TMC trustees approve
new chapel/student center
by Norm Miller
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews) -- Truett McConnell College trustees unanimously passed a motion for a new chapel and student center for the school's Cleveland, Ga., campus.
"We're out of chapel space," said Dr. Emir Caner, president of TMC. With the expected addition of 100 to 130 residential students next fall, the chapel facilities will not hold the increase. TMC now rents the auditorium from a neighboring church, but two years of record breaking growth in enrollment has pushed the facility beyond capacity.
Caner shared with trustees his vision for a 2,500- to 3,000-seat chapel, giving the college the largest such venue in north Georgia for uses beyond a worship center to include concerts and conferences.
"If we are a Christian institution, then worship and devotion to our Lord is the centerpiece of everything we do," he said, noting the ability to communicate that mission architecturally. "You will actually see the chapel at the very center of our campus."
Caner noted the hilltop where a cross now stands as "the high place for us" to construct the new chapel/student center. Erecting the facility as a single building harks to Baptist history when churches were the center of community activity, he added, saying the integrated chapel/student center structurally solidifies for students that worship is central to their total life experience.
The structure will also include a fine arts center, said Caner, adding that TMC's music program, which focuses on preparing students for music ministry in local churches and beyond, "is second to none, in particular, to Christian colleges in Georgia."
To help pay for the new chapel/student center, trustees voted to escrow $4M as a designated amount for the project.
Truett-McConnell recently received $4.7M from the Georgia Baptist Convention, who dissolved its Capital Improvements and Endowment Fund. Shorter University and Brewton-Parker College also received proportional amounts. Caner told trustees that TMC would no longer receive money annually from the now-defunct fund.
Commenting on enrollment increases, Caner said fall 2010 enrollment was 750 students. That jumped to 925 in 2011. Dorms are at 92 percent capacity; only 45 beds are available.
With new student inquiries up 33 percent over this time last year, TMC is facing two options: "We either limit the number of those who come here, or we continue to build," said Caner, citing the need for another new dorm. Truett-McConnell opened a new dorm last August. Projected enrollment numbers and a student retention rate of 95 percent, which is well above the national average, will necessitate yet another new dorm in the fall of 2013.
Caner noted the addition of TMC's Great Commission Minor that enables students "to get not only that which is essential to their professionalism, but that which is essential to the most intimate part of their being and their soul."
"What will a student get here that is unique to Truett-McConnell?" asked Caner, who voiced a four-pronged answer as points for trustees to offer those who may ask them about TMC:
Love for the Lord: Theology I and II;
Love for the Word: Bible Survey;
Love for the Local Church: Baptist History; and,
Love for the Lost: Evangelism and Missions or Missions Practicum.
Caner said TMC is "investing in the students' souls" so they will learn how to "love the Lord" which is "not only a passion of the heart but an intent of the mind." Such students will be able to articulate why Jesus is the "only way to heaven, the only hope of this world" in an understandable way to anyone they meet.
Regarding "Love for the Word," Caner said a major objective is "to equip the students with love for the Word -- to equip them to have that passion." The Bible Survey classes prepare students to defend the Bible.
Teaching students "Love for the Local Church" through Baptist History is vital because 70 percent of all students who go to college also leave their churches, Caner said, citing statistical research.
Caner, who teaches Baptist History, emphasized the necessity of teaching "the imperative of the local church," discipleship, evangelism, church membership, servanthood, leadership and world missions.
Students successfully completing Caner's Baptist History course "not only appreciate being a Christian, and not only appreciate the local church, they also appreciate what it means to be a Baptist church," he said. "We don't apologize for the nomenclature of being Baptist because it's not merely a name, it's a movement."
"We try to do everything we can to get students to be evangelists," Caner said, referring to his final point, "Love for the Lost." This effort includes faculty leading missions trips, and the requirement that all students take either a class in missions and evangelism or a mission trip.
Caner then cited the Oct. 27 signing of the Baptist Faith and Message by Truett-McConnell faculty. "It was one of those days in my life that I will never forget," he said. Truett-McConnell was the first among Southern Baptist colleges to sign the BF&M. "Let's hope we're not the last to do so."
Shifting to academic highlights, Caner said, "We are putting together programs where our graduates can be both missionaries and professionals" in order to equip a generation of tentmakers.
TMC's Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies, such as Psychology/Missions or Pre-Med/Missions, e.g., will equip students with valuable career training that will open doors around the world for them to employ their missionary training.
"I want to make sure that we give students every opportunity to realize that they all walk the way of missionaries" regardless of career choice. The "tentmaker" approach to TMC's degrees "is really going to represent us in the future," Caner said. "I don't know of any school that does this. I don't know of any at all. This is a unique program."
Institutional goals for Truett-McConnell include the expansion of existing programs to middle school education, business, and a bachelor of science in nursing. Other goals include new space for batting cages, wrestling practices, and weight training.
A new job/ministry placement center is needed. Caner told trustees that the number of students in ministry has quadrupled since 2008, from 38 to 160.
Regarding a goal for increased marketing, Caner said, "We will need to advertise ourselves much more frequently and efficiently in the future in order for us to become a regional, and ultimately, national university."
Concluding his report, Caner told trustees that noted Christian apologist and author Dr. Norman Geisler would be the speaker for TMC's 2012 graduation service.
In other action, trustees elected by acclamation a new chairman, Gary Jarnagin, minister of senior adults and education at Salem Baptist Church, McDonough, Ga. He succeeds Mike Dorough, minister to students at 2nd Baptist Church, Warner Robins.
In the early part of the meeting, Dr. Van Sanders, associate professor of missions and evangelism, shared some missiological and devotional thoughts from the Book of Romans.
Following Sanders was student Anna Ballejos, a senior and world missions major, who held the board rapt with 17 minutes of effusive praise and heart-warming gratitude for Truett-McConnell, its professors, president, and prominent emphasis on missions.
Trustees erupted in applause when she was finished, and then one trustee jokingly asked President Caner, "Is that the best you could do?" And the applause turned to laughter.
"The next time you have a cynic talking about this generation, just point them to Anna," Caner said.
Dr. Adam Harwood, assistant professor of Christian Studies, brought greetings from the faculty. "This is a serious investment of time. You're away from your family, your business, your church, and we thank you," he said.
Trustees received as a gift from TMC a copy of Harwood's book, The Spiritual Condition of Infants. "This is a brilliant guide, not only practically, but theologically for the issue," Caner said of the book.
Harwood preached on the topic during a TMC chapel service this fall (available online, www.truett.edu), wherein he shared his perspective that all humans inherit the first man's sinful nature, but not his guilt.
Trustees later heard reports from the offices of Institutional Advancement, Student Services, Administrative Services and Academic Services.
The trustees meet again in March of 2012.