April 2010

How do you keep people safe in church?

April 21 2010 by Ken Walker, Special to the Biblical Recorder

Lewisville Baptist Church only averages 195 in Sunday attendance, but the Winston-Salem area church still uses a safety patrol to check hallways and lock outside doors about 15 minutes after the service starts.

Members of a 25-man volunteer, security team are also on hand for two women’s Bible studies during the week and other meetings if requested. The group formed several years ago after a stranger wandered into Vacation Bible School and roamed the building.

All churches should be concerned about protecting worshipers on Sunday, says a Colorado-based security consultant who has twice visited North Carolina.

A member of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Carl Chinn was one of four security team responders the day an armed gunman killed two worshipers there in 2007.

Nationwide, since 1999 there have been nearly 300 attacks at churches and more than 200 deaths, Chinn said.

Violence struck North Carolina congregations five times last year, including a domestic violence dispute that led to a woman’s death at a church in Fuquay-Varina.

Chinn attributes the increase in violence and other crimes against churches to several factors, including an erosion of moral and family values and the perception that churches are “soft targets.”

“I discovered the same things there I see everywhere,” Chinn said of his visits to North Carolina. “Churches are beginning to understand the need, but there is often leadership resistance and fear based on financial, theological and other issues.”

However, Lewisville Baptist pastor Les Puryear said if those who oppose taking stricter security measures don’t face reality, they may be in for a rude awakening.

Not only does his church use safety patrols, it installed a steel side door and increased exterior lighting after a break-in last fall resulted in $14,000 worth of damage.

stock.xchng photo

“It seems like crime has left the big city and come to the country,” said Puryear, whose town numbers less than 10,000.

“I don’t know of any church that can leave their doors open like they did in the 1950s and ’60s. If you do, you’re inviting vandalism.”

Other churches across the state are taking similar measures. Wilmington First Baptist Church instituted a screening system last year that started with staff members and expanded to volunteers.

As of April 1, no one can work with children or youth unless they have been through a background check. This screening is part of a comprehensive security plan still being implemented.

Minister of Administration Daryl Trexler said it was prompted by problems at churches across the region and its insurance carrier insisting First Baptist develop better security.

The next step is to form a team of current and retired law enforcement officers.

Once in place, they will walk the premises during Sunday School and church and deal with any disruptions. Those duties are currently handled by a pair of deacons.

Although striving to have more experienced people handling Sunday morning security, the Wilmington church doesn’t plan to arm its guards.

“We want to find a good medium,” Trexler said. “We never want to be a closed facility. We want to be a safe facility.”

During the week, First Baptist locks its doors and uses a card-key system to control access to the downtown church.

Visitors must ring a bell and announce their intentions over an intercom. While it doesn’t have video cameras, five miles away there is video equipment at its activity center, site of a half-day preschool program.

Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden takes stronger precautions on Sunday. The megachurch uses up to 11 off-duty sheriff’s deputies to direct traffic and provide security. They include an armed, plainclothes officer inside the sanctuary.

Five to seven laypersons are part of the security team, but only law enforcement personnel carry weapons, said Mike Breland, director of operations. Although it hasn’t faced any major disruptions lately, Biltmore recently asked a disgruntled volunteer to leave.

Although he threatened to disrupt children’s sports program, nothing happened, Breland said.

“I think it’s a product of our environment today,” Breland said of security awareness. “It’s very prudent for churches to do that.”

North Carolina Baptists’ largest congregation, Hickory Grove in Charlotte, has been using uniformed, off-duty officers for about a decade, according to Steve Adams, pastor of administration.

Burglar alarms, lighting and closed-circuit cameras are part of the security system that protects staff members — including teachers at its Christian school — during the week.

No matter what size the church, Adams said no one should ever think “it can’t happen here.”

“We had deacons in the parking lot at the church I went to back in the 1970s,” Adams said. “So it’s really been an issue for a number of years, if you think about it.”

Still, it has taken a long time for many churches to respond. For those who haven’t done anything, Trexler suggests they schedule a discussion.

“We are beginning to see the need for this to be addressed,” said the Wilmington minister. “We hate that we have to do it, but to not do it would be irresponsible.”

While budgetary restrictions are always a concern, practical steps don’t have to be expensive. One small church cut down on vandalism of cars by giving some members orange reflective vests and having them greet people in the parking lot.

How secure are your church and people?
As the world gets more crowded and less courteous; more frightening and less faithful; more lawless and less loving places where large crowds gather and buildings in which valuable equipment is used and stored become targets more often.

That specifically includes churches. Every week headlines announce another assault or embezzlement, more fires or senseless vandalism that costs thousands of dollars that otherwise could go to missions. To thieves, vandals, pedophiles and abusers those who fill the pews, pre-schools, playgrounds and classrooms of local churches are big, fat targets.

Churches are like a can of sardines for a cat, the lid peeled back and a treasure of opportunity packed inside for the taking That is why security is such a vital matter and why this issue of the Biblical Recorder dedicates several stories researched and written for us by Ken Walker, a writer in West Virginia who has done significant work for Baptist publications.
4/21/2010 10:39:00 AM by Ken Walker, Special to the Biblical Recorder | with 0 comments

Background checks help avoid being sitting ducks

April 21 2010 by Ken Walker, Special to the Biblical Recorder

Several years ago, a small mountain church was shocked by charges leveled against its bus driver. Two girls he picked up every Sunday alleged he was taking detours regularly to molest them.

The girls stood by their charges and the man was convicted. This and similar stories emphasize the need to protect children’s safety, said childhood specialist Janice Haywood.

“It happens in congregations we think are the safest,” said Haywood, retired after 32 years with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

Fortunately, most churches are at least considering adopting safety and security policies, including background checks of staff members and volunteers, the Cary resident said.

Although she has emphasized safety for 20 years, Haywood said the 9-11 terrorist attacks and sexual abuse reports about the Catholic Church have stimulated public concern. 

stock.xchng graphic illustration by Bensik Imeri

“I think people are becoming more aware in other areas of their life,” said Haywood, who teaches at Campbell University’s divinity school. “While church people may trust each other, the people they’re trying to reach don’t trust them. We’re going to have to do this to reach those outside the church.”

According to Haywood, a leading area of resistance involves background checks.

Some longtime members take this as a personal offense and refuse to complete a form, she said.

When a pastor or other official backs down and doesn’t require everyone to submit information, the system breaks down, Haywood said. In some cases, churches collect data on individuals but fail to follow up with a records search.

That leaves a wide-open door for child molesters and others who want to harm children, she said. Problems also arise when a church has a security system requiring a tag or other proof that a person is a child’s parent or guardian, but doesn’t enforce it when a worker knows a particular individual.

“I tell a church to give themselves 18 to 24 months minimum to write policies and get them passed,” Haywood said. “You have to educate the congregation in small groups and explain why we need the policies, why it’s important and why society expects them.”

A Baptist trustee whose company handles background checks for businesses and churches saw the need for them first-hand when his congregation experienced a growth spurt.

“At our church we check everyone from paid staff on down, even the janitor,” said Roger Self, president of Prevent Losses and chairman of trustees at Venture Church in Dallas. “People ask, ‘Why the janitor?’ He’s in your building. He’s around children. You don’t want a sex offender or a convicted drug dealer walking down the hall. We’re not saying we don’t want them coming to church, but we don’t want to be held liable for somebody else’s offenses.”

Guidelines the church adopted after it started doubling attendance about five years ago disqualify applicants from working with children or students for various reasons.

Among them: sexual offender status, any form of child abuse crime, sale or distribution of drugs, and pending criminal charges.

Background checks are necessary for anyone who spends time with children, regardless of how well you think you know them, Self said.

“Think about a trip to a Baptist camp,” he said. “You’re sending somebody to spend time with your children for a week-long youth retreat. Background checks can prevent something from happening.

“It’s not a 100 percent guarantee that something isn’t going to happen. They could come back as clean as a whistle and still hurt one of your children. But the church has done what it needs to do.”

A continuing concern about security questions involving children and other areas of the church prompted formation of a safety and security task force recently at Hayes Barton Baptist in Raleigh.

Hayes Barton instituted its original child protection policy in 2003. It requires any worker since its adoption to go through a background check, attend abuse awareness training and sign a statement affirming they haven’t been investigated for child abuse.

It also requires a minimum of six months in the church before they can volunteer to work with children, and requires two adults to be in the room when children are present.

Despite these guidelines, questions raised at a deacons’ retreat last year led to the formation of the taskforce, said Kristen Muse, minister with children.

While the group is examining various security questions, some steps have already occurred. In early January, the preschool department started using computerized check-ins on Sundays and Wednesdays.

The touch-screen system includes allergy information about each child and prints out security tags for children and parents.

Muse said there have been some “kinks” that are still being worked out. However, parents are generally positive and workers are glad that information is readily available, especially data on allergies, she said.

“I think it’s been accepted; it’s just a process,” Muse said. “New people are particularly glad that we have something to protect the children. We want to be pro-active to make sure nothing happens, or at least that we have done our due diligence.”

Churches that haven’t taken these kinds of steps should be prepared to do so in the next few years, Haywood said.

“I think in a few years, if you have liability insurance you will have to have a safety and security policy,” she said. “Your head is in the sand if you think pedophiles or other people who want to do harm to children aren’t looking for places that are easy. Churches are sitting ducks.”

Related stories
How do you keep people safe in church?
Editorial: Pay attention to church security
Background checks help avoid being sitting ducks
Safety: responsibility to take seriously
Network tracks crime in churches
Protection from liabilities
Current insurance can take sting from disaster
Crime prevention tips to detect, deter crime
For churches, how much risk is too much?   
4/21/2010 10:32:00 AM by Ken Walker, Special to the Biblical Recorder | with 0 comments

Safety: responsibility to take seriously

April 21 2010 by Ken Walker, Special to Biblical Recorder

Keeping people safe at church is a responsibility a Fort Worth, Tex. company that produces church management software wants churches to understand.

A report issued by Fellowship Technologies outlines seven tips that it calls “critical” for church security. They include:
  • Background checks of all volunteers and staff members.
  • Secure check-in systems.
  • “Aggressive” friendliness, meaning training members how to intervene with difficult people.
  • An action plan for such emergencies as power outages, bomb threats, fire drills and medical situations.
  • Triage teams of paramedics, doctors and nurses.
  • Emergency response team kits to be used in case of emergencies.
  • A communications command center.
A key statistic illustrates why security is so important: the number of registered sexual predators has increased by 56 percent over the past nine years. 

“Churches are prime targets for criminals due to the open nature, easy access and limited security measures at most churches,” says the report, which was written by the company’s communications director, Anthony Coppedge.

Background checks are particularly important. The report says many churches believe they are safe because they have done simple, low-level background checks of volunteers in their children’s ministry.

However, Chris Wilson — president of Clear Investigative Advantage — said that most churches limit searches to specific departments. Many also use free, online searches, which he said are not thorough enough.

Steve Durie, CEO of SecureSearch, told Coppedge that over seven years, his firm discovered nine percent of church volunteers and staff have a flagged profile. Four percent possess criminal histories that should prevent them from interacting with children or youth.

“Child abuse in churches is a huge problem, but getting church leaders to believe that fact is surprisingly hard to do,” added Kim Norris, an attorney with a Fort Worth firm.

Norris recommends five basic steps for every children’s program, including background checks and sexual abuse awareness training.

Others include screening training for early identification, tailored policies for each ministry of the church, and effective oversight of all ministry programs. The cost of security also revolves around how a church operates and includes its architecture and whether there are ways to minimize access.

A lot of trust clearly is given in churches to other people who members think they know, but in reality haven’t thoroughly investigated their background, he said.

“You have to go the extra mile to make sure,” Coppedge said. “The question is: are you doing what’s necessary to protect your members — especially children — in the best possible way?”
4/21/2010 10:25:00 AM by Ken Walker, Special to Biblical Recorder | with 0 comments

Network tracks crime in churches

April 21 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

CINCINNATI  — More than 1,200 crimes were committed against Christian churches and ministries in 2009, according to an unofficial tally by a firm that specializes in church security.

The Christian Security Network report found 1,237 total incidents targeting churches in all 50 states, including 12 homicides, 38 other violent incidents and $24 million in estimated property loss. 

“It is disheartening to see all these incidents and loss of life in churches in 2009 and even sadder because we know 2010 isn’t going to be any different unless the status quo changes,” said Jeff Hawkins, executive director of the Christian Security Network.

The most common crime committed against churches is burglary. Sixty-two percent of the incidents in the CSN report — 779 in all — were burglaries.

The most expensive, however, is embezzling — internal theft committed over a period of time, usually years. Such incidents, according to the report, cost churches nearly $14 million in 2009.

Other 2009 incidents included three sexual assaults, three kidnappings and 98 arsons. The report said counting the number of crimes against churches is difficult for several reasons.

There is no mandatory reporting of such crimes to any government agency.

The FBI tracks hate crimes against religious organizations, but many of the crimes involving churches are not included in hate-crimes statistics because bias against Christians is not a motive in the crimes.

Many of the organizations cited in the report experienced multiple incidents.

One particular church in Cincinnati, for example, was burglarized 20 times during a six-month period. A veteran security specialist with nearly 30 years experience, Hawkins said criminals nowadays are less likely than in the past to avoid churches simply because they are sacred spaces.

Today, he said, criminals are more inclined to view houses of worship simply as “soft” targets.

Despite that, he added, 75 percent of churches polled in 2008 said they did not have any security or emergency plan.

Hawkins said with a few precautions and training, many crimes included in the report could have been averted. “The church has to start taking responsibility for the safety of their staff, volunteers, and congregation and [become] good stewards of the gifts God has provided,” he said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)
4/21/2010 10:21:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Protection from liabilities

April 21 2010 by GuideStone Financial Resources

Fire, windstorm and natural disasters can all disrupt a church’s ability to minister. Yet as devastating as natural disasters can be, churches often suffer more and experience more distractions to their ministries from liability claims unrelated to disasters and weather.

Your ministry exists to meet the needs of the people you serve. If a crisis occurs that disrupts your ministry, what happens then? It’s important for churches and ministers to protect themselves from liabilities that could interfere with their ability to perform their calling.

The two most damaging liabilities to churches and their ministers are abuse allegations and pastoral counseling liability. These claims can often be prevented, however, if churches and ministers take the proper precautions.

Reduce your church’s risk by adopting three policies:
  • Screen workers and volunteers who will work with children or youth.
In today’s litigious society, child abuse claims are one of the greatest legal risks churches face. Volunteers, staff and ministers who work with children should undergo careful screening, including a reference check, to minimize this risk. It is also recommended that a volunteer be a member of the church for a minimum period of time before being allowed to work with children.
  • Employ adequate adult supervision.
When churches fail to exercise “due care” in the supervision of activities, children can get hurt or lost or worse. It’s a good policy to have at least two adults in the room when working with children. And in church activities, make sure the adult-child ratio is adequate for the activity’s risk level.
  • Invite a third person into the room during counseling sessions.
Sexual misconduct accusations are hard to prove, but they’re just as hard to disprove. As a result, they can ruin a minister’s career and split a church. Avoid even the appearance of misconduct. When a male minister counsels an unaccompanied female, make it a practice to invite a third person to be present. Or consider opposite-gender counseling only over the telephone.

Fire and windstorms may destroy a church’s walls, but merely the accusation of abuse or misconduct can rip a church apart. And with awards running into the millions of dollars, a guilty verdict could cause the doors of that ministry to close forever.

Churches operate in faith so anticipating liability can feel counterintuitive. But churches don’t have to become paranoid to be prepared. Not all property and casualty insurance addresses this, but a number of P&G programs offer liability risk assessment. By proactively evaluating risk before an accusation is made, churches can adopt policies and practices to prevent such claims from being made in the first place.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — This item is from a Spring 2009 GuideStone magazine.)
4/21/2010 10:17:00 AM by GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments

Through offering, hospital shares God’s love

April 20 2010 by North Carolina Baptist Hospital

After my husband lost his job, we were afraid of losing everything. Then he got really sick and was sent to Baptist Hospital. When the hospital bill came, we didn’t know what to do,” said Carol Trujillo Ibarra of Rockingham County.

Her husband, Julio, had worked for years at the same company when layoffs hit. They spent their savings to make ends meet and were facing possible financial ruin. 

While Julio recovered physically, their mental anguish continued under the unrelenting pressures. They “fell between the cracks” of assistance, having too much to qualify for government help or charity care, but not enough to pay the hospital bill. Caught in a frightening bind, they turned to God in prayer.

“Christ saw their needs and lifted their burden through the compassion of North Carolina Baptists,” said Paul Mullen, director of church and community relations at Baptist Hospital. “I sent them a letter saying, ‘Your hospital bill has been paid by compassionate and mission-minded North Carolina Baptists in the name of Jesus Christ and His love.’”

NCBH photo

Nichol and Joshua Lancaster, left, express their gratitude for the North Carolina Baptist Hospital and its Mother’s Day Offering which helped their families pay for espensive hospital bills. The 2010 goal is $700,000, and the Week of Prayer is May 2-9.

Carol Ibarra wept tears of relief. “The Mother’s Day Offering made all the difference in the world. I could sleep again. God was looking after us, and we could never say thank you enough. It meant everything,” she said.

Julio reflected on the seeds of faith planted in his heart. “We thank North Carolina Baptists for paying my hospital bill. We had no job or money. My wife had faith but I didn’t. She said with Christ that everything is possible. We prayed about how we could pay this bill. I wasn’t raised a Christian. But now I know that if you trust God, everything is possible. The people who give show lots of us that God is real and not someone of the past.”

Daniel and Nichol Lancaster from Statesville experienced the same reality of God’s love through the generosity of North Carolina Baptists. 

“When our three-year-old baby, Joshua, was diagnosed with leukemia, it tore our world apart,” Nichol said.  

With their lives shattered, they took Joshua to Baptist Hospital. “The people we met at Baptist were so compassionate.” Nichol said. “Joshua responded well to the chemotherapy. We knew this was God at work and he was being healed.”

While tremendously thankful for Joshua’s recovery, other fears materialized.

Their hours at work were sharply reduced with the slow economy and the need to provide for Joshua’s care. The hospital bill arrived on top of a growing stack of bills, and the pressure was immense. 

“Being out of work, not having insurance, with all those bills — that was the second biggest worry next to Joshua’s diagnosis.”

When they learned that the Mother’s Day Offering helped pay the hospital bill, they clearly saw the hand of Christ’s compassion. “I just cried,” Nichol said. “God’s hand has been with us and we are so thankful. This has taken our relationship with Christ to a whole new level. We will be forever grateful to God for Baptist Hospital and the Mother’s Day Offering.”

Mullen added, “I sincerely thank North Carolina Baptists on behalf of these families and hundreds of others just like them.”

The Lancaster’s story can be seen at www.mothersdayoffering.org. Offering materials were mailed to every N.C. Baptist church. They can be obtained by calling (336) 716-3027.   
4/20/2010 8:14:00 AM by North Carolina Baptist Hospital | with 0 comments

Ray Newman to be 2nd VP nominee

April 20 2010 by Baptist Press

HOSCHTON, Ga. — Ray Newman, ethics and religious affairs specialist for the Georgia Baptist Convention, will be nominated as second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, a Georgia evangelist announced April 16.

BP photo

Ray Newman

Tommy Fountain, who also is director of missions for Mulberry Baptist Association in Hoschton, Ga., said he will nominate Newman for the post during the SBC’s June 15-16 meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Fountain cited Newman’s stand on moral issues as the basis for the nomination.

“In a time of moral and spiritual decline in our nation, Southern Baptists need the voice of a Ray Newman,” Fountain said. “For the past several years, Newman has stood for moral rectitude and righteousness under the gold dome of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta.”

In addition to his responsibilities with the Georgia Baptist Convention, Newman serves as a trustee of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. For the past seven years, he has written a weekly column for the Barrow County News titled “From Where I Stand.”

Newman is in his 50th year in ministry, the past 21 of those years as a state missionary for Georgia Baptists. He served as a pastor for nearly 30 years.

John Killian, vice president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention and pastor of Maytown (Ala.) Baptist Church, said, “I do not know of a better man, more qualified to serve our convention than Ray Newman. With his experience in ministry and his knowledge of the current political issues, Ray is the man for this office.”

A native of Phenix City, Ala., Newman and his wife of 45 years, Gwen, reside in Winder, Ga. They have one son and four grandchildren. The Newmans are members of North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville.

Information from the 2009 Annual Church Profile for North Metro First Baptist Church lists 110 baptisms and primary worship service attendance of 2,129. The church gave $376,014, or 12.99 percent, through the Cooperative Program from total undesignated receipts of $2,892,419. According to the ACP, the church also received $16,185 for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and $10,575 for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.

Newman is the first announced nominee for SBC second vice president this year.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Joe Westbury, managing editor of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.)
4/20/2010 8:09:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Survey finds Africa is most religious

April 20 2010 by Chika Oduah, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — Researchers say they’ve found the most religious place on Earth — between the southern border of the Sahara Desert and the tip of South Africa.

Religion is “very important” to more than three-quarters of the population in 17 of 19 sub-Saharan nations, according to a new survey.

In contrast, in the United States, the world’s most religious industrialized nation, 57 percent of people say religion is very important.

“On a continent-wide basis, sub-Saharan Africa comes out as the most religious place on Earth,” said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which released the study April 15.

According to the survey, 98 percent of respondents in Senegal say religion is very important, following by 93 percent in Mali. The lowest percentage was reported in Botswana, 69 percent, which is still a healthy majority.

“That begins to paint a picture of how religious sub-Saharan Africans are,” Lugo said. The study is part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project.

More than 25,000 sub-Saharan Africans responded in face-to-face interviews in more than 60 languages. While the study confirms that Africans are, indeed, morally conservative and religiously pious, researchers explored a variety of topics, including religious tolerance, polygamy, the role of women in society, and political and economic satisfaction.

Islam and Christianity dominate as the most popular religions in the region — a stark reversal from a century ago when Muslims and Christians were outnumbered by followers of traditional indigenous religions.

But for the past 100 years, indigenous spirituality has been diluted as missionaries carried Islam and Christianity throughout the African continent.

The study reports that the number of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa grew faster than the number of Muslims, from 7 million in 1900 to 470 million in 2010.

One in five of the world’s Christians lives in sub-Saharan Africa.

While a majority of African Muslims are from the northern region of the continent, nearly 234 million live below the Sahara Desert. Indigenous African beliefs have not disappeared, but are often incorporated into Islam and Christianity, the report found.

A number of sub-Saharan Africans believe in witchcraft, evil spirits, reincarnation and other elements of African spirituality. More than half of the people surveyed in Tanzania, Mali, Senegal and South Africa believe that sacrifices to ancestors or spirits can protect them from harm.

Such syncretism of religions is not uncommon in Africa.

Sulayman Nyang, a professor at Howard University’s African Studies Department, said by honoring traditional religious practices, sub-Saharan Africans are able to maintain their African identity and strengthen ethnic unity.

However, Nyang said indigenous religions are not practiced in a pure form because Africans want to maintain their “dignity” and “want to be accepted into the new world of modernity.” According to the Pew survey, most sub-Saharan African Muslims are Sunni.   

Within Christianity, Catholicism dominates in Guinea Bissau, Rwanda and Cameroon, while Liberia, South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Botswana are predominantly Protestant.

Pentecostalism is rapidly spreading and deeply influential across the region, and also across Christian denominations.

“Casting out of the devil or evil spirits, high degree of apocalyptic expectations, the health-and-wealth ‘prosperity gospel’ is the new Christian phenomenon of the Pentecostalism in sub-Saharan Africa,” Lugo said.
4/20/2010 8:06:00 AM by Chika Oduah, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Exec. Committee helps dedicate NCBAM facilities

April 19 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Kenny Lamm, minister of music at Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville for 23 years, has been elected to fill the music and worship team leadership position at the Baptist State Convention (BSC).

The Executive Committee also shed some personnel committee responsibilities and learned of a new church planting network system that will accommodate churches that wish to band together outside of geographical associations to plant churches.

The BSC Executive Committee, which is the BSC personnel committee, affirmed the recommendation of Lamm from Lynn Sasser, executive leader for congregational services, during their meeting on the Baptist Children’s Homes campus in Thomasville April 15.

The music position has been vacant since the retirement of Dan Ridley 18 months ago and music leaders in the state were restive.

“One of the reasons it’s taken so long to fill this position, is we’ve searched hard for the person with the preparation and skills for doing excellent music ministry, and who has a great heart for lifting up worship in all our congregations,” said Sasser.  

Meeting in Thomasville
The Executive Committee met on the Mills Home campus of BCH in Thomasville to help dedicate the new facilities for the North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministries (NCBAM).

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Michael Blackwell, right, president of Baptist Children's Homes, gets an assist from Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, in cutting a ribbon to dedicate the facilities of the North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministries in a renovated building on the Mills Home campus in Thomasville.

NCBAM started with funds formerly assigned to Baptist Retirement Homes of North Carolina, which withdrew from the Convention. While Baptist Retirement Homes is a residential retirement ministry, NCBAM helps to keep senior adults in their own homes by connecting them with services.

Promoting the service all over the state in many different venues, NCBAM Elder Care Coordinator Jennifer Shore said more than half the calls for help come from persons not connected with any church.

Senior adults are an often neglected segment of the population for evangelism and both BCH President Michael Blackwell and BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield, Jr. referred to the spiritual basis of this senior ministry. ‘We’re returning a debt to those who cared for us,” Hollifield said.

“One of the purposes of NCBAM is to introduce Christ,” said Blackwell before cutting a ceremonial ribbon. He said many seniors in “their sunset years don’t know Christ as savior.”

“This is a great day for senior adults,” said Blackwell, himself a senior adult at age 68, with no plans to retire. “Your best days are ahead. A lot of great things have happened to me since I turned 65 and I’m just hitting my stride now.”

In July Blackwell will begin his 28th year as BCH president, giving him the longest tenure of anyone who’s held that office.

“The heavens would have to open up and the Lord tell me directly to step aside for me to retire,” he said. “I’m going to be here.”  

Position evaluation backs off
The Executive Committee is the Convention’s personnel committee and the Position Evaluation Committee of the Executive Committee meets before virtually every meeting to consider changes in job descriptions, personnel changes and potential hires.

The Executive Committee approved procedural rules that will streamline the process, and “give more authority to Milton for who he hires,” according to Cindy Stevens, chair of the Position Evaluation Committee.

The new rules, which came at the request of the Position Evaluation Committee according to John Butler, executive leader for business services, will decrease the need for Position Evaluation Committee meetings, Stevens said.

“We felt we could put the trust back into their hands to hire who they want to hire, rather than to have to approve the candidates coming through,” Stevens said.

Vetting by the Position Evaluation Committee will stay in place for level 10 positions and above, which are “any of the team leaders that supervise other program staff,” Butler said.

To add staff positions also would follow the old process of review and approval by the Position Evaluation Committee before coming to the Executive Committee. The Position Evaluation Committee makeup will consist just of Convention officers and board officers, rather than those persons plus other members from the Executive Committee.

This is a procedural policy, not a bylaw change, so it will be easy to reverse if necessary, said Mark Harris, Convention first vice president.  

New church planting networks
Chuck Register, executive leader for church planting and missions development, introduced a new partnership model for church planting to accommodate churches that want to plant a new church together but are not geographically close.

Churches can form a church planting network that will be eligible for Baptist State Convention support if they follow certain guidelines.

The network must have at least seven churches, all of which affirm the Baptist Faith and Message and are in friendly cooperation with the BSC; must be registered as an incorporated not-for-profit organization with the state of North Carolina; identify a liaison with the BSC; and be receptive to annual review and immediate termination of the partnership if the review is not satisfactory.

Register said the current model for church planting that involves associations and the recruitment, assessment, coaching, funding and review of church planters is not changing. The network partnerships will be an additional tool.

He said the North American Mission Board asked North Carolina to pilot the new model, and it was developed in consultation with directors of missions across North Carolina.

Funding will be identical to the current process, with the same applications and assessments required, Register said.

“We’re responding to have a system for what we see coming,” Hollifield said.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Kenny Lamm

These networks will not be initiated by the BSC, “but this is the way we’re going to respond and deal with what is before us,” he said.

As assigned earlier, and with the help of Jimmy Huffman, director of Caraway Conference Center and Camp, BSC Board President Bobby Blanton named a 7-member committee to lead a $7.5 million capital campaign for Caraway improvements.

They are: Ed Coates, retired president of the NC Baptist Foundation, chair; Don Warren, retired textile executive, former president of the BSC board of directors and current Biblical Recorder board member; Kendall Cameron, pastor of First Baptist Church, Mount Holly, and chairman of the investment committee of the BSC business services group; Dale Duncan, retired school administrator and immediate past president of N.C. Baptist Men; Margene Troutman, wife of Raiford and former Royal Ambassador trainer; Marty Jacumin, pastor of Bay Leaf Baptist Church and Margaret Joyce, member of Grace Baptist Church in Madison and of the board of Baptist Foundation.

Mark Blair said a letter was sent to every middle school and high school principal in March alerting them to positive options in sex education, since the Healthy Youth Act passed by the North Carolina legislature weakens the current “abstinence until marriage” stance of N.C. law.

“Abstinence until marriage is the law concerning sex education in public schools,” Blair said. “The new law does not override that but does open the door to other ways of presenting sex education in our schools.”

“We don’t want just to be a negative voice, but to provide options in positive ways,” Hollifield said.  

Lamm begins June 1
Lamm will begin his role at the BSC June 1.

“We found a man who worships God and invites others to join him in worship,” said Brian Upshaw, church ministry team leader in congregational services. “He has a passion to equip small church worship leaders in worship ministry.”

Human Resources Director Linda Hudson announced that Cynthia Tucker, BSC receptionist for 21 years, will be leaving April 23 to join her husband Greg in Chicago where he has relocated for work.
4/19/2010 10:05:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Missions Conference stacks ‘living stones’

April 19 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

South African preacher Terry Rae illustrates every point with compelling stories from the deep reservoir of his experience living through apartheid and the convulsions of a nation shifting from minority white rule to majority black.

Rae again was the featured preacher during the Baptist Missions Conference “Living Stones” in Charlotte April 9-10, hosted at Hickory Grove Baptist Church.

Dana Hall was elected the new president of N.C. Baptist Men, who sponsor and organize the conference.

About 50 breakout sessions featured leaders from the many partnerships N.C. Baptist Men and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina sponsor, from New England and eastern Canada, to the Ukraine to the Appalachians to India.

While the theme was “living stones,” Rae preached on the opening night about stones to “get rid of.”

Each participant received a stone when he or she registered. At the end of his message in which Rae said Christians should lose the stones of fear, a hard heart and a critical spirit, he asked participants to come forward and drop their stone into one of several buckets at the altar.

BSC photo by K Brown

Terry Rae speaks to the Baptist Missions Conference about stones people should discard. Rae leads Afrrica for Christ, which has started 1,068 churches in Africa.

He dropped four stones into a metal bucket at his feet and said the clang they made when they hit was “the sound of forgiveness.”

Rae leads Africa for Christ, which has started 1,068 churches in Africa. He related with shame the struggles of Christians to embrace each other across racial lines when South Africa was shedding apartheid.

He said black and white leaders gathered to get past the “picky things” that separated them and they wrote their grievances against each other on paper they taped to the walls.

The sheets eventually stretched down a hallway.

The next day they were still two separate groups and the facilitator simply left the room.

After sitting in awkward silence for 20 minutes, a member of the black contingent stood to ask forgiveness for speaking ill of a member of the white contingent.

That brave move opened a floodgate of forgiveness seeking that lasted five hours.

Later the sheets of grievances were folded and put under the communion table, never to be dug out again, because they were now “covered by the blood.”

High Point City Manager Strib Boynton thanked North Carolina Baptists for their response to the tornadoes that hit his city on Palm Sunday, damaging 649 homes or businesses, completely destroying about 40 of them.

He said N.C. Baptists were there first, had the largest crowd of volunteers and stayed until the end.

Scott Daughtry, onsite coordinator in Haiti, with his wife, Janet, said there were 380,000 orphans in Haiti before the earthquake and that number has grown dramatically since the Jan. 12 quake that killed an estimated quarter million people.

N.C. Baptist Men’s volunteer groups are leaving for Haiti every week.

Daughtry said Samaritan’s Purse has designed a simple wood frame shelter wrapped with a tarp and is asking Baptist Men volunteers to help assemble them in Haiti.

A team of three to four people can put together two or three in a day.

Samaritan’s Purse plans to erect 12,000 of the 12-by-12 shelters.

Participants who went to various breakout sessions traveled the world in mission possibility, hearing of the six people in an affluent Canadian church that’s dying, and the 1,200 in a new church in dirt poor Haiti, started since the earthquake.

It’s a “fluid situation” in Haiti, Daughtry said. Volunteers need to be flexible.

Biju Thomas, founder of Transformation India Movement (TIM), said the state of Bihar, once known as the graveyard of missions, is becoming the vineyard of missions as people respond to the gospel.

N.C. Baptists have contributed more than $600,000 to TIM since its partnership began with Baptist Men, digging 458 wells that have led to starting nearly 70 churches with many others in the works from the 183 church planters that have been trained.
4/19/2010 9:59:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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