NEW ORLEANS (BP)–New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Trustee Executive Committee added five new certificate sites, one doctor of ministry site, and five new curriculum options to the school’s academic catalogue June 7.
The Trustee Executive Committee also received a financial and enrollment update from seminary president Chuck Kelley and authorized the institution to partner with the International Mission Board to engage an unreached people group with the Gospel.
Trustees approved a total of five new degree options for New Orleans Seminary students during the June 7 meeting.
Korean students will soon be able to earn a doctor of ministry degree taught in their heart language. About two years ago, the seminary began studying the feasibility of a Korean-language doctor of ministry degree. Atlanta was soon identified as a strategic center for the program. Atlanta is both a population center for Koreans in the United States and a transportation hub, making travel to the site much easier.
Doctor of ministry seminars will be held at the seminary’s North Georgia Hub, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. Jonggil Lee, who earned a Ph.D. in preaching from NOBTS in 2003, will direct the program. Lee has extensive ministry experience and has served as a contract and adjunct professor since 2003 with both NOBTS and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“We want to provide the highest quality education to our Korean ministers in the approximately 1,000 Korean churches in the Southern Baptist Convention,” NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke said of the new program.
Kelley echoed that commitment: “Korean students are an important part of our student body. Our ultimate goal is to provide everything for them we provide for our other students.”
Reggie Ogea, associate dean in charge of the seminary’s professional doctoral programs, said he anticipates launching the Korean-language program sometime in 2012.
Trustees also approved a new doctor of ministry specialization in Christian apologetics. In addition to attending traditional seminars, students who pursue this concentration will be able to take advantage of events like the annual Defend the Faith conference and the Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum.
“As ministers are encountering students and others from an increasingly pluralistic and postmodern world, apologetics becomes even more important in every facet of ministry,” Lemke said. “This provides D.Min. students the opportunity to benefit from the Defend the Faith conference, sponsored by the Institute for Christian Apologetics.”
Trustees also voted to launch two new master’s degree tracks, a Master of Arts in Worship Ministries and a Master of Divinity in Worship Ministries.
NOBTS faculty members will also now have a new technology-based certificate program geared toward them — the Teaching in the 21st Century Certificate. Kelley has compared the seminary’s commitment to embracing the new reality of education in the 21st century to “crossing the Rubicon,” a reference to Caesar’s troops marching on ancient Rome. This new certificate will train faculty members to take advantage of new technologies.
“NOBTS has a commitment to provide for our students the finest educational experience,” Kelley said. “We’re so committed that we’re sending our faculty back to school to learn the pedagogy of the 21st century.”
NOBTS TO OFFER DOCTOR OF MINISTRY TRAINING IN OKLA.
Beginning with the Spring 2012 semester, NOBTS will offer Oklahoma City as an extension center for doctor of ministry seminars, after trustees approved the new initiative.
“There’s not another seminary doing a [doctor of ministry] program there,” Lemke told trustees, “so we have the very enthusiastic support of Anthony Jordan, the state executive [of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma].”
The new Oklahoma doctor of ministry program will be publicized at both the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix and the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma meeting in the fall. Doctor of ministry seminars will be held at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma facility in Oklahoma City and will be taught via compressed-interactive video. All necessary equipment was already available at the Oklahoma facility, thus minimizing startup costs for the program.
TRUSTEES AUTHORIZE ENGAGEMENT OF UNREACHED PEOPLE GROUP
The International Mission Board’s “Getting There” campaign calls individuals and churches to identify and engage one of the more than 6,700 unreached people groups around the world. The IMB considers a people group “unreached” when evangelical Christians make up less than 2 percent of the total population.
About 3,800 of those 6,700 people groups are totally unengaged with the Gospel.
And to help in the movement to reach all those people groups with the Gospel, Southern Baptist leaders have asked the convention’s entities to also get involved.
“The Southern Baptist president has asked all of the entities to adopt an unreached people group,” Kelley told trustees.
In response, NOBTS trustees adopted a motion to authorize seminary leaders to take steps to identify and engage an unreached or unengaged people group. Kelley said the seminary will work with a representative from the IMB to identify a people group and develop an engagement strategy. He said he foresees the seminary potentially partnering with alumni and individual churches in that endeavor.
NEW CERTIFICATE SITES
Trustees approved five new sites in Louisiana and Mississippi that will offer certificate training for students. Two of those sites are Spanish-speaking churches in the New Orleans area, Iglesia Bautista Emmanuel in Kenner and Iglesia Bautista el Buen Pastor in Metairie.
NOBTS will also begin offering certificate training at First Community Antioch Baptist Church, a National Baptist congregation in Lutcher, La. Kelley said this partnership with National Baptist churches in Louisiana represents a positive step in mending relationships with churches in the predominantly African-American denomination. National Baptist leaders approached NOBTS to begin the training program, Kelley said.
“They have come up with a decision in this region of the National Baptist Convention to require all their ministers to have at least some training,” Kelley said. “They’ve identified a number of hours they want them to have. They came to us to help them provide that training.”
Kelley said classes will be taught by both NOBTS professors and qualified ministers from area National Baptist congregations. This is the second partnership between NOBTS and Louisiana National Baptists. The seminary also partners with National Baptist congregations in Baton Rouge.
KELLEY OFFERS UPDATE ON FINANCES, ENROLLMENT
Kelley reported to the NOBTS Trustee Executive Committee that, despite the difficult economy, New Orleans Seminary is financially stable with many positive indicators of continued growth. The one point of concern Kelley mentioned is the continued decline of Cooperative Program giving.
“There is no one yet in Southern Baptist leadership who is predicting a time when CP will start growing again,” Kelley told trustees. “That continues to be the thing that is most affecting us and that we’re watching the most.”
At the same time, Kelley said New Orleans Seminary’s Providence Fund has experienced positive growth this year. Dollars given through the Providence Fund directly underwrite the school’s operating costs, thus minimizing tuition and fee increases for students.
Giving to the Providence Fund is 25 percent above last year, Kelley said, and the 925 individual donors represent a 43 percent increase over last year. The Providence Fund is less than $80,000 away from reaching its 2010-2011 goal of $600,000.
Kelley said gifts toward student financial aid have also been robust this year, with more than $674,000 given to endowed scholarships and close to $1 million given to immediate student aid. Still, with the sluggish economy and high gas prices, students at NOBTS, many of whom commute to class, are in a financial pinch.
“We have helped more students financially this year than any other year,” Kelley said. “We have also had more students ask for help this year than any other year.”
Those efforts to offer aid to as many students as possible are helping to maintain New Orleans Seminary’s total enrollment between 3,600 and 3,700 students. Kelley said a bright spot with regard to enrollment is applications from prospective students.
“In some cases, applications are exceeding pre-Katrina numbers in some programs,” he said.
Frank Michael McCormack is a writer for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.