By Jeff Brumley
Texas-based B.H. Carroll Theological Institute has been steadily growing since its founding in 2004, with more staff, more students, more teaching churches and a global reach that expands every year.
No wonder the organization made a big move for more space recently.
“We’re just like a young family that finally decides to stop being renters and own our own property,” said J. Stanley Moore, senior fellow and professor of church music and worship at the institute headquartered in Irving.
So after more than a decade spent in two different leased locations in downtown Arlington, the institute earlier this year purchased a 29,000-square-foot, two-story office building located within view of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
In May, administrators and other office staff moved into 14,000 of those square feet in two wings on the bottom floor, leaving the rest to existing commercial tenants.
While a huge improvement in space over previous administrative facilities, the new Carroll Center also provides an important psychological boost to staff and potential donors, B.H. Carroll leaders say.
“We have found a home — a permanent home,” said Jim Spivey, senior fellow and professor of Christian heritage.
Despite the institute’s growth over the years, not having a place to call its own contributed to questions by some about the organization’s future viability, Spivey said.
“This makes a statement of permanence,” he said.
For administrators and other office staff, previous offices had a much more temporary — and cramped — feel.
Their first spot was 4,000 square feet in a building in downtown Arlington, which the school occupied for six years beginning in 2004.
A growth in staff necessitated a shift in 2010, when the institute moved into 8,000 square feet of the Charles R. Wade building owned by First Baptist Church in downtown Arlington.
But even that facility was quickly outgrown by administrative staff, which has grown from five at the beginning to close to 15 today, Moore said.
He praised landlords as generous, but said the institute’s administrative functions, including board meetings and social functions for faculty and students, were stretching those places to the limit.
“We outgrew the Charles Wade building, too,” Moore said. “They were good spaces but we just outgrew them.”
‘Presence and physicality’
Outgrowing teaching space, however, won’t be a problem for the institute because it doesn’t have any.
“This is not a teaching building,” Moore said. “It’s a hub, an administrative hub.”
Instruction at B.H. Carroll actually occurs at teaching churches in Texas and other states. It also has partnerships with institutions around the world.
The institute also offers online instruction, Moore said.
“Our model is to never build a building with classrooms,” he said.
In this way, and by keeping education out in the churches and online, tuition increases can be minimized, Moore said. The model also prevents students from having to uproot and give up jobs in their local contexts — or to try to compete for them if and when they return.
“This is how we train hundreds and thousands in their own contexts, and globals in their contexts and in their own languages,” Moore said.
Despite the decentralized teaching model that defines B.H. Carroll, it still has needed physical offices for leadership and other functions, such as information technology, accounting and public affairs, Moore said.
“We still live in a world that sees value in presence and physicality,” he said.
Boosting intellectual capital
And the new building it recently purchased has space for other kinds of growth.
The institute has the opportunity to upgrade its technological capabilities to boost online course offerings, Spivey said.
“This will give us more space for our global platform and to develop the smart classroom,” he said.
“We are not about bricks and mortar, we are about intellectual capital and more and more when people see this building, that’s what they will see,” he said.
Still, there was some deep searching on the staff when the opportunity to purchase presented itself. Mostly it centered around keeping overhead costs down to prevent tuition increases, Moore said.
The institute wanted to avoid the formula that often drives up tuition at more traditional seminaries, he said: a third going to cover facilities and another third for faculty salaries and benefits.
“In the beginning the focus was on staying lean and mean to keep administrative costs as low as possible,” he said. “Our conviction was that theological education should reside in the church.”
But those concerns were overcome by several factors, one of them being the fact that existing commercial tenants are providing a revenue stream preventing students from being saddled with building costs, Moore said.
“Now we have sources of income that cover operational costs,” he said.
That goal continues to be met thanks to partners who provided furniture for the offices, library, conference rooms and commons areas in the newly purchased facility, Moore said.
Donor generosity will likely help the institute pay off the building in four years, he said, explaining that it all turned out better than a previous plan to buy land and build a new facility.
“We believe this is better stewardship here,” he said.
‘Crystalizing our legacy’
One of the first events the institute held in its new space was a colloquy for doctoral students. Before, Moore said such a gathering would have been held in the dining hall at First Baptist, Arlington — which is a good place for such an event.
But the newly purchased facility contributed to a heightened sense of fellowship because participants could break into smaller groups for impromptu, focused discussions, Moore said.
“Now we have space that allows people to huddle and have conversations and fellowship in a relaxed atmosphere,” he said.
The fellowship provided by the Carroll Center extends virtually and globally, as well, said Gene Wilkes, president and professor of New Testament and leadership.
The ability to produce broadcast online and video conference courses boosts the connections between students dispersed across 26 states and eight countries, Wilkes told Baptist News Global via email.
Those capabilities continue to increase in importance, Wilkes said.
“B.H. Carroll continues to grow in enrollment and global reach each year,” he said. “Our current enrollment is near 300 and we have 8 global teaching churches in which we deliver accredited theological education,” he said.
The Carroll Center also will eventually tie together other ministry partners as the institute begins to host some of them as tenants, Moore said.
But for Spivey, just as important as all of those possibilities is the message that the building itself sends.
“People will identify this as a center of operations for us and it gives us a home,” Spivey said. “But it is more of an iconic presence for us — this is part of crystalizing our legacy.”