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Undergraduate studies curriculum revised in New Orleans Seminary trustee action

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Trustees of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary unanimously approved a curriculum revision for the college of undergraduate studies during their annual spring meeting March 14-15 in New Orleans.

The revision, to take effect Aug. 1, includes a new major, Christian ministry, as well as the addition of new classes based on eight core competencies.

“Our target, as is the seminary’s target, is developing healthy churches,” said Thomas Strong, dean of the college. “This revised curriculum, I believe, will help aid in the development of these healthy churches.”

In addition to meeting the needs of students currently involved in local church ministry, the undergraduate curriculum provides a foundation for future seminary study, complementing the master of divinity curriculum approved by trustees in March 1999. The undergraduate revision also qualifies students to take advantage of the Baptist College Partnership program, which gives them opportunity to build upon their undergraduate courses instead of repeating the material in graduate-level work.

“I have ties to the seminary for 27 years, beginning as a student,” said Michael Claunch, chairman of the trustee instruction committee. “I have never been happier than I am now about our faculty and our curriculum.”

“In developing this curriculum, our faculty understood the absolute necessity of the integration of the spiritual and the academic,” Strong said, explaining that all graduates are expected to have at least a minimum level of competency in all of the following eight areas:

— Biblical exposition: “to interpret and communicate the Bible accurately,” comprising the disciplines of preaching, hermeneutics and Old and New Testament study.

— Theological and historical perspective: “to understand and interpret the Christian theological heritage and Baptist polity for the church,” comprising the disciplines of church history, Baptist history and Christian doctrine.

— Effective servant leadership: “to serve churches effectively through team ministry, with skills in communication and conflict management,” comprising the disciplines of leadership, pastoral work and Christian education.

— Interpersonal relationships: “to perform pastoral care effectively,” comprising the disciplines of leadership, church administration, social work, counseling and pastoral work.

— Disciple-making: “to stimulate church health through mobilizing the church for missions, evangelism, discipleship and church growth,” comprising the disciplines of discipleship, evangelism, missions, church growth, Christian education, Baptist history, church history, systematic theology and ethics.

— Worship leadership: “to facilitate worship effectively,” comprising the disciplines of preaching, pastoral ministry and music.

— Spiritual and character formation: “to provide moral leadership by modeling and mentoring Christian character and devotion,” comprising the disciplines of ethics, discipleship and spiritual formation.

— Life skills: “to instill the basics of general education concepts,” comprising the disciplines of mathematics, English, history of world civilizations and culture, and computers.

The new undergraduate major, Christian ministry, offers multiple specializations instead of offering different majors, as in the past. Students may pursue an associate or baccalaureate degree with this major.

“The Christian ministry major ensures that graduates receive instruction in multiple competency areas, strengthening and balancing their capabilities,” said Steve Lemke, NOBTS provost. “The minors in biblical studies, Christian education, church ministry, pastoral ministries, psychology and counseling, women’s ministry or general education allow the students to still concentrate more time on areas of their choice.”

The bachelor of arts degree in Christian ministry requires a total of 126 semester hours, comprised of 60 Christian ministry major hours, 29 life skills hours, 18 minor of choice hours and nine free elective hours.

There are other notable changes in the revised curriculum. Undergraduates previously could forgo taking foreign language classes and could receive a bachelor of general studies degree. Students are now required to take six hours of humanities studies, which entails six hours of foreign language or “Word Studies” classes and three hours of advanced writing skills or fundamental of music classes.

Students also will be required to take three semesters of “World Civilizations and Cultures,” which replaces previous classes of world history, survey of literature and philosophy classes. In recognition of the challenges facing families today, students must take a “Marriage and Family Issues” class designed to focus students on their own families as well as the ones to whom they minister.

The faculty also recognized that many students who come to the seminary do not come from strong Baptist backgrounds. Therefore, they developed a course about Southern Baptist life. Another course, “Evaluating Trends in Ministry,” was developed to teach students on how to decide which trends are worth following, rather than following every whim that comes along.

All these classes are designed to equip pastors and persons in related ministries with the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for their calling, Lemke said.

Concerning the Baptist College Partnership program, NOBTS students may earn graduate credit based on the undergraduate courses they have taken. Bill Warren, director of the program at NOBTS, said, “We require students to earn these credits, whether by testing or by seminars, but they do not have to repeat the classroom time that they have already had in their undergraduate programs.” This can amount to almost two semesters of work on the graduate level for some NOBTS students, he said.

Based on undergraduate courses, NOBTS students may earn up to 16 semester hours of graduate credit through testing out of some introductory graduate courses and may be eligible to earn up to 16 hours of credit through special one-week advanced seminars in the areas of Old Testament, New Testament, church history and, in the Christian education area, developmental studies. Students also may earn four hours by independent studies based on advanced courses taken at the baccalaureate level.

    About the Author

  • Shannon Baker

    Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey and editor of the Network’s weekly newsletter, BRN United.

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