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Prairie Bible College /

Prairie School of Mission Aviation /

Prairie College of Applied Arts & Technology
Motto Building a Passionate Body of Christ
Established 1922
Type Private
Religious affiliation Christian
Endowment CDN $3.5 Million
President Vacant
Students 350
Location Three Hills, Alberta, Canada
Campus Rural (130 Acres)
Colours blue     , Crimson      & Orange
Affiliations CCCU, ABHE

Prairie Bible College is the senior post-secondary undergraduate school of Prairie Bible Institute (PBI), which opened on October 9, 1922 in a vacant building on the property of the McElheran family farm near the community of Three Hills, Alberta.[1]

Over the course of its existence Prairie's governing board created several other schools including a Correspondence School, Graduate School (1988-2004) in Calgary and, established in 1938, the extant K-12 Christian school system in Three Hills. More recently, two sister undergraduate colleges were created by PBI since the mid 1990s: Prairie School of Mission Aviation and, in 2006, the Prairie College of Applied Arts and Technology. After several years of restructuring since 2004, Prairie Bible Institute has divested itself of about one half of its educational interests, but has chosen to retain its resident and distance learning Bible College, Aviation School and College of Applied Arts and Technology as the focus of its educational ministries.


History of Prairie Bible Institute

PBI became known as a major missionary training centre with alumni eventually working in more than 110 nations around the globe. Its precursor was a local Bible Study group led by J. Fergus Kirk, a central Alberta Presbyterian farmer. L. E. Maxwell (1895-1984), a graduate of a Christian and Missionary Alliance Bible institute in Kansas, was invited to come to Three Hills to develop a structured curriculum. He readily became the school's dynamic principal and eventual president. After 58 years of teaching, Maxwell retired in the spring of 1980 near the age of 85.

L. E. Maxwell, the Kirks, the McElherans and other visionary local families saw the school grow to attain an enrollment of over 900 students by 1948 and become Canada's largest Bible College, a position it would hold until 1984. Although initially wary of outside alliances and influences Prairie Bible Institute was vested with the authority to grant degrees in divinity through an amendment of an act of Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Alberta and has conferred Associate and Bachelor degrees to its graduates since 1980. From 1988 to 2004 Prairie operated a graduate school and offered Master's degrees at a satellite campus in Calgary. During that same period Prairie reached undergraduate credit and/or programmic transfer arrangements with The King's University College in Edmonton and the University of Lethbridge in southern Alberta and achieved the status of an accredited institution in 1997 when the Association for Biblical Higher Education accepted Prairie Bible College as a full member.

Ventures initiated by PBI were the Prairie Sunday School Mission, established in 1929, which was subsequently reorganized as the Alberta branch of the Canadian Sunday School Mission. In 1933, at the invitation of Peace River area residents, PBI graduate Walter W. McNaughton biked and hitchhiked from Viking, Alberta to the Peace River country, in the province's north-west, to establish the Peace River Bible Institute (now located at Sexsmith, near the city of Grande Prairie, Alberta). By the 1940s, PBI had founded three general education Christian schools on its Three Hills campus: Prairie Elementary, Prairie Junior High, and Prairie High School. In 2004 these schools were amalgamated as Prairie Christian Academy (PCA) and began to operate independently from Prairie Bible Institute. PCA now exists as one of Alberta's alternative schools under the local public school division.

Another outgrowth of the school was its own campus church - The Prairie Tabernacle Congregation. This local fellowship met for more than fifty years in a cavernous arena-like auditorium seating 4,300. Remodeled and renamed in 1985, the Maxwell Memorial Tabernacle was Canada's largest religious auditorium. In 2005 this building was demolished so that a new multi-purpose facility "The Maxwell Centre" could be erected. The new facility will continue to bear the name of Prairie's founder and, when completed, will house a chapel that will seat 1,200. The Prairie Tabernacle Congregation, however, has purchased its own property and has commenced a project to erect a church independent of the college facilities.

Prairie was one of the first Bible training institutes in Western Canada, with its graduates filling pulpits across Canada's great plains. These alumni were quite influential in the promotion and advancement of evangelical churches, especially congregations of the Christian and Missionary Alliance and the Evangelical Free Church. These, along with other evangelical churches, utilized the graduates of Prairie and other rural Bible schools until they were able to establish their own denominational colleges and seminaries with campuses in urban and metropolitan areas of western Canada.

Still true to its non-sectarian roots, Prairie Bible Institute now represents one of the most denominationally diversified, yet distinctively Protestant theological/philosophical faculties in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), with an Anglican priest, a graduate from Westminster Theological Seminary, a Wesleyan, an Anabaptist former pastor, and several professors not associated with any particular denomination. With roots in Christian orthodoxy, Prairie has shed its association with strict Christian fundamentalism and rediscovered its more neo-traditional focus of Protestantism including evangelical Anglicanism and Presbyterianism - not unlike other schools such as Wheaton College.


Today, Prairie Bible Institute continues as a Canadian centre for Christian higher education that encompasses three post-secondary schools: Prairie Bible College which offers both resident and distance education programs with major concentrations in Theology, Church Ministries or Intercultural Studies; the Prairie School of Mission Aviation (based at Three Hills Airport); and - in partnership with Bow Valley College, Olds College, Lethbridge Community College and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology - the Prairie College of Applied Arts and Technology, a Christian polytechnic vocational college which offers instruction in Early Childhood Learning, Emergency Medical Technology, Practical Nursing and several other applied disciplines.


  1. ^ Davidson, Roy (1986). God's Plan on the Prairies. Roy L. Davidson.  

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