BRANSON – Small church pastors might feel left out from some conferences – they may lack ministry teams, large budgets or multiple programs.
The Missouri Baptist Convention recognizes this and offered its seventh MB125 conference June 28-July 1 at Skyline Baptist, Branson, catering to churches with under 125 attending Sunday morning services.
Gary Mathes, MBC Church Revitalization/Developing Leaders Specialist, said 73 pastors registered for the event and the number of first time participants and returnees was almost evenly split.
“As much as 85 percent (of the Missouri Southern Baptist Churches) have fewer than 125 in Sunday morning attendance. We believe in the value of small churches. We want to fill up their joy well,” Mathes said.
The theme was “Shepherd in Joy.” Session leaders were Mark Dance, Director of Lifeway Pastors and Mark Mallock, Lead Pastor of Calvary Church in Englewood, Colorado. Breakout sessions were offered for pastors and wives with other speakers. Worship was held.
“We want people who believe in what we do (to lead the MB125),” Mathes said of the sessions.
He understands the struggle especially of bivocational pastors to get away for a conference.
“For many of them, this is their vacation retreat. We’re happy to invite the spouses and families. The pastor’s wife is encouraged, his children are encouraged and find there are people like them,” Mathes said.
Bob and Bobbi Price of Cantwell Baptist in Desloge first attended in 2016 and returned this year.
“The first thing we do is to go through the book (of participants) to see who we know. We’re blessed by almost all of it.” Bobbi said.
“The conference is fellowship of new and old friends. MBC does a great job putting this on. There is great preaching and a great combination of everything,” Bob said. “It’s also a good time for us as husband and wife.”
The schedule intentionally allows free afternoons and evenings for families to spend together enjoying Branson.
Joe and Julie Thrower of Prince Avenue Baptist, Hannibal, returned for their third MB125 accompanied by their three children, the oldest of whom is age 5.
“Our oldest daughter said, ‘Daddy, they invited us again.’ Our kids look forward to it. It is on the calendar,” said Julie. “They do an excellent job not only with the conference, but in making family time.”
“Our oldest daughter asked us what we learned. It’s a good balance of encouragement, protected time with the family, and they make it affordable,” Joe said. “I appreciate how they say we are including the family in the ministry. I hope they continue this. It’s rare to have a conference catered to the small churches.”
“It teaches our kids our role is to include them in the ministry and they are included in the conference. They do a great job with (watching) the kids,” Julie said.
Travis and Johnetta Yeargans of River’s Edge Fellowship, Kansas City, attended MB125 for the first time. Their children are grown.
“The theme of leading in joy is a refreshing theme. One speaker said he never saw a conference with this. Without personal joy, pastoral joy is not possible,” Travis said. “We’ve gone through a tough season in the church. We’ve worked at getting to the place to experience encouragement to live and relive the joy of God.”
Johnetta said the conference reminds her “how many pastors’ wives are out here laboring with the pastors. We are not alone. God reminded me to encourage the younger pastor wives.”
“We look forward to coming back. It’s been a blessing,” Travis said.
The conference is funded by the Missouri Missions Offering and the Cooperative Program.