Our partnership with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) is expanding to create our Next Step Certificate Program (NSCP). All SBC seminaries offer certificates, but this is the first we know where a state convention is bringing seminary professors into our state to teach our pastors and lay people in person with a customized certificate program. 

Completing six of eight classes that will be offered throughout this year will grant a student the certificate from NOBTS, which can become credit if you decide to apply and study toward a degree at NOBTS. The classes begin in February, starting on Friday night and ending on Saturday afternoon. 

Our website will contain all the details and registration, but I want to tell you the story behind the NSCP. 

This past summer, I met with a group of pastors in the eastern area of Indiana. It was the first time meeting some of these pastors, so we were all sharing about our families and ministries. 

Pastor Bill started explaining how he had been a faithful member of his rural church. When Covid broke out, his pastor contracted it and sadly passed away. The grieved congregation basically looked at Bill and said, “you’re our pastor now.” He’s still being faithful to his church, but now as their shepherd. 

With a Bible in one hand and a set of commentaries possibly in the other, Bill is like many pastors in Indiana: being faithful to what God has given them and called them, but not having the luxury of formal theological education. 

My mind left that coffee meeting stirring as much as my latte was when I first sat down. 

How can we boost the confidence of pastors like Bill? 

How can we develop pastors from rural areas to minister in rural areas?

How can we provide excellent training and encouragement with a low cost and a short time commitment?

How could we support pastors who are developing younger pastors, missionaries, and lay leaders? Could we provide the theological component of their ministry residencies?

All of this led to the idea of customizing a certificate program to boost confidence and equip ministry leaders in Indiana. One phone call to our NOBTS friends got the ball rolling, and their eagerness helped turn this into reality. The cost per class per student is $150, but it actually takes a lot more than that to make this work. God gave us favor with a donor who generously provided for all the expenses since we did not know about this ministry when creating this year’s budget. 

Praise the Lord for the provision of the NSCP and the impact it will have in our churches! Pastors, let this work for you to sharpen yourself and equip leaders in your churches.