Scholarships to aid La. small churches

NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has entered a partnership with an anonymous donor to provide theological education at no cost to small church and bivocational pastors and staff members of Southern Baptist churches in Louisiana.

With an initial gift of $1.5 million from the donor, the seminary has established the Caskey Center for Church Excellence to facilitate the scholarship process. NOBTS trustees approved the center's creation April 16 during their spring meeting.

"It is exciting that more students will be trained and equipped for ministry through our School of Providence and Prayer," trustee chairman Tom Harrison said, referencing an early moniker for New Orleans Seminary. "We are blessed to be a part of an institution that seeks to broaden the Kingdom of God."

NOBTS President Chuck Kelley underscored the Caskey Center's potential to impact the small churches of Louisiana.

"We are grateful for the vision God has given this donor," Kelley said. "We are a seminary in a city and state in which the overwhelming majority of churches are small churches. We want all Louisiana churches to have access to trained leadership and for all of those God calls to have an opportunity to get quality theological education. Launching the Caskey Center is a huge step in that direction."

Kelley called the Caskey Center "a game changer," noting, "This is the most comprehensive scholarship program ever offered by NOBTS, and it is available to those serving the largest number of our Louisiana churches."

The initial gift will provide up to $6,000 per year for up to 100 Louisiana students -- the equivalent of a full scholarship. Recipients can apply the scholarship to certificate, associate, undergraduate or master's degree study at NOBTS and study in any of the seminary's delivery systems including the main campus, Louisiana extension centers, workshops, conference-based courses or online programs. The new scholarship will almost double the amount of student scholarship dollars available from NOBTS each year.

To qualify for the program, students must be serving as a paid or bivocational pastor or staff member in a small church with an average worship attendance of under 250 people. Bivocational is defined as paid employment from a church and from a secular or para-church employer. Particular preference is given to those serving as lead or senior pastor -- full-time or bivocational.

Current research indicates that 92 percent of churches in the Louisiana convention have an average attendance of less than 250; 70 percent have 100 or less.

The Caskey Center will focus on sharpening student skills in biblical exposition and personal evangelism. An evangelism practicum will be included each semester a student is in the program. Students entering the program during the first year will receive a Logos Bible Software package (Silver) and Logos software training to help promote faithful biblical exposition.

In addition to the small church staff requirement, recipients will be required to affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The Danvers Statement is available on the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website (www.cbmw.org).

NOBTS expects to name a director of the Caskey Center by June 1. Until that time, inquiries about applying for the scholarship can be made to the seminary's financial aid office.

Persons interested in making a similar program available to bivocational and small church pastors in other states may contact Randy Driggers in the NOBTS institutional advancement office by phone at 504-282-4455, ext. 8002, or by email at rdriggers@nobts.edu.


Reported by the communications staff of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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