As host of the annual gathering of Baptist Coalition for Children and Families (BCCF), Michael Blackwell shared lessons he’s learned from thirty-five years of leadership as president and CEO of the Baptist Homes for Children of North Carolina.
Leadership requires “patient persistence,” “being confident,” “having the courage of conviction,” and “understanding early the power of relationships,” Blackwell told leaders from nineteen of BCCF’s twenty-one member organizations at its seventieth anniversary meeting in the mountain city of Asheville, North Carolina.
Blackwell urged his fellow children’s and family ministry leaders to connect “exceptionally well” with people, involve all kinds of people in their ministry circles, show compassion, be open and transparent, and understand what motivates people during the April 11–12, 2018, meeting.
Other leaders shared a variety of “lessons from the trenches,” including David Perry, executive director for Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes, who shared lessons about ups and downs in ministry he has learned during the thirty-nine years he has served his organization.
During the meeting, the children’s and family ministry leaders celebrated reports of families served and individuals saved. Affirming that Christ-centered services are key to the success of each organization, the presidents reported that 662,830 families were positively impacted by BCCF’s member organizations. Noting that meeting both physical needs and spiritual needs are what define their ministries, they celebrated reports of 1,174 professions of faith in Christ by individuals served through their respective ministries.
This year’s meeting included presentations by Southern Baptist Convention leaders sharing how BCCF can come alongside churches as Kingdom partners in foster care, orphan care, story-telling, and advocacy. Each speaker shared ways to connect resources, share vision and mission, and partner together with churches, associations, state conventions, and SBC entities to serve the least of these in all areas of ministry, regardless of geography. Speakers included Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director for Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU); Roger S. “Sing” Oldham, vice president for Convention communications and relations for the SBC Executive Committee; David Melber, president of Send Relief, the North American Mission Board’s compassion ministries arm; and Josh Wester, director of strategic initiatives for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
BCCF’s purpose is to strengthen members and their respective organizations through leadership development, dynamic relationships, education, and advocacy.
Formed in 1949 as Baptist Child Care Executives, the organization of child and family care leaders changed its name in 2015 to reflect the many changes in how children’s homes provide ministry to children and families in a rapidly-changing world. Today, the services offered by Baptist child and family ministries are varied. Although many still provide residential care to children, there are also major emphases on foster care, family care for mothers and their children, individual and family counseling, care for the frail aging, and even outreaches to children in other countries.
Ministries which continue to provide residential care have adapted to societal changes, creating home-style settings that easily fit in with any neighborhood in the country. Old-style “institutional matrons” who cared for as many as forty to sixty children have long been replaced by married couples who become surrogate parents caring for six to eight children, including their own.
Through Christ-centered ministries spread across the United States, BCCF members promote and advocate for children, families, and the aging while championing the sanctity of life at every point. Members represent twenty-one organizations located in nineteen states from Florida to Alaska, impacting lives in the United States and around the world. The majority of these ministries to children and families have multiple campuses and ministry centers scattered across their respective states.
During the annual BCCF conference, the host organization invites participants to visit a local campus in its state for a meal and entertainment. This year’s meal was served at the Broyhill Home Campus in western North Carolina. Picturesque cottages nestled on the side of the mountain overlooking a beautiful sunset was just one of the many highlights of visiting the campus. The children sang and provided a beautiful picture of how God is rewriting so many of their life stories. They concluded the evening by singing the Gospel song, “Jesus Saves.” As they sang, various children held up signs with the word “SAVED,” signifying their decision to trust Christ for salvation since being in the care of the North Carolina home.
Randy Rankin, executive director of New Mexico Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries, was honored for serving a two-year term as president of the group. Rod Marshall, president and CEO of Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries, was elected president of BCCF, and Greg McNeese, president and CEO of Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, was elected vice president.
To learn about Baptist Coalition for Children and Families, visit www.bccfamilies.org.
Kyle Luke is secretary and treasurer for Baptist Coalition for Children and Families, is vice president of development and communications for STCH Ministries, and is a member of First Baptist Church, Beeville, Texas.