Dr. Kristyn Carver knew from an early age that she wanted to be a teacher. Every time she considered going in a new direction, her heart kept moving her back toward the classroom. What she didn’t expect, however, was a God-ordained shift from working with children to mentoring “grown ups” at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College.
“I went to Louisiana State and got a degree in elementary education,” the native of Baton Rouge explained. “And when I got out of school, I started teaching outside of Baton Rogue in a school where the demographic was really poor and at-risk. I was so excited to teach, and I knew how to teach; but I was not prepared for the social aspect and how students’ home lives would impact the classroom. The kids really struggled to focus and pay attention because they had so much trauma and chaos at home.”
Those realities led Dr. Carver to consider moving from classroom teaching to serving as a guidance counselor. As she searched for a place to study for her new direction, she began looking at NOBTS. The integrated approach of the seminary’s counseling program caught her attention and convinced her that this was where she needed to be.
“NOBTS did not have—and still does not have—a ‘guidance program,’” she said. “Still, I loved that the seminary had a passion for equipping professional counselors to know how to do that work in a way that was informed by and guided by Scripture.”
As she began working toward her counseling degree, Dr. Carver again felt God moving her in a new direction. In helping families sort through issues during counseling sessions, she discovered a passion leading her in a new direction. Instead of working only in the school system, where students were often isolated from their caregivers, she determined to work directly with hurting and broken families as a licensed professional counselor.
Along with a change in focus, her master’s work at NOBTS opened another door for her. Dr. Thomas Strong, dean of Leavell College and Dr. Carver’s Bible study leader at First Baptist New Orleans, asked if she would be interested in teaching an undergraduate class in marriage and family counseling. Initially, she turned down the offer; but, after talking with her husband, Kim, and praying about it, she reluctantly decided to give it a try.
“I didn’t want to do it because it was scary to me,” Dr. Carver said. “And even though I ended up teaching the class, I thought I would be so bad at it that I could just check it off my list and never have to teach grown-ups again.”
“But here I am, still doing it.”
Currently, Dr. Carver holds the James D. and Rose R. Ramsey Chair of Psychology and Counseling at NOBTS. Like many professors on campus, though, she also uses her gifts and abilities to make a difference in the New Orleans community. As a licensed professional counselor, she specializes in the areas of childhood trauma, especially within the context of the foster care system. A mother of three daughters adopted out of foster care, she maintains a broad ministry that equips and trains individuals who intersect with foster children, including judges, lawyers, social workers, teachers, physicians, and foster parents.
While she finds great joy in investing in the lives of her students in classroom, she also appreciates the freedom and support the seminary provides for her work outside the walls.
“Colleagues in other schools have to squeeze in outside work or move under the radar with their personal passion,” she explains. “But I have always been encouraged and supported by the seminary to embrace my passions and to bring students along with me. That lets them see and experience what it looks like to do ministry in a secular setting—but with a seminary degree. I love that this is part of what our leadership values and appreciates in their faculty, that we are plugged into the community.”
While the counseling program at NOBTS and Leavell College is grounded in biblical truth, Dr. Carver understands how her emphasis differs from other majors. The fact that it tends to be more “secular” in nature doesn’t diminish the ministry potential in her eyes. If anything, she sees advantages in working in a profession where people seeking answers for their deepest pain come to her.
“Sometimes, I just want to pinch myself because I can’t believe God is letting me do this for my life,” she said with a smile. “In so many other aspects of ministry, part of what students learn is how to reach people and how do you get them to listen. In counseling, hurting people looking for answers come to your door.
“For example, we have a counseling center on campus, but it really is a community counseling center. We often have a waiting list of people who are hurting and broken and looking for solutions. They are coming to the seminary campus to find hope and healing. They are literally coming to us and even waiting in line for months to hear. It really is an awesome privilege to do this work.”
In addition to serving the seminary community through her teaching, Dr. Carver chooses to support the school financially, and she and her husband want to encourage others to give as well. From her perspective, few things provide a better return on investment than theological education.
At the same time, part of her commitment to giving can be traced to the support she received as a student. While she cleaned houses to make ends meet, she also experienced the blessings of donors’ generosity. Now, she wants to follow their example because she knows the impact those gifts can make on the lives of students.
“Literally, every single semester, students come here and are just walking in faith,” she noted. “They’ve moved their kids and their families here, and they’re trying to make ends meet by walking in faith knowing God is going to provide. I’ve seen over and over again what it does for students’ faith when those financial needs are met. It changes their relationship with God as they see Him as a Provider, maybe trusting Him in ways they never had before. I love being a part of that.”
Dr. Carver feels a close connection to the city of New Orleans. The fact that the seminary emphasizes outreach to this particular corner of the world means a great deal to her. She knows that God has placed NOBTS and Leavell College here to make an impact on the people of this diverse community.
“New Orleans Seminary is uniquely situated because we are in a city that allows our students to practice every single type of ministry we teach,” Dr. Carver says. “It doesn’t matter what people group you are called to minister to. They are going to be in our city. Our students are getting so much hands-on experience day in and day out in the city and bringing light into darkness that exists here.”
In her own way, Dr. Carver is shining the Light. She is making a difference in the classroom and in the lives of at-risk children across the region. Like the students she mentors, she is living out the NOBTS mission of walking with Christ, proclaiming His truth, and fulfilling His mission.