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Associations Address Ministry Needs, Plan for Future

At its March 1, 2018, meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders Study Committee reviews survey results of church leaders’ perceptions of associational work, conducted and facilitated by Jason Lowe (standing), director of missions of Pike Association of Southern Baptists in Kentucky. Photo by Roger S. Oldham.

Mike Carlisle, director of missions for San Diego (California) Southern Baptist Association, noted that “the association is the closest organization to the local church in Southern Baptist life.”

This comment resonated with participants at the 2017 Associations in Mega-Cities (AIM) meeting and helped precipitate three surveys, a director of missions (DOM) study committee, a two-day facilitated strategy meeting of DOMs, and focused conversations about the changing shape of associational work at each of the four Southern Baptist directors of missions’ organizations in the year since.

Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders Study Team

Meeting annually in concert with the SBC annual meeting, the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders’ mission and vision statements are “to assist associational leaders in advancing the Gospel through leadership development, ministry partnerships, and networking” and “to see increasing numbers of healthy churches—existing and new—making disciples and transforming communities through Christ.”

With that aim in view, Ray Gentry, executive director of SBCAL, appointed a study group at its June 11–12, 2017, conference in Phoenix. The team is charged with submitting a report at the SBCAL 2018 meeting in Dallas.

“We feel like it’s time for a new name for the new century and the new demands upon us and the new opportunities before us,” Gentry told Baptist Press at the time.

“There really is no commonly accepted job description for a DOM,” he said. “We want to come up with a profile with competencies for search committees and for purposes of coaching and helping new DOMs.”

Gentry hopes such a profile will help raise the credibility and effectiveness of DOMs.

Rick Wheeler, lead missional strategist from the Jacksonville (Florida) Baptist Association, has led the team during the year.

“Nobody can understand the director of missions role like someone else who is doing it—iron sharpening iron,” Wheeler said, referencing Proverbs 27:17.

“Associations will be what churches want them to be. This study team desires to help churches do what they need to do.”

The study committee has conducted two surveys, one with directors of missions and one with church leaders; held videoconference meetings; and met in Atlanta as it has conducted its work. It is finalizing the report it will bring to SBCAL in Dallas on June 10–11, 2018.

Associations in Mega-Cities

Meeting at Gateway Seminary, Associations in Mega-Cities (AIM) participants pledged to read four books on managing transitions in leadership in preparation for their meeting. Convener Donnie Simpson, executive director of missions of Kansas City Baptist Association in Kansas City, Kansas, characterized the gathering as “a working/brainstorming/planning meeting.”

The February 8–9, 2018, meeting included a presentation by Gateway President Jeff Iorg on managing transitions in leadership; two facilitated sessions on “dynamics of change in systems,” led by Pat MacMillan of Triaxia Partners and Bob Reccord of Total Life Impact Ministries; and an interactive process of identifying issues, formulating solutions, and developing action steps, facilitated by Bob Bumgarner, executive pastor of Chets Creek Church in Jacksonville, Florida.

MacMillan shared the results of a survey his firm had conducted for the group that included an overwhelmingly positive view pastors and church leaders have of associational work.

He told the DOMs his research indicates that Baptists generally view the local Baptist association as the “load-bearing beam” in the structure of Southern Baptists’ work.

Reccord, former North American Mission Board (NAMB) president, expressed regret that he had failed “to recognize the value of associations” during his years at NAMB. He affirmed DOMs and their work, saying he has come to see the tremendous value of the association.

Reccord echoed MacMillan’s observation that Baptist associations are, indeed, the load-bearing beam for cooperation in Convention life. He encouraged participants in their work of revitalizing churches and connecting them with one another and with state and SBC ministries.

Associational directors of missions from mega-cities (AIM) enjoy fellowship with one another during a banquet hosted by Gateway Seminary in Ontario, California, during the group’s annual meeting at the seminary on February 8–9, 2018. Photo by Roger S. Oldham.

Associational directors of missions from mega-cities (AIM) participate in a strategy planning session facilitated by Pat MacMillan and Bob Reccord during the group’s annual meeting at Gateway Seminary on February 8–9, 2018. Photo by Deryl Lackey.

Network of Baptist Associations

The Network of Baptist Associations (NOBA) holds an annual training summit led by fellow DOMs and provides web-based networking and training to assist directors of missions.

The theme for Summit 2018 was Thrive, with plenary sessions devoted to self-leadership, healthy church development, collegiate church planting, and cultural awareness.

Steve Stroope, lead pastor of LakePointe Church in Rockwall, Texas, led participants through a self-leadership grid he has developed in his almost forty years of pastoral leadership at LakePointe, during which the congregation has grown from fifty-three in attendance at its inception to more than twelve thousand each week at six metro-Dallas campuses.

Brian Frye, national collegiate strategist for NAMB and collegiate evangelism strategist for the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, introduced fellow collegiate church planters to the DOMs and challenged them to lead their churches to engage hundreds of college campuses with the Gospel.

In the concluding session, Dave Travis of Leadership Network encouraged DOMs to lead their churches to leverage the fact that we live in a post-Christian age to equip their churches to engage people with the Gospel in fresh ways.

Network of Baptist Associations (NOBA) Executive Director Eddie Miller (standing right), honors retiring NOBA chairman Sid Hopkins during the organization’s January 22–23, 2018, meeting at First Baptist Church, Jonesboro, Georgia. Photo by Roger S. Oldham.

Century Associations Network

The newest of the associational groups, Century Associations Network (CAN) is a forum for associational directors of missions who serve one hundred churches or more to share best ministry practices with one another. The format differs from other annual DOM gatherings in a couple of ways.

While other associational groups meet for a combination of inspiration, fellowship, and training, CAN is singularly focused on DOMs sharing replicable models of ministry they are observing in and among the churches they serve. With numerous resources available through other organizations these DOMs participate in, no outside guests are enlisted to provide training.

Since there are no costs associated with bringing in guests, CAN has no annual dues or other fees associated with their gathering.

In addition to discussions on best ministry practices, this year’s meeting, hosted at NAMB in Alpharetta, Georgia, on March 8–9, included presentations on technology opportunities for associations by Todd Robertson, Louisville Regional Baptist Association; associational finances by Bob Dean, Dallas Baptist Association; and a tool for developing a matrix of church health and engagement within associations, by Roger Yancey, Tryon Evergreen Baptist Association in Conroe, Texas.

Mitch Martin, executive director of missions for Mid-South Baptist Association in Memphis, addresses fellow directors of missions during the Century Associations Network (CAN) meeting at the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Georgia, March 8–9, 2018. Photo courtesy of Mid-South Baptist Association in Memphis, Tennessee.

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Pre-Convention 2018
Volume 26, Issue 2
April 2018