FENTON, Mich. (BP)–There’s more to Michigan than a troubled auto industry, leaders of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan say in launching a search for their next executive director.
With Michael Collins’ announcement that he will retire Dec. 31 upon completion of 16 years of service to the state, a 14-member search committee has issued a news release envisioning another “visionary leader with administrative skills” who will have “a minimum of a master’s level degree, pastoral experience and proven SBC denominational leadership.”
“This is my 41st year in state convention work,” Collins told Baptist Press. Before becoming Michigan’s executive director, Collins served in various roles with the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio for 22 years. He also was a staff member in the Florida Baptist Convention’s Sunday School department and pastored churches in Tennessee and Texas.
Larry Allen, vice chairman of the committee, told Baptist Press that a job description has not been finalized, but it will be similar to the one Collins has fulfilled.
“Primarily, he is to provide visionary leadership for our convention, work with administrative staff, work with our executive board and the executive committee and relate to the boards and entities of the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Allen, pastor of Warren Woods Baptist Church in Warren.
The executive director also serves as treasurer of the convention, which means he is responsible for finances, Allen said.
“He gives overall direction to the work of the convention,” Allen said. “We’re looking for somebody who is a good leader, who has leadership qualities, who is visionary, who is a people person, who can relate to both the clergy and laypeople in our churches and can relate to our associational and state missionaries.”
Resumes for potential nominees for the Michigan post should be e-mailed to [email protected] by May 15.
Among the challenges in the state is the fact that the overwhelming majority of the convention’s 300 churches average 50 or fewer people.
“Right now we have the worst economy in the nation,” Allen also said. “Our unemployment in southeast Michigan where I am is at 17 percent. We have immediate financial challenges he’s just going to have to face. That will be an issue, certainly.”
Much of the state’s economy is dependent on the automotive industry, and its decline is a major factor in the unemployment rate.
“But our state is so much more than just the auto industry. We have a large agricultural industry and a large tourism industry,” Allen said. “Several major companies, like Kellogg, are headquartered here in Michigan. It’s a lot more than just the auto industry, but that has been the industry that has carried our economy over the years.”
Collins, looking back, counts one of the high points of his time in Michigan the relocation of the convention office from Southfield, near Detroit, to Fenton, near Flint, amounting to a 40-mile difference that positioned the staff to serve more churches.
Also, Collins helped establish another local association and add buildings to the convention’s conference center.
As potential successors consider a move to Michigan, Collins warned that it’s a new work state where a Southern Baptist presence is not as strong as in other states.
“Getting pastors that would stay has been a challenge,” Collins said. “We’ve had some who would come and stay just a little while and they were gone. We’ve had some pastors who have been indigenous pastors. Since we’re a new state, it’s hard to get enough indigenous pastors with training.”
Anyone considering the position must have a call to a northern state, understanding the difficulties involved, he said.
“In this type of environment, there is cold weather, there’s a lot of snow. The work here is quite different from the South. Even the mindset of the people is different,” Collins said. “Down there, the pastor is looked at in a different way than he is up here — ‘You’re a pastor? So what? You’re a pastor’s wife? So what?’ Some folks would have to adjust to that.
“We have a lot of unions up here, and the mindset of the union is let’s negotiate everything. So when a pastor brings forth something he feels like the people ought to do, it’s ‘Let’s negotiate that,'” Collins said. “That’s very difficult to handle sometimes. The other mindset is don’t trust management. So it takes a longer time for people to build up a mindset of trust with a pastor than it normally would, I believe.”
Alongside the challenges, however, Allen noted that Michigan is one of the most beautiful states in the country.
“It’s absolutely gorgeous. Michigan has more shoreline than any other state in the contiguous U.S. We’re surrounded by the Great Lakes. The shores of Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Superior and Lake Michigan all touch our state, so it really is a beautiful state,” Allen said.
“There are wonderful people to work with here in Michigan. I’m an Alabama boy, way out of my element, but it’s been a great pleasure to live and serve here. We’ve got everything to offer,” Allen said, noting that he has served in the state for nine years.
This would be an exciting time to take on the role of executive director, he said.
“Our convention has great promise. There are still 8 million people in Michigan who need to be reached with the Gospel. We really do need a visionary person to help lead us into the next several years of successfully impacting the state with the Gospel of Christ,” Allen said.
“Anybody that has a heart for the Kingdom, this would be a wonderful place for them to live. It’s a very international state. We have the largest Muslim population outside the Middle East. We’ve worked in many languages already, and it really is an exciting place to be.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.