Increasing enrollment leading Southern Seminary to explore expanded class hours, Mohler tells trustees

Communications Staff — October 18, 2005

To meet the demands of a steadily increasing student enrollment, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary may offer more classes during the early morning and evening, President R. Albert Mohler Jr. told the seminary’s board of trustees Tuesday during its annual fall meeting.

Southern welcomed 679 new students for the fall semester—an 8.8 percent increase in enrollment—bringing the seminary’s on-campus student body to 2,314. Including its extension centers and Internet students, Southern’s total fall enrollment stands at 3,138, Mohler said, and is expected to reach 4,000 by the end of the 2005-2006 academic year.

“This is the kind of problem that represents real health,” Mohler said. “When you are looking at how to make maximum use of your facility in order to make certain that you can serve the largest number of persons with that greatest degree of effectiveness, that is great.

“But the bottom line is that we have reached a point of saturation on the campus in terms of peak hours. Everything is filled to capacity. Classrooms, the cafeteria, you name it, everything is just very, very full.”

With increasing numbers come additional challenges to the seminary’s infrastructure such as parking and classroom space, he said. Instead of investing large amounts of capital in new buildings and parking decks, Mohler said the seminary’s growth will be handled through a more efficient use of its current campus.

In the near future, some classes may be offered at 7 a.m. and others at night, Mohler said. Presently, the bulk of on-campus activity takes place between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., leaving both classrooms and parking lots filled to capacity.

“One of the most popular times to take courses at Southern Seminary is on Monday and Tuesday nights,” Mohler said. “So there is a three-hour block [available] on those nights.

“We can’t grow from about eight in the morning until two in the afternoon, [so] we have to grow at other times and here is the good news: given the nature of our society and the nature of the workplace and other issues, this is very possible. We will be looking at the data that need to be factored in to figure out where to put classes and when.”

In other business:

* Mohler introduced trustees to Charles E. Lawless, Jr., new dean of the Billy Graham School of Evangelism, Missions and Church Growth. Mohler appointed Lawless to succeed Thom Rainer, who is the president-elect of LifeWay Christian Resources.

“God called me to preach when I was 13-years old,” Lawless told trustees. “It was a huge struggle for me because I had wanted to teach since I had been five years old, and I wrestled with that and struggled with that and battled with that and never dreamed God would allow me to do both preach His Word and teach His Word.

“Now I have the privilege of teaching His Word and teaching about evangelism and church growth every day and preaching His Word on Sundays, and I am living my dream in that sense.”

* The board elected two professors to endowed chairs: Thomas R. Schreiner to the James Buchanan Harrison Chair of New Testament Interpretation and Mark A. Seifrid to the Mildred and Ernest Hogan Chair of New Testament Interpretation.

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