WEST MONROE, La. (BP) – According to Pastor Jim Wolfe of Ridge Avenue Baptist Church, an upcoming partnership with nearby Northeast Baptist School will be a “shot in the arm” for both entities.
It was becoming clear that both Ridge Avenue and Northeast Baptist needed change.
Northeastern Baptist School, which partners with the local Northeastern Baptist Association, was nearly maxing out the number of students it could accommodate at its current facility.
Ridge Avenue had several buildings on their property that they hadn’t been using for a while, and members were looking for ways to attract younger families to church.
Wolfe, who recently joined the Northeast Baptist school board, suggested that the school and church share facilities.
The arrangement isn’t exactly a merger, because Ridge Avenue is actually transferring ownership of its property to the school.
The two will be in a contract agreement that states that the school will use the property during the week for school activities, while Ridge Avenue will still use the campus for services and activities on Sundays and Wednesdays.
Wolfe said the similar mission of both entities makes the agreement mutually beneficial.
“People have asked why I would give property away, but we see it as a great opportunity for both of us,” Wolfe said. “It’s a win for the school because it gives them more space and facilities to use, and it’s a win for us because it gives us that contact with families and the younger generation.
“We are working together for the same cause, which is the promotion of the Gospel. It keeps our facilities in use for the advancement of the Kingdom of God, and it’s almost like a church revitalization for us.”
Wolfe said the congregation, made up primarily of older adults, has been struggling to reach new people since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the midst of this struggle, the members wanted their valuable property to continue to be used for the ministry, no matter what happened to the church in the future.
“There are churches everywhere that are still struggling to stay open…and that leaves you wondering what will happen to those facilities if they close.” Wolfe said.
“Now these facilities that have been idle are guaranteed to be used for Kingdom work. That is an important issue for our congregation. They want to bring glory to God and this will do it.
The facility will not only continue to have the impact of the Gospel, but will also receive some much-needed upgrades.
Mike Holloway is the pastor of Ouachita Baptist Church, also located in West Monroe. Even before becoming a pastor there, Holloway was one of the co-founders of Northeast Baptist School nearly 30 years ago.
Now serving as school board president, he told Baptist Press the plan is to sell Northeast’s current building before moving to the newly renovated Ridge Avenue property by summer 2024.
The sale of the school’s current building will serve multiple purposes, including relief of the school’s current debt and payment for renovations to the Ridge Avenue facility that are necessary to comply with the school property code.
Northeast Baptist’s vision as a PK-12 school is to “provide a quality, affordable Christian education,” Holloway said, adding that education is an important part of Christian ministry as referenced in Article XII of the Faith. Baptist and Message 2000.
“We hope that the school will become an outreach for the church and that some of the families at the school will consider the church to be their home church,” Holloway said.
“It obviously speaks to the spiritual mindset of the congregation because they want to keep this property in the Kingdom of God, and it speaks to their generosity and their generosity. These people could have sold the property and divvied up the money and gone home, or sold it to someone who doesn’t have the same mission.
“This speaks to the spiritual heartbeat and passion of Ridge Avenue.”
Wolfe said his advice to other struggling churches would be to not only think about creating practical solutions, but also to examine their own spiritual state and trust God for the results.
“I don’t know what the Lord would direct other churches to, all I know is that ultimately it’s not our church,” Wolfe said. “It is the church of God. It does not belong to us. Churches need to focus on allowing God to use them in building up his church. All we can do is be faithful and allow Him to open the right doors.”