Trustees add division at April meeting

NEW ORLEANS—New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s trustees approved a new academic division and new degrees during their spring meeting April 17. The board also elected three new faculty members.

Trustees voted to move the counseling program from the seminary’s Pastoral Ministries Division and the social work program from the Christian Education Division into a new academic group called the Division of Church and Community Ministries. The division brings together two programs with similar purposes. Ian Jones, professor of psychology and counseling, will serve as chair of the new division.

“Counseling and social work are closer to each other than the other disciplines in Christian education and pastoral ministry,” NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke said. “We believe there is a synergism that can develop between the two programs.”

While state licensing will be available for graduates in these programs, Lemke said the division’s main focus will be on church-based community ministries — “preparing graduates to serve in ministries such as church counseling centers, ministry-based evangelism centers in churches, Christian children’s homes and senior adult homes.”

Before the move, the Pastoral Ministries and Christian Education divisions were much larger than the seminary’s other divisions. With the creation of the new division, the seminary’s six divisions are more similar in size, making division chair positions more manageable. Another factor in creating the new division is recent enrollment growth in the counseling program and anticipated growth in the social work program. Trustees approved the new social work dual enrollment partnership with the University of Southern Mississippi during their October 2012 meeting which allows NOBTS students to earn the master of social work degree from USM while completing the master of arts in Christian education degree at NOBTS.

Trustees also added several new degree plans, including a new mentoring track in the master of divinity degree program, a master of divinity specialization in Christian theology, and a Great Commission studies major in the doctor of philosophy program. The board also voted to revise the foundations for mission service certificates on the graduate and undergraduate levels in response to new International Mission Board training requirements for overseas personnel. Two new undergraduate study programs also were approved — a diploma program in Messianic studies and an advanced pastoral ministry degree for Haitian pastors.

Mentor-based learning is formally a part of the church ministry and collegiate ministry M.Div. tracks, and many students are mentored informally while serving in local churches. The new mentoring track M.Div. offers students another way to gain hands-on training with experienced pastors and church leaders while studying at NOBTS.

NOBTS President Chuck Kelley noted that some 60 percent of New Orleans Seminary students receive a portion of their training in a church setting.

A unique application process has been developed for the students studying in this specialization as well as for the pastors and churches participating in the partnership. NOBTS’ office of supervised ministry will be involved in the recruitment of participating churches and in the supervision of mentoring track students.

The M.Div. mentoring track “makes the option of pairing quality seminary education and practical training available to all of our students,” Associate Provost Norris Grubbs said. “We want to do all we can to connect theological training to the local church.”

The newly approved M.Div. Christian theology specialization is designed for students preparing to be pastor-teachers in a local church or professors in Christian colleges or seminaries. NOBTS offers other specializations related to theology, however the new specialization offers more comprehensive study in theology. This approach will provide graduates with a greater degree of mastery in theology and help with the transition to doctoral studies.

The Great Commission studies major approved for the NOBTS doctor of philosophy program combines the content of the current evangelism and missions majors. This program shifts to modified presence study format, which allows students to live farther away from the main campus during the doctor of philosophy residency. Intensive class meetings are held on campus four times per semester, rather than the traditional Ph.D.’s weekly classes.

This program will include the same acceptance standards of the traditional Ph.D. program, and course content will maintain the same high academic standards as other NOBTS Ph.D. programs. NOBTS will continue to offer the evangelism and missions majors in a traditional main campus residency format.

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