WEST MONROE, La. – 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 were in need of a change.
Northeast Baptist School, which is in partnership with the local Northeast Baptist Association, was nearly maxing out the number of students it could hold in its current facility.
Ridge Avenue had several buildings on its property it had not been using for a while, and members were looking for ways to bring younger families into the church.
Wolfe, who recently joined the school board at Northeast Baptist, suggested the school and church partner 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 the school will use the property during the week for school activities, while Ridge Avenue will still use the campus to hold services and activities on Sundays and Wednesdays.
Wolfe said the similar mission of both entities makes the arrangement mutually beneficial.
“People have asked why would you give away property, but we see it as a great opportunity for both of us,” Wolfe said. “It is 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’re working together for the same cause, which is the furtherance of the gospel. It keeps our facilities in use for the advancement of God’s Kingdom, and it is almost like a church revitalization for us.”
Wolfe said the congregation, made up mostly of senior adults, has been struggling to reach new people since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the midst of this struggle, the members wanted their highly valuable property to continue to be used for ministry, no matter what happens to the church in the future.
“There are churches all around still struggling to stay open … and it leaves you wondering what will happen to those facilities if they do close?” Wolfe said.
“Now these facilities that have been sitting 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.”
Not only will the facilities continue to have gospel impact, but they will be receiving some needed upgrades.
Mike Holloway is the pastor of Ouachita Baptist Church, also located in West Monroe. Even before becoming pastor there, Holloway was one of the co-founders of Northeast Baptist School nearly 30 years ago.
He now serves as president of the school’s board and told Baptist Press the plan is to sell Northeast’s current building before moving into the newly renovated Ridge Avenue property by the summer of 2024.
The sale of the school’s current building will serve multiple purposes including relieving the school’s current debt and paying for renovations to Ridge Avenue’s facilities that are necessary in order to meet the school property code.
The vision of Northeast Baptist as a pre-K through 12th-grade school is to “provide an affordable and quality Christian education,” Holloway said, adding that education is an important part of Christian ministry as referenced in Article XII of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
“We’re hoping the school will become an outreach for the church, and some of the families in the school might consider the church to be their home church,” Holloway said.
“It obviously speaks of the congregation’s spiritual mindset because they want to keep this property in the Kingdom of God, and it speaks to their generosity and their unselfishness. These people could have sold the property and divided the money and went home, or sold it to someone who doesn’t hold to their 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 of creating practical solutions but to examine their own spiritual state and trust God for the results.
“I don’t know what the Lord would lead other churches to do, all I know is that ultimately it is not our church,” Wolfe said. “It is God’s church. It doesn’t belong to us. Churches need to focus on allowing God to use them in building His church. All we can do is be faithful and allow Him to open the right doors.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press staff writer.)