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LifeWay offers way to build, strengthen education ministries

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–For all practical purposes, several hundred ministers of education will be going on mission trips in 2004. But they won’t be taking hammers or nails.

These ministers will be going out across America not to build shelters, but to build education ministries in churches.

“Meet ME Across America” is an emphasis of the network partnership area of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and involves ministers of education (MEs) from across the country. Over the past two years, groups of MEs have gathered to talk about the state of the education ministry in Southern Baptist churches. Now MEs have an opportunity to use their knowledge and skills to help other churches in every state in what is titled “Meet ME Across America 2004.”

Larry Ware, LifeWay’s network partnership specialist who works with Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri, is coordinating the project.

“We started this emphasis with the ministers of education in 2002 with Meet ME in St. Louis,” Ware said. “In the spring of 2003, 85 groups of ministers of education met in cities across the country to discuss issues related to their role and work. Then, in May, we had Meet ME in D.C., during which we matched the ministers of education with several churches in D.C. and Maryland. For 2004, we’re gearing up for Meet ME Across America.”

The emphasis has grown each year. In 2004, 100 teams of ministers of education will work with churches across the United States and Canada.

“For the most part, these teams will focus on churches that don’t have a staff position of minister of education,” Ware said. “These teams will work with pastors and key lay leaders to assess the health of the church. They’ll help pastors and lay leaders look at how the church is using their closed and open groups, worship services and ministry teams to reach unsaved people and to disciple believers. Then, after they all work together to form a strategy for the church, the consulting ministers of education will continue to serve in an advisory capacity for about six months.”

Bruce Raley from First Baptist Church, Panama City, Fla., attended one of the training sessions. Even though his job title is executive pastor, Raley said he is a minister of education at heart and most of his work at the church relates to that role.

“Ministers of education wear so many hats,” Raley said. “We’re educators, change agents, ministers, generalists, strategists. The list goes on.”

When Raley left Arkansas to go to Florida, he quickly realized he didn’t have the same professional support system in place in his new job. “I needed to have that fellowship with other people in my position,” he said.

Raley formed a group of about 18-20 ministers of education from the area between Tallahassee and Panama City. “We meet twice a year and bounce ideas off each other,” he said.

“For so many of these MEs, time and financial constraints don’t let them go to some of the big meetings,” he said, “but most of them can easily manage something just a couple of hours from home. These meetings we’ve had have been beneficial for both the fellowship and training.”

A group of MEs met in Dallas Sept. 11-12 with Ware and other facilitators to be trained as team leaders. Another training session was held in Atlanta Sept. 15-16 and was facilitated by Sharon Smith, LifeWay network partnership specialist for Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

“The men and women who came to Dallas and Atlanta were trained as team leaders,” Ware said. “These team leaders will be enlisting 10 to 12 people to work with them in the city they have chosen.”

The teams worked on learning to use M.A.P. (Model and Process) to evaluate church health. Using that tool, churches can understand how to make the most effective use of open and closed groups, worship, and ministry teams to reach unsaved people and to disciple believers.

“One thing we have asked the teams to do, if possible, is to find a way to involve seminary and college students who are preparing to serve as ministers of education,” Ware said. “We also would love to see retired ME’s participate with the teams.”

“The importance of ministers of education too often gets overlooked,” Ware said. “It’s easy to take them for granted when the church’s ministries are running smoothly. These MEs have marvelous skills and are glad to help smaller churches with their education needs. These teams offer a tremendous opportunity for these ministers to make a big difference in the participating churches.”

To find out more about Meet ME Across America 2004, e-mail [email protected].
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: MEET ME.

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  • Polly House