RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Most Southern Baptist pastors need help because:
1) They are the only pastoral staff member of their church.
2) They work with all the age groups -– babies to senior adults.
3) They know the name and life situation of every church member.
4) They know if one family goes on vacation, 10 percent of their congregation may be absent.
5) They know that every crushing, critical word will get back to them.
The Annual Church Profile (ACP) conducted by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention shows that nearly 26,000 of the SBC’s 43,000-plus churches have an attendance of fewer than 125 people – an indication that most pastors probably are the lone staff member.
With this in mind, LifeWay sponsored the “Toolbox for the Smaller Church Pastor and his Wife” earlier this year at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, N.C., with about 80 people from 12 states in attendance.
“Pastors, you are some of the most gifted and talented leaders in the SBC,” Barry Campbell, of LifeWay’s regional operations office, said to the group. “You are some of the hardest working pastors. You do it all. Plus, you rarely get any recognition for your ministry.”
Campbell is author of “Toolbox for [Busy] Pastors” published by LifeWay, offering 100 how-to’s to save time yet achieve the best ministry results, which can be especially helpful in churches with a single staff member. The book is written in an executive summary fashion, with no item over two pages.
“We have wanted to do this conference for the pastors and wives in smaller churches for a long time,” said Chris Johnson, editor of Life Answers at LifeWay and one of the coordinators of the event. “We appreciate the work these pastors do and understand the frustrations and the joys.”
Johnson understands well. He serves as bivocational pastor of Central Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn.
Johnson credited Kay Vantrease of LifeWay’s church leadership training area for helping the Toolbox conference becoming reality. “Kay is a member of a small church and has such a heart for the ministry of these pastors. She sees the needs these guys face and how LifeWay can work with them to help them make a positive impact on their churches and communities.”
The pastors attending the event said two of the biggest challenges in their ministries are developing and motivating lay leadership. Eddie Mosley, pastor of spiritual development at First Baptist Church in Smyrna, Tenn., told the group one way to address such challenges is to involve children and youth in the ministry of the church.
“In the little church in Kentucky where I grew up, my pastor trusted me as a fifth-grader to take up the offering. That’s been a long time ago and I still remember that. When I was a teenager, I couldn’t sing. But I got to be the ‘snake man’ (the one who handled all the cables) for the youth choir so I still got to go on the choir trips. It’s about involving people with what they can do. I didn’t get it at the time, but my pastor was training the next generation for ministry.”
Mosley reminded the pastors to never use the sentence, “We’ve got it covered,” in ministry. “For example, if you have someone who asks if you need him to take up offering, don’t tell him, ‘We’ve got it covered.’ Let him take up the offering. You can’t have too many people doing it. If someone asks if you need him to set up tables for a fellowship, don’t say, ‘We’ve got it covered.’ Let him help.
“What ‘We’ve got it covered’ says is, ‘Just go on to the lake this weekend. We don’t need you.’ They will learn pretty quick that they aren’t necessary,” Mosley said.
Matching people’s interests with their point of service is crucial, Mosley said. “Find out what your people love to do and fit it in with the ministry. If they get to do what they love, you won’t have to motivate them.”
Stan Jenkins, pastor of Wells Chapel Baptist Church in Wallace, N.C., said, “We [pastors of smaller churches] are most of the pastors in the SBC. But we go to so many conferences where the ideas are just over our heads. They don’t apply to our situations.”
Breakout sessions for the pastors included Effective Leadership; Using Technology in Worship; Using Online Learning in Your People Development Strategy; Blending Hymns and Praise Choruses for Worship; Practical Ideas for Discipling Your People in Prayer; and Dealing with Church Conflict.
The wives’ topics included sessions on understanding their husbands’ inner needs and struggles as a pastor and living in the fishbowl that is a pastor’s family. The wives also were treated to some spa time, getting some well-deserved pampering from local beauty consultants.
Tim Dowdy, pastor of Eagle’s Landing Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga., reminded the pastors that God has a plan for them and their ministry.
“God put you in the place where you are,” Dowdy said. “He could have put you any place at any time in history, but He chose here and now for you. You are uniquely qualified and set apart by Him to serve where you are. So, don’t be afraid to lead!”