During the Spring of 1994, the American Baptist Churches of Pennsylvania and Delaware (ABCOPAD) and the Pittsburgh Baptist Association (PBA) joined together to establish the American Baptist Lay Pastoral Institute of Western Pennsylvania (later known as the Church Leadership Institute.) The desire was to offer an educational program for people: (1) seeking to become certified lay ministers and for people (2) seeking classroom opportunities for personal enrichment of their Christian faith. Based on a program used in 1988-1990 by the Ten Mile and Monongahela Associations (specifically at the First Baptist Church of Waynesburg), this Institute’s new collaborative program began on February 5, 1994 with three different locations (Wesleyville, Monroeville, and Waynesburg). In the Spring of 1996 twenty-nine persons were graduated from the three combined sites. Twenty-six graduates received a Certificate in Lay Pastoral Ministry. In later years, CLI expanded to include programs based in Harrisburg and Northeastern Pennsylvania, and these programs expanded the number of graduates statewide. Including the graduates from the class of 2015, ACTS now has over 350 graduates, and over 60% of those graduates are working in churches. In 2007, CLI expanded to include the Youth Ministry (YM) track, which, while training students in the practice of Youth Ministry, also began on-line instruction, which brought in students from as far away as Michigan. Online instruction continues to be a feature of the classes.
In the fall of 2012, representatives from all three CLIs and met with ABCOPAD Regional Staff to consider consolidating our administrative structure. From these sessions the name “The Academy of Christian Training and Service” (A.C.T.S) was born. All present felt God’s Holy Spirit leading us. We feel a strong desire to do our part in helping return the Bride of Christ, the Christian church, to the dynamic growth she experienced in the New Testament book of Acts. As always, the Christian church faces challenges. We will continue to build the programs of the ACTS in order to serve the Lord in training church leaders to meet those challenges.