President’s Message: Why I am Pleased with NABS
March 1, 2007
North American Baptist Seminary is undergoing lots of changes. We are finalizing plans to relocate to a new campus within Sioux Falls, evolving and enhancing delivery systems for courses, talking about our importance in the region, and becoming the leader in contextual learning.
I have learned over the years that everyone reacts to change differently. Just as an organism needs to change to survive, NABS must also adapt to serve the church's changing needs.
I feel it is important that you understand what changes we are making and what we continue to uphold. Let me share some of my reflections. I am pleased with what we are doing. From a president's perspective, all the changes are necessary. These changes are not gratuitous; they each have a purpose in our future. Give me permission to reflect by musing about what pleases me about these times of change.
First, I am pleased that we have not changed what we believe or what we teach. Our faculty adheres to the North American Baptist Conference Statement of Beliefs. We are making enhancements to some of the delivery methods for teaching what we believe, but not the essence of who we are. We are Bible believing conservatives with Baptist heritage. As a seminary, we are theologically conservative and methodologically open.
Second, I am pleased to say that we are more connected with the North American Baptist Conference than we have ever been. Relationships with Taylor University College and Seminary continue to grow. We are working closely with missions through Gateway Teams and relationships with Cameroon. Technology will open up more possible connections than ever. Even after we lost all financial support from the conference, we have all found more ways to help each other.
Third, I am pleased we have developed the "House of Study" concept which is a program of student services for our non-NAB students. A shortage of pastors is being experienced throughout the Kingdom of God regardless of denomination. More and more students are finding it harder to relocate and attend a denominational seminary. And, because of this, NABS is becoming the seminary of choice for many students in the region.
The "Houses of Study" give students a smoother road to service in their various denominations. They need to pursue a different road for their traditions anyway. They used to do so in addition to their education. Now, they can walk intentionally through the whole process while attending North American Baptist Seminary.
The interaction among students both in and out of class has provided a unique learning environment, reflecting the ministry settings students will be serving in upon graduation.
Fourth, I am pleased we are trying new approaches to better fulfill our mission of equipping servant leaders for the ministries of Christ. Our faculty controls the process of ministerial preparation. They are pursuing the best ways to teach effectively and still provide excellent pastors and counselors for the future through new approaches.
NABS is known as a close knit environment that values the interpersonal relationships nurtured in the process of education. We continue to be that kind of seminary. Certain parts of the curriculum highlight this personal dimension and the mentoring that takes place. We are making these areas more intentional. Mentoring can take place from many directions, so we are developing a multi-faceted approach that will strengthen our education process. Ministry settings provide the locus for learning; so much more work is going into preparing fertile environments for our students. Change, but change in good directions to produce a better outcome. These are changes to reflect what students over the years had wished for their time in preparation.
Fifth, I am pleased NABS has a future. A few years ago, it did not look like we might. Debts, low student numbers, and a plateaued annual fund cast a bleak picture. Some important principles were agreed upon by the board and the school, including that our ministry was more important than the facilities and assets we possessed.
Today we have no more debts. Student numbers, although not where they need to be, have increased, and contributions altogether have gained. We still have a long way to go for viability in the long run, but we have set the stage for continued ministry.
I believe the NAB Conference needs us, I know the region needs us, and we are pleased that it looks like the Lord still desires to use us.
--President Mike Hagan