By Gary D. Myers
NEW ORLEANS – Recognizing the role experienced mentors play in the training of ministers, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) trustees approved a new, streamlined mentoring initiative during their April 15 meeting.
“The strategic focus of NOBTS is to find a way to equip anyone answering the call of God to ministry,” said NOBTS President Chuck Kelley after the meeting. “We are adding the opportunity to earn a degree that involves both coaching from ministry practitioners and guided study from NOBTS professors. It is a way for students to turn most ministry settings into a seminary classroom.”
The new mentoring approach refreshes the M.Div. mentoring track, making it more flexible and better suited for the needs of current students. The new M.Div. mentoring track replaces all previous mentoring-based M.Div. options.
Bo Rice, assistant professor of evangelism and preaching and associate dean of supervised ministry and mentoring programs at NOBTS, believes students today place a greater value on mentorship and have a deep desire to work alongside experienced ministers while they study. He has also seen a new openness to invest in students among the experienced pastors and leaders of the convention.
“I want students to have the same mentoring relationship that I was afforded in seminary — the partnering of great theological education with the mentored aspect of day-to-day life in ministry,” Rice said. “I learned a lot in the classroom, but when troubles and trials hit in my first pastorate, instead of turning to my books and notes, I picked up the phone and called my mentor.”
Students in the M.Div. mentoring track can earn up to 29 hours of the 83-hour degree while doing real-world ministry in local church or parachurch settings. And the program is not limited by geography. Students can complete the mentoring portion of the degree from any remote location that has an NOBTS-approved mentor and adequate Internet access. Students in most of the seminary’s other M.Div. specializations can earn at least a portion of their degree in a mentor setting.
Along with the revised mentoring track, NOBTS will launch the Entrust Mentoring Community, designed to create and foster partnership between the seminary, its students and the mentors. The name, taken from 2 Timothy 2:2, echoes Paul’s desire to see Timothy entrust skills, knowledge and Gospel ministry opportunities to others in his community.
“It really is the passing, not just of the legacy, it is passing on the gospel and passing on the work of the gospel,” Rice said of 2 Timothy 2:2. “It’s an investment.”
Partner churches and parachurch organizations will provide weekly mentoring and field supervision to students. NOBTS professors will teach Blackboard-assisted courses to ensure the academic rigor of courses is preserved. Together, mentors and professors will work to provide a training platform that passes on the skills and education needed to effectively lead a church or ministry.
“The mission of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is to equip leaders to fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandments through the local church and its ministries. Our target as a seminary is healthy churches,” said Bo Rice, assistant professor of evangelism and preaching and associate dean of supervised ministry and mentoring programs at NOBTS. “The Entrust Mentoring Community is designed to keep our mission ever before us and to assist us in reaching our target.”
“We desire to include the church and local ministries in the equipping of the called by partnering with mentors and students while delivering the very best in theological study guided by NOBTS faculty,” Rice said. “We believe 2 Timothy 2:2 is best accomplished when we partner together to entrust the gospel to faithful men and women who will be able to mentor others.”
Potential mentors and prospective mentoring students can apply for the program at the Entrust website, http://www.nobts.edu/mentoring. The first new mentoring courses will be offered during the summer 2015 academic session.
While Entrust is the overarching mentoring approach for most M.Div. specializations, other specialized mentoring programs remain at NOBTS — one in the undergraduate program and one in the graduate worship ministries program. Leavell College will launch an 18-hour mentored church ministry minor in the bachelor of Christian ministry degree this summer. Last fall the division of church music ministries launched an 11-hour mentoring option in the master of arts in worship ministries and M.Div. with specialization in worship ministries programs. Both programs partner students with local church ministries during the mentoring segment of the degree.