The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Trustee Meeting really had a rather light agenda - as far as taking any action. The April meeting will be crammed with more decisions that will need to be made by Instruction and Building and Grounds Committees. We will also approve the Budget in April. However, yesterday was still a full day of hearing reports from the President, Provost, Financial Controller, Deans of the undergraduate school (Leavell College) and from the graduate program. We heard from several staff members in various areas of the Seminary operation. I am so impressed with the administration, faculty, and staff. They are all dedicated to delivering quality Biblically strong, Theological Education to the future leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Enrollment figures are good, as they are still coming up from when Hurricane Katrina decimated the largest enrollment figures in the history of the "School of Providence and Prayer". It is interesting that the number of students enrolled in the Certificate Programs has increased by 500 over last year! Due to our extensive system of Hubs and Extension Centers, and the high number of Internet courses offered, NOBTS has far more off campus students than the other five Southern Baptist Seminaries. On one hand, this is great. We're delivering quality theological education to a wide variety of students who, for one reason or another, may not be able to move to New Orleans to study on this beautiful campus. On the other hand, NOBTS receives a smaller portion of funding from the SBC Cooperative Program due to the nature of the (I believe) outdated system by which the seminaries receive their funding. This is because the funding formula for the seminaries is based on the number of on campus students. For this reason, NOBTS faces greater challenges for accomplishing the mission.
This challenge falls at the feet of Dr. Jerry Garrard, who directs the Office of Development, and Rev. Bill Hughes (a native of Ironton, OH), who works for Jerry in heading up fundraising for The Annual Fund. The Annual Fund is the primary funding mechanism that the Seminary has to meet it's budget. Last year the Annual Fund collected a quarter of a million dollars, but it was far below the amount needed to meet the needs. Jerry and Bill (and their dedicated team) have done a tremendous job this year. The goal for the Annual Fund for this year was One million two hundred forty thousand dollars - a mind boggling threshold! But on the last day of the Fiscal Year, God provided the necessary funds to top the goal. To Him be the praise, honor and glory!
The new year has begun, and Jerry and Bill begin their work anew. I would encourage any readers of this blog who are interested in helping young men and women receive quality theological education to consider giving to the Annual Fund of NOBTS and become a "Friend of the Seminary". Linda and I give a monthly gift to the Annual Fund. No gift is too large or too small. One time gifts from individuals, churches, Sunday School Classes, and other groups are appreciated, as well as regular periodic giving. Many people have blessed NOBTS by including the Seminary in their estate planning. I encourage you to help if you can financially, and to help regularly with prayer.
I did have opportunity to get away and have lunch with my son, Jay, yesterday. After lunch we met his wife Michelle who had an appointment for a haircut at a shop on Veterans Boulevard, and we picked up the boys. I sure enjoyed that special time with Grandsons #1 (Quint) and #3 (Canon) until I had to leave them for the afternoon sessions. Now that the Trustee work is over, I'll get to spend the rest of the day with them. I'll be staying in their home tonight, and get up way before the chickens in the morning to be at Louis Armstrong International Airport in time for my 6:00 AM flight back home.
It will be nice to get back home and about my pastoral duties, but I'm sure looking forward to the rest of the day today!