'Growing Upwards - the faith journey of young people'.
Bring out the Kingdom in YOUR Community:
During 2017 he met with the pastor of a London church and they talked about the issues facing inner city churches and the need for community work to be both evangelistic and founded on Christian values. The following week he had similar conversations with two large Christian organisations both of whom had a similar vision for promoting kingdom values within communities. Colin came away with the vision for a new course aimed at bringing out the Kingdom in peoples communities. After months of preparation during the summer and Autumn of 2017 the new course was published bringing a new accredited certification in Christian Community Development & Evangelism and is a join venture between Moorlands, The Message Trust and London City Mission. Colin writes:
"I was in a meeting with an inner city pastor and we spoke about the need for community work being both Christian and evangelistic. We were on the same page. I sensed the presence of God in our conversation but we both knew his organisation would not be involved with the idea at that stage... then 1 week later I had separate meetings with The Message London and London City Mission (LCM), both of whom raised the idea of such a course. Wow! The Bring Out the Kingdom in YOUR community course is now running - with 26 people on it - hosted by LCM at Tower Bridge."
This six-week course has been designed to equip those who have a heart to share Christ’s love with their community do it even better. It will be led by experienced trainers from all three organisations plus Christian Concern. The topics covered include: positioning the Church at the centre of community work and evangelism, evaluating your own community’s resilience in light of the gospel, and engaging and evangelising with relevance. The first course is presently running one Saturday a month at LCM's offices near London Bridge. There has already been requests for the course to be run at the Christchurch Campus in January 2019.
Moorlands College exists to equip people who are passionate about Jesus Christ, to impact the church and the world. It has been sited in Sopley, Christchurch since 1978 when it moved to the present location from Verwood. It offers many different training courses both undergraduate and postgraduate, and is a hub of activity for the local churches too with ongoing training for local ministers and some evening courses open to all.
Moorlands was founded by David Clifford who was inspired to set-up a bible training school in 1947. In 1948 he opened Matlock Bible College in Derbyshire. During 1955 the college moved from Matlock to Dawlish, and was renamed Moorlands Bible College. Moorlands now has three campuses - Moorlands Christchurch - its main centre, Moorlands South West (based in Torquay) and Moorlands Midlands in Birmingham.
All Moorland degree courses are validated by the University of Gloucestershire.
As Colin reflects on his role at Moorlands he says:
"27 years [and] I am still here, I'm now the Vice Principal (Development) and am still as passionate about following Jesus as ever, and I’m excited about what He is doing in the Church and the World."