BELTSVILLE, Md. (BP)–Ron Surber doesn’t want to be known as a minister of miscellaneous.
As associate minister of education at the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Surber has seen many leaders in similar positions become loaded down with administrative duties and other tasks, putting their primary ministry on hold.
“A lot of times if it doesn’t fit youth, music or pastoral duties, then [ministers of education] are expected to do it, which takes them away from doing what we were called to do,” he said.
Surber and 30 ministers of education from throughout the country focused on such challenges during a leadership effectiveness summit, titled “Meet M.E. (Ministers of Education) in D.C.,” May 15-18 in Beltsville, Md., and sponsored by Network Partnerships of LifeWay Christian Resources, based in Nashville, Tenn.
“This helped reaffirm what we are called to do as ministers of education, which is equip [lay] leaders to do the ministry,” Surber said.
For four days, the group received training in how they can be change agents in their spheres of influence based on their personal abilities, along with team-building principles that achieve ministry goals. Practical application came with hands-on opportunities in 23 churches throughout the Washington area. Most of the selected churches lack the resources to employ a minister of education and average fewer than 100 people in Sunday School.
Bill Taylor, director of Network Partnerships at LifeWay and a former minister of education, noted that many of these staff leaders have lost their value and purpose in the church structure and throughout the Southern Baptist Convention. They need to become more visible and effective in their churches and receive more specialized training in seminary, he said.
“Ministers of education are often the gatekeepers of learning in the church,” Taylor said. “They can open up a world of ministry possibilities to a church’s membership by selecting and developing learning opportunities that deepen people’s understanding of the Bible and equip them for ministry. We want to do all we can to help them strengthen their churches.”
Taylor and LifeWay’s Network Partnerships team have helped spearhead efforts to bring ministers of education together for such training. In the last year ministers of education have met regionally to develop strategies to increase their effectiveness in ministry. Next year, ministers of education from across the United States will go into 100 cities to conduct similar learning and leading conferences in an emphasis called “Meet M.E. (Ministers of Education) Across America.” Taylor said Network Partnerships will work closely with Baptist state convention executives and local associations to identify these 100 locations for learning and leading opportunities.
After receiving extensive training during the summit, Surber used his skills to help train Forrest Heights Baptist Church in Oxen Hill, Md., how to better utilize its resources to minister to its community. He took a tour of the facility, met some of the Sunday School teachers and leaders in the church and gave suggestions on how they can improve their ministry.
Right now, the racially mixed church is without a fulltime pastor, averages about 40 people in Sunday School and about 80 in their worship services. The potential for growth and outreach is there, they just need “detailing,” Surber said.
“These churches need encouragement,” he said. “When you come in from the outside, you see things that others might not. And you’re able to ask, ‘What about this?’ And they say, ‘I didn’t think about that.'”
Rick West, a minister of education at Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Dothan, Ala., said he was able to “get a broader view” of what is going on in other churches.
“It was important that I be stretched,” he said. “I’m a missionary at heart, and we should be a missionary wherever we are.”
One pastor in the D.C. area underscored his appreciation for the help from summit participants. “To have a minister of education come in and give us a tangible game plan was very useful,” said Phillip Hurst, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Hyattsville, Md. “It’s helpful to have someone from the outside make recommendations.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: A FEW POINTERS and THE VALUE OF TRAINING.