By Jim Nieman
Contrary to what you might have heard, Louisville Bible College continues to train preachers and ministers for church ministry.
“Some people think we closed,” said Jason Anderson, registrar and assistant professor of Bible at LBC. “We never closed, but for one school year we didn’t offer classes.”
The college went through a rough patch in 2015-16, and decided to forgo classroom instruction after “we let our debt get out of hand,” Anderson said.
The next school year, LBC resumed offering classes under the guidance of Tom Mobley—who returned as president in 2016, after previously serving LBC in that position from 1990 to 2004. The college is in its third year of offering classes and degrees since that one-year hiatus.
Louisville Bible College is also celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, with festivities slated for Oct. 21 and 22.
Larry Oetzel, an alum who now serves as LBC’s bursar, said the college traces its roots back to McGarvey Bible Institute, which existed in Louisville in the early 1900s before merging in 1924 with Cincinnati Bible Institute. The resulting institution is now known as Cincinnati Christian University. Ultimately, however, some folks left Cincinnati in the late 1940s and returned to Louisville to form LBC.
Oetzel, who has served with the institution for most of the past 30 years, including many years as vice president, said the split was a result of “personality differences.”
Louisville Bible College has always focused on training preachers and ministers, said Oetzel, who came to the college as a student in 1959. Anderson is also an alum.
“When I came on as a student in 1997, Louisville Bible College had a real outreach here,” Anderson said. “We’ve always been this commuter-friendly school. Our students have typically been folks who have come back to school . . . people who are in the ministry already or who have a tentmaking ministry.”
Classes are conducted in a variety of ways. Some meet once each week. Some are offered as modules, perhaps meeting on a Friday and Saturday. Classes are also conducted in church settings.
“A lot of people who can’t go to a typical school setting come here,” Anderson said. “We keep our tuition low. We’re an option for people who can’t afford a typical Bible college.”
At present, the cost of a credit hour is $77 for undergraduates and $87 for graduate students. Another option is to audit a class for $37 per credit hour.
Anderson said LBC is a good option for active ministers and cost-conscious ministers . . . “someone who is a nontraditional student . . . someone who can’t afford to get in debt. We’ve always specialized in ministry, specifically preaching ministries.”
“The vast majority of our faculty are people who come in for one day a week and go back and do ministry,” Anderson said. “We don’t have people who theorize about ministry. We have people who do ministry. That’s been the approach through most of the years. We don’t call them adjunct, but it works that way.”
Oetzel said LBC has benefited from its proximity to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which is also in Louisville.
“We plugged in many of the preachers who came to Southern Baptist for their graduate degrees” to teach classes at LBC, Oetzel said.
LBC currently offers a one-year Certificate of Christian leadership, two-year associate degrees in general ministry and Christian education, a Bachelor of Sacred Literature degree (Bible with a concentration in general studies), a Bachelor of Arts (Bible and Christian ministries), and a Master of Sacred Literature in one of two concentrations (Bible and theology, and practical ministries).
The school, located at I-265 (the Gene Snyder Freeway) and Beulah Church Road, is still regaining its financial footing. Selling some property was part of that process. Teachers volunteering their services was another part.
“We had people whose heart was not just training ministers, but people who wanted to see this school succeed,” Anderson said. All of the teachers, by the way, have earned master’s degrees, at least. “Their passion is to teach others how to preach and serve in ministry.”
And enrollment is gradually increasing.
In the early 2000s, enrollment peaked at about 400 (which included all students in all programs). The school year that started in 2016 saw a total enrollment of 83, and that climbed to 155 last school year, Anderson said.
It is expected attendance will continue to increase this school year, due in large part to 24 faculty members who desire to see church workers trained and the school to succeed.
Jim Nieman serves as managing editor of Christian Standard.