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Church helps people 'CLIMB' toward Bible education

School is starting up all around the country, and church Bible study classes and groups are no exception. Riverside Ministries non-denominational church in Somerset has a different approach to Bible studies.

Classes began Tuesday at the church's self-accredited Christian Leadership Institute of Minnesota (CLIMB) School. CLIMB began at Riverside's local church in Stillwater, Minn. in 1996 as a basic Bible Training Center.

"We started it based on that fact that if we started putting some academics behind our teaching, we would attract more people for Bible study," said Pastor Bill Hieb, pastor of Riverside Ministries and president of CLIMB School, "and it worked."

And from there, Hieb said the program grew. The church added missions training and experience to their curriculum, taking students all around the world to Ukraine, Kenya, India, Africa, Guatemala, Mexico and other countries.

Now there are branches of the school in four locations in the U.S. and eight overseas. Classes are taught in Spanish, Russian, French, Swahili, Chinese and, of course, English.

CLIMB's headquarters are now located at Riverside Ministries in Somerset on County Road VV, and the school offers associates through doctorate degrees in subjects like pastoral studies, biblical studies, ministry leadership, missions and medical missions.

"We've got a good program here, and it's being very well received," Hieb said. "So we're encouraged."

Hieb said the two most popular areas of study are biblical studies and medical missions.

He said the idea behind providing this kind of education was to give people a good background for whatever religious pursuits they may follow in their lives, from entering the ministry to the average churchgoer.

"If somebody is being raised up as an elder or as a deacon in a church, to have some biblical foundation is really important," Hieb said. "If somebody wants to go into the mission field or be a biblical studies teacher, or pastor, these schools are tailor-made for those disciplines."

However, Hieb said, CLIMB also offers a 10-credit biblical studies certificate for the average person wanting to expand their religious education.

"It's not just for people going into the ministry," Hieb said, "it's for your typical Christian to get a foundation."

CLIMB's courses, Hieb said, can be a good foundation for someone looking to become a pastor. Hieb said being a pastor is a call from God, but for a person to become a pastor, the members of the church need to recognize that call as well. Hieb said a good foundation in Bible studies can help a person on their path.

"Having a diploma doesn't make you a pastor," Hieb said, "but it does help."

CLIMB is self-accredited with four locations in the U.S., although Hieb said CLIMB hopes to have as many as six locations by January. CLIMB is also looking into offering classes online, and would like to have them available by next spring.

"It's kind of a lofty goal, but we're trying," Hieb said.

Hieb said CLIMB's overseas schools include two in India, and one each in Uganda, Kenya, Mexico and Guatemala.

Hieb said the Guatemalan school is very active, but he and others at CLIMB headquarters in Somerset noticed there were no women in that school.

"The women are welcome, they just can't afford it," Hieb said. "So we sponsored 10 women at $50 each."

Hieb said there were 10 women enrolled two weeks later. He said CLIMB's jail-outreach program in Kenya is also doing well with around 300 people enrolled.

Classes started Tuesday in the U.S., but Hieb said people can join classes through next week and still get credit.

Classes cost $60 or $30 to audit. For more information, visit

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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