Dan Steinbeck/contributing writer
BRANSON – Pastors and their families ministering to the large number of rural and smaller churches across the state were the focus of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC)-sponsored mb125 Conference held here June 18-20.
Pastors got reduced registration costs, which covered the motel and most meals, free time with family, books, and door prizes.
Why the effort?
“That’s the majority of who we (MBC-affiliated churches) are. Some pastors benefit from larger conventions, but this is specifically for them (smaller church pastors), said Spencer Hutson, who leads the MBC church strengthening team.
To further explain the mb125, Mark Donnell, MBC Sunday School/discipleship specialist, said there are more than 900 churches (of the 1,928 Southern Baptist Churches in Missouri) with 50 or less in Sunday School, and more than 1,600 with less than 125 in Sunday School.
“For a lot of these guys, they come here and meet people they wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to meet. A lot of these guys (small church/bi-vocational pastors) don’t get a vacation and it’s a good opportunity for them to get away.”
This is the fourth year MBC has offered the conference, but this is the first year with two back-to-back three-day sessions. There were 29 pastor units present for the first part of the week and 39 for the second part of the week. Hutson said a pastor unit is a pastor, pastor/wife, or pastor/wife/family.
The schedule intentionally allowed time for families to enjoy Branson away from the conference.
“We want this to be a blessing to you and encouragement to you,” MBC Pastoral Ministries Specialist Gary Mathes told the attendees.
The MBC staff wants to do our best to encourage pastoral leaders in those churches, as well as strengthen them in their ministry, said MBC Executive Director John Yeats. “We’re grateful to Missouri Baptist churches that give to the Cooperative Program as well as the Missouri Missions Offering (which helped cover the conference costs). We have some larger churches that gave above those to give scholarships for this conference.”
Claude V. King, a discipleship and church health specialist and author with Lifeway Christian Resources, and Jeff Iorg, president, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Monterey, Calif., were guest speakers for the conference.
King, who co-authored with Henry Blackaby the popular Experiencing God study, talked about God’s pattern for revival and spiritual growth, and a revival of holiness. Iorg talked about loneliness in leadership, overcoming bad decisions, and how to handle criticism. Neil Franks, pastor, First Baptist Church, Branson, and MBC first vice president, talked about questions to ask before making changes in a church.
Breakout sessions focused on how small churches could be on mission; on developing young leaders; conducting church business meetings; studying the church of Antioch; experiencing God in a small church; pastoral family; moral integrity; sermon preparation; retirement planning; having Sunday School versus using Sunday School; family-friendly churches; and LifeWay curriculum.
Sessions were also held for women, and special activities were held for youth and other activities for smaller children.
Pastors and wives were treated to a performance by Branson’s Petersen Family, which performs on the IMAX theater stage on Sunday evenings. Pastors were given an opportunity to meet as a group with program leaders about issues and questions.