The new certificates will provide intense study in church administration, children's ministry, recreation and sports ministry, adult discipleship, church and community ministry, teaching, youth ministry and women's ministry. Seven of the eight certificates require 15 hours of study. The graduate certificate in youth ministry will require 17 hours of study.
"This allows us to move forward in implementing a very important element of our program of providing Christian education training to the local church for those individuals who cannot or do not want to stop and come to seminary for full degree programs," said Bob Welch, chairman of NOBTS' division of Christian education. "This is a significant benefit for the local church and the local church pastor to bring to their staff and support personal."
NOBTS will make the certificate courses available in a variety of delivery systems. In addition to traditional and hybrid main campus classes, they will be offered online and through week-long workshops. Ministers in these programs will be able to remain in their current church position to gain the skills needed for more effective ministry.
The graduate certificates are aimed at meeting a growing need in local churches, Welch said, citing two trends in the local church that led the NOBTS faculty to develop the new programs.
First, many churches today hire recent Christian college or Bible college graduates to run the education ministries of the church, such as youth and children's ministries. These new staffers have a general Christian foundation, Welch said, but often are missing the practical, focused training in the specific area they are serving.
A second trend is the growing number of "second career" ministers, Welch said. Many churches are raising up leadership from the laity who experience a call to ministry later in life to be church administrators or women's ministry coordinators. These individuals have college degrees and have had successful careers outside the church but they lack formal ministry training. Welch believes the focused certificate programs will equip these ministers for effective ministry.
"I believe are going to be an important part of what we do in the future," Welch said.
NOBTS provost Steve Lemke noted that in the business world it is quite common for workers to get certification in a specialized area.
"These Christian education certificates offer specialized training for persons who have giftedness for ministry and some experience but have no specific Christian training in the church staff position in which they are serving, whether it be church administrator, youth minister, children's minister, etc.," Lemke said.
Lemke also noted that in some cases churches could be more vulnerable to lawsuits if staff members have no formal certification, particularly in areas dealing with children, youth or finances. "The larger issue, of course," Lemke said, "is that these staff members be trained to be as effective as possible in ministering to others in the name of Christ."
Allen Jackson, professor of youth ministry and director of the Youth Ministry Institute at NOBTS, sees the new graduate certificate in youth ministry helping foster excellence youth ministry programs in local churches.
"The basic competencies in youth ministry -- education, development, culture, ministry as part of a staff, volunteer ministry and discipleship -- are covered in the series of courses that make up the certificate," Jackson said. "The delivery system is convenient as well. All classes are offered on campus during the semester, on campus in our weekend format (Thursday-Saturday) and on the Internet."
Donna Peavey, associate professor of Christian education at NOBTS, sees the new graduate certificate in children's ministry as a way to help churches better disciple children and equip parents for the challenges of the 21st century.
"Students will take both required and elective courses on different aspects of children's ministry -- including children and faith, leadership and administration, special needs and crisis intervention," Peavey said, noting that the program will provide "both theological and practical skills that will enhance their ministry to children and families."
NOBTS officials believe the certificates also may encourage some students to move toward a full Christian education degree. And with so many options available -- workshops, hybrids, online, extension centers -- the certificate courses can be transferable into a fully accredited degree, without necessarily relocating to New Orleans.
For more information regarding the new graduate certificates, contact the Division of Christian Education at (504) 282-4455, ext. 8105, or visit the CE website at www.nobts.edu/christianeducation/default.html.
Gary D. Myers is director of public relations for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
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