In the Garden District of New Orleans, students from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary stand with Ken Taylor, associate professor of urban missions, facing one of the many houses in this historic part of the city.
In the Garden District of New Orleans,
students from New Orleans Baptist
Theological Seminary stand with Ken Taylor, associate professor of
urban missions, facing one of the many houses in this historic part of
The thing that sets this house apart from the rest
is that it stands where one of the seminary’s original buildings once
stood. The stone bases that once supported the seminary’s iron gates
remain on the sides of the steps leading into the lot’s front yard.
The students here are a part of a class which the
seminary offers each fall. For five years, through its New Orleans
Mission and Ministry class, the seminary has sought to introduce
students to the many ministry opportunities in the city.
One of the reasons the Southern Baptist Convention
founded a seminary in New Orleans was to be a lighthouse to the city.
The school still encourages students to be a part of achieving that
goal. However, many students face a challenge in learning about the
many ministry sites throughout the city. That is where the New Orleans
Mission and Ministry class comes into play.
“I think it’s a wonderful class for introducing
students to all the various types of ministry opportunities in New
Orleans,” student Nate Bauman says.
Taylor says that students who take the class often say to him, “I wish I had this my first semester here.”
New Orleans Mission and Ministry meets on five
Mondays throughout the semester from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. During a
semester, the class visits several area Baptist churches, such as
Coliseum Place Baptist Church, the oldest continually-meeting Baptist
church in New Orleans.
Coliseum Place was, in many ways, a logical first
stop for the class. It has a rich history that includes being occupied
by both the Confederate Army and the Union Army during the Civil War.
In 1917, Southern Baptist leaders decided to begin a theological school
in New Orleans while meeting in Coliseum Place. And typical of urban
churches, by the late 1990s, Coliseum Place was on the verge of closing
Now, with Mike Melon as pastor, more than 40 people
worship at Coliseum Place each week. Youth groups come during the
summer to help renovate the building and to lead Bible camps in the
community. The church is beginning to see new life.
The challenges Melon and Coliseum Place face are
common for urban churches as the community around them changes, Taylor
notes. In Coliseum Place, the students see the harsh, yet exciting,
realities of ministering in an inner-city church.
Taylor also has taken the class to some of the
Baptist missions in New Orleans. These include Rachel Sims Baptist
Mission, the oldest Baptist mission in the United States. The class
also visits Carver Baptist Mission, which is similar to Rachel Sims.
Both are community-based mission sites that minister to neighborhood
children, teenagers, young adults and senior adults.
The class also visits Baptist Friendship House, a
shelter for battered women and children located on the edge of New
Orleans’ French Quarter. Director Kay Bennett says she was encouraged
to see the seminary class at her ministry center.
“It’s good for us (at Baptist Friendship House) because I know I have them praying for us,” she explains.
On several occasions, a class member who has visited
the Friendship House has returned to their home church, told Christians
there about the mission and brought people back to the mission for
volunteer service, Bennett says.
The class also spends time prayerwalking in a
Vietnamese community in New Orleans East, where a local Vietnamese
congregation currently is without a pastor. Even though very little
ministry work is going on there at present, the experience in
prayerwalking for complete strangers helps to teach class members the
importance of praying for a community.
Students come to see that prayerwalking is like
preparing a field for the harvest, Taylor notes. Prayerwalking also
develops a minister’s love and passion for an area.
Indeed, Bauman says prayerwalking in the Vietnamese community was one of the most powerful parts of the class.
“This class allows students to get off campus, get out of the bubble
and really see where the rubber meets the road as far as ministry in
action,” he says. “You’re not just here to get an education. You’re
here to do ministry while you get an education.”
That is fine with Taylor. He says he wants students
to be more efficient with their time in New Orleans and actively to
serve the community in which they live.
Taylor adds that as students see the different
spiritual gifts used in the various ministries and as they meet leaders
who make them happen, he hopes they will develop their own ideas for
So far, several students have become involved with ministries visited by the class.
“We’ve actually had four or five students that found
a ministry position … through visiting sites,” Taylor says. (BP)