September 2009

Teaching stewardship focuses church’s finances

September 10 2009 by BSC Communications

ARDEN — Drive up to the campus of Biltmore Baptist Church and take a look.

You’ll see the gated entrance and the sprawling, modern building complex and likely think two things:  “lots of members” and “lots of money.”

The “lots of members” thought is correct.

With more than 6,000 members and a weekly attendance of more than 4,000, Biltmore is one of the largest Baptist churches in Western North Carolina. It’s located in the town of Arden, just off I-26, south of Asheville, near the airport.

On the question of money, Biltmore’s approach to Christian stewardship and finances could help many North Carolina Baptist churches, even in this period of economic slowdown.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell

More than 500 members of Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden are studying Crown Financial Ministry materials on stewardship and money management. Above, a group meets at the home of member Steve Ackerman near Mars Hill.

Biltmore’s leaders have found that, if members follow the Bible’s teaching on money and stewardship, they will naturally be much more able to support the church as they should.

Stewardship development is handled mostly by Wayne Clark, one of Biltmore’s five senior leaders serving under Bruce Frank, senior pastor. Clark directs church development and major projects.

He entered the ministry after a long career as a top executive with a major oil company, work which routinely sent him jetting around the world and living in Europe for a time.

Clark begins by setting forth how he and other church leaders handled the question of money.

“One of the things we looked at here was how do we best communicate the stewardship aspects. I strongly believe that, when you first accept Christ, that doesn’t mean you start digging into your wallet the first day. You really don’t have a good sense of tithing or anything like that. I think that’s something that comes with Christian maturity … you have to look back to the Bible to really educate people on stewardship and the fact that everything we have belongs to God. We’re simply managing what He’s given to us,” he said.

Clark and Biltmore leaders looked at many stewardship/money management programs and ultimately settled on Crown Financial Ministries as their preferred program.  Members such as Dick Leonard went to Crown Financial Ministries training and then started classes at Biltmore. Gerald Gillespie later joined Crown’s western North Carolina team and helped with training at Biltmore and throughout the area.

The church launched Crown’s Bible study program late in 2004 with two classes. By 2006 Biltmore had trained 41 facilitators among the members and was offering 24 classes. Most were small, 12-week classes for adults called “Life Groups,” but there were also classes on teen finance Bible study and a “Business by the Book” class for business people.  

The classes proved to be very popular. They were so popular in fact that Biltmore had to revise their training to accommodate the high interest.

“In 2007 we had 26 classes, including two for children.  More than 200 people attended Crown classes in 2007,” Clark said.

By mid-2009, the total number of people who have attended a Crown class stood at 525. “That’s a good representative cross-sample of our congregation,” he said.

It’s likely one of the larger, single-church Crown programs in North Carolina. Twenty-one Biltmore members have acquired the training needed to become Crown Money Map coaches. People can now enroll in Crown through Biltmore’s web site.

Clark said that Crown has published research on people who have taken the Crown course in churches of several denominations in 42 states:

Three years after graduating from a Life Group,
  • reduction of debt was 38 percent
  • 33 percent reported they had no debt, twice the percentage before the classes
  • savings and investments increased by 58 percent over three years
  • annual giving to the church increased by 70 percent
  • giving to the church was up 47 percent
  • 46 percent said they pray more
  • 64 percent reported they read the Bible more
  • 78 percent reported the relationship with spouse had strengthened or greatly strengthened. 
“That’s not surprising,” Clark said, “when you consider that 70 or more percent of divorces involve the issue of money.”

Many Biltmore members have worked to make the Crown program a success, Clark said. He praises the work of Rita Hall and other members of Biltmore who have laid a firm foundation.

“People realize how much the Bible does instruct us on finances. Everyone who comes through the classes learns that,” said Hall, current Crown coordinator at Biltmore. She has also been impressed with the friendships that develop as people go through the Crown Life Groups.  

Gillespie, Crown representative for western North Carolina, also teaches Crown concepts to all students entering Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, the Baptist State Convention school in Hendersonville.  

“What would happen if our churches understood true biblical stewardship?” Gillespie asks. He can be reached at (828) 696-9055, ext. 114.

Crown partners with the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, which means N.C. Baptists can get reduced rates on Crown materials.

For information on Crown, go to or call (800) 722-1976.  

For Baptist State Convention information on Crown in North Carolina, call (919) 395-5102, ext. 5539.

Struggling with debt and getting behind on payments?  Crown will provide financial coaching free of charge. For details go to or call (800) 722-1976.

It’s a New Day classes
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention will partner with Crown Financial Ministries to host one-day conferences at the following locations:
  • Sept. 11 – New South River Association
  • Sept. 12 – Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Oct. 24 – West Chowan Association
  • Nov. 14 – Nags Head Church/Chowan Association
Registration costs $20 and includes conference materials and lunch. Spouses are encouraged to attend at no additional charge.
Contact Amy Torcasso, (800) 395-5102, ext. 5539, or

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9/10/2009 2:10:00 AM by BSC Communications | with 1 comments

Emphasis timely, has widespread appeal

September 10 2009 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Hundreds of pastors across the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) are learning that some of the best guidance they can give their people during these days is how to manage their finances, the leader of the SBC’s stewardship emphasis said.

“Because of the climate that we live in, there has never been a better time to have a conversation in church about money than right now,” Ashley Clayton, associate vice president for stewardship at the Executive Committee, said, adding that many people in the pews are preoccupied with job security and how to pay their bills.

“Why wouldn’t a pastor address that? It could be that the people in our churches wonder why their pastor never talks about money when it’s clearly in the news all the time,” Clayton told Baptist Press.

Church leaders must begin to see stewardship in a different light, he said, because Jesus spoke frequently about money, a tool that enables ministry.

“Even as a denomination, we spend way too much time trying to divide the Cooperative Program dollars when what we should be doing is trying to grow the Cooperative Program dollars, and you do that through stewardship,” Clayton said.

Most churches lack a consistent plan for helping people deal with money, he said, noting that one of the main benefits of such a plan is that it changes lives on an individual level.

“The person who is worried about their future, who is failing to invest in their future, who is struggling to pay their bills, who is struggling to give often can’t see beyond that,” Clayton said. “It colors their whole world. So a consistent stewardship plan in a church changes lives. It changed my life.”

Clayton said he and his wife struggled with money for too many years, but when they took the first steps toward financial freedom, it was liberating.

“We still had the same problems and we still had debt to overcome, but you would have thought we had won the lottery. We were truly liberated because we were on the right path,” he said.

Also, a consistent plan for helping people deal with money is a cultural bridge from churches to their local communities.

“If you want your church to get a toe hold in your community, if you want people in your community to see your church as being relevant and a place of hope and a place of help, hang out a sign that says, ‘Get out of debt here.’ It’s a strong cultural bridge,” Clayton said.

Church planters especially should be interested in promoting stewardship, he said, because offering people help with their finances immediately will help the community perceive the church as a place that offers hope and help.

Stewardship also is relevant because handling money well is a mark of maturity in a believer’s life, Clayton said.

“It’s a direct and outward response to God’s grace in our lives. We should be compelled by God’s grace to invest as many dollars in the Kingdom as we possibly can,” he said. “My experience has been that it’s not that believers don’t want to give. It’s that they cannot give.

“If it’s true that unbelievers and believers alike spend $1.26 over every dollar they earn, it’s no wonder that giving has been on a decline in our denomination,” Clayton said. “The point is treating money well and having a healthy approach to money translates into funding the kingdom.”

With such a strong need for stewardship education in churches today, the Executive Committee is investing in the convention’s leaders through seminars, curriculums and other resources under the “It’s A New Day” stewardship umbrella.

By year’s end, more than 2,000 pastors and church leaders will have attended a one-day financial freedom seminar sponsored by churches, local associations or state conventions in conjunction with the stewardship office at the Executive Committee.

The seminars, which run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., present biblical principles about stewardship and offer lessons in money management, such as budget planning and how to handle credit cards, cars and housing expenses. The sessions cost $20 per person to cover materials and lunch, and spouses are encouraged to attend at no extra expense.

Starting this fall, church leaders who attend the seminars will leave at the end of the day certified by Crown Financial Ministries to teach the 10-week Life Group Study at their churches.

Clayton noted that the Executive Committee has a goal of offering the one-day seminars at each of the six Southern Baptist seminaries. In April, more than 300 students and their spouses attended a seminar at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and another is scheduled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary on Sept. 12.

Cooperative Program (CP) dollars are being used so that students can attend the seminars free of charge.

“We think this is a great investment in the leaders of our convention. We’re aware that most of our seminary graduates are leaving seminary and going to their first church with a large amount of credit card and student loan debt, and in many cases more than they would be able to fund over a long period of time,” Clayton said. “This investment of CP dollars is an attempt to give a better foundation on a personal level for these pastors to begin their ministries.”

Also, the Executive Committee has released recently Volume 2 in the It’s A New Day curriculum series. Whereas the first volume, developed by Crown, involved a fee for Sunday School lessons, this volume is completely free and includes all new material.

Available for download are four weeks of sermon videos, sermon notes, listening guides, PowerPoint slides and Bible study lessons. The lessons include teachers’ guides for children, youth and adults so that the entire church can learn about stewardship together.

Another resource the stewardship office is offering is a video series called “God Provides,” produced by Crown. Six theater-quality short films and a printed companion guide use stirring accounts and parables from the Bible to show how God meets the needs of His people. The films can be used for individual or group study in a variety of ways.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press. For more information on the It’s A New Day stewardship initiative, visit and

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9/10/2009 2:06:00 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

The Powells: Bus people on medical mission

September 10 2009 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Call Shirlowe and Frances Powell “bus people” and they’ll count it a compliment.

About 80 days a year they work with one of the two medical-dental buses operated by North Carolina Baptist Men. Shirlowe wheels the Greyhound-size bus like it were a shopping cart and knows enough about diesel engines and components to keep the vehicle running well.

No surprise there — he retired after working as a professional truck driver for more than 40 years.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell

Shirlowe and Frances Powell, members of Athens Drive Baptist Church in Raleigh, are two of the many faithful volunteers who drive the two medical-dental buses across the state for clinics.

Frances, who has her CDL license and also drives the bus, helps get patients in and out of the bus, and does other support work.  

“We were counting up the other day and I would estimate we have driven this bus more than 100,000 miles in the last few years,” Shirlowe said.

In recent months they took the bus to a migrant farm camp in a rural farming area near Wilson; another week they drove it to a church in downtown Charlotte for a week long medical-dental clinic.

The Powells don’t do the dental or medical work, of course.

They get the bus to a site and get it set up to operate; usually local dental or medical workers meet the bus and walk into a fully-equipped clinic ready to start work.  

Joanne Honeycutt, staffer in the N.C. Baptist Men office in Cary, coordinates the constantly changing schedules and staffing needs of the buses and also makes sure the buses are fully stocked with supplies before heading out.  

“With the economic problems in North Carolina right now, we’re keeping the buses on the road almost non-stop,” said Honeycutt.

“There are big needs everywhere and it’s a joy to be able to meet some of  those needs.”

The medical-dental bus ministry is one of North Carolina Baptists’ largest volunteer efforts, involving more than 1,100 medical/dental professionals and more than 1,000 other support volunteers like the Powells, plus 176 translators and 240 pastors/counselors each year.   

This carefully choreographed effort helped almost 4,000 patients receive free treatment last year.  

That included 3,460 dental patients, 298 medical patients and 137 eye patients.  

Clearly, the Powells are just examples of the many North Carolina Baptists working together to deliver care to hurting people.

“I enjoy the work,” said Shirlowe. “You meet the cream of the crop, sometimes among the patients, but especially among the workers. Most volunteers are Christians and they like to share Christ with the patients. It’s just a good ministry,” he said.

He and Frances are convinced that staying active in ministry has helped keep them healthier than just occupying retirement rockers. “Anyone looking for something to do can surely find a place to serve and get involved in one of the 13 ministries of North Carolina Baptist Men. They have all kinds of work going on,” Shirlowe said.

The Powells are members of Athens Drive Baptist Church in Raleigh, a church which was very involved in disaster relief back in the 1980s. Shirlowe and Frances worked as volunteers in disaster relief until they started driving for the medical-dental bus ministry.

To see a video report on the medical-dental bus ministry, go to:

For more general information on the medical/dental bus ministry of Baptist Men, go to:

For more information on the North Carolina Missions Offering, go to: or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5547.

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9/10/2009 1:58:00 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

BSC resolutions due Sept. 30

September 10 2009 by BSC Communications

Scott Setzer, chair of the Resolutions Committee, has requested that all resolutions for consideration during the North Carolina Baptist Annual Session in Greensboro, Nov. 9-11, be submitted to the Resolutions Committee by Sept. 30, if possible. No resolutions will be accepted after Oct. 10. Send resolutions to: Resolutions Committee, Attention: Betsy Roland, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512-1107; fax: (919) 319-7205; or e-mail

9/10/2009 1:57:00 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Phil Stone gets REAL with Sunday School

September 9 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

Phil Stone was happy as minister of education and youth at Wilkesboro Baptist Church in 1982 and almost turned down an offer to join the Baptist State Convention (BSC) staff.

Instead, his final answer, after yes, no, yes, no, was yes and for 27 years he has been helping churches create disciples.

Long before he came to the BSC, Stone had adopted his philosophy of education from Gaines Dobbins, who started the first religious education school at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is commonly referred to as the father of Southern Baptist Religious Education.

BR photo by Steve DeVane

Phil Stone wants to get people involved in Bible study because involvement equals learning.

Stone heard Dobbins when Stone was minister of education, music and youth at First Baptist Church in Fountain Inn, S.C. Dobbins inspired him with his educational principle: “When there is no involvement there is no learning.”

Stone still follows that principle. When he’s preparing to lead a conference, preach a sermon or teach a Bible study, he asks, “‘How can I get them involved?’ because I know if they get involved, they’ll learn.”

Numbering almost 627,000, BSC churches have the fourth largest Sunday School enrollment of any Baptist state convention. Stone’s goal is to set up experiences where people will discover biblical truths that will change their lives.

For example when talking to a church group about making disciples in Sunday School, he asks, “What would making disciples in your Sunday School look like?” After the group brainstorms, Stone follows up with a written assignment and puts the work on the wall.

“Our job is not to create spiritual giants,” he said. “Our job is to make disciples. It’s God’s job to make them into who He wants them to be.”

The goal of creating disciples instead of spiritual giants should take the pressure off Sunday School leaders, Stone said. He said he’s “on a mission” to get pastors and Sunday School directors to create disciple-making Sunday Schools.

“The reason Sunday Schools exist is to assist the church with its God-given mission to make disciples,” Stone said.

A disciple, Stone said, is a learner.

“How do we create a learner?” he said. “We get them involved.”

Stone said adults learn through experiences. If they don’t get to share the experience, there is no learning, he said.

Four part lessons
Sunday School teachers should develop their lessons in four parts so they hook the learners’ attention, jump start learning, keep the learners actively involved, so they will take it home, he said.

Instead, in typical classes the teacher studies the commentary and tells the class what he discovered. Class members go away saying, “Boy, I have a smart teacher. I wish I knew the Bible like he does.”

Some churches try to make Sunday School into seminary classes that train biblical scholars. This often results in people who are “biblically obese,” but “spiritual skeletons,” he said.

Some church leaders wrongly equate biblical knowledge with spiritual maturity, Stone said.

Stone said teachers should set up experiences and coach students to discover biblical truths so they “own” what they learned.

“They might not remember all the content, but they’ll remember the biblical truth,” Stone said.

Stone said it’s not the teacher’s job to teach the Bible, adding that some atheists know the Bible.

“Our job is to help people discover biblical truths,” he said. “That’s a totally different concept.”

Students can only learn one biblical truth at a time, Stone said. Then teachers can let the Holy Spirit do its work.

“If I’m passionate about anything, it’s improving the teaching of God’s word so people are involved in it and experiencing it,” Stone said. “It’s the most powerful book, but we make it inane.”

Stone said churches mistakenly spend Sunday School time on “the three Bs” — 15 minutes of shooting the bull, 15 minutes talking about the ballgame and 30 minutes of Bible study.

“The hour is sacred,” he said. “It’s a sin to waste it.”

Aunt Sally’s hangnail
Some classes also spend too much time “talking about Aunt Sally’s hangnail,” Stone said.

“We’re praying ourselves into biblical illiteracy,” he said.

Some churches “waste time” with an opening assembly, which Stone called a “throwback” to a day when preachers weren’t at the church every Sunday so members held a mini-service in his absence.

“We Baptists fuss about the Bible, but we do everything we can to not teach it,” he said.

Stone encourages churches to build a “REAL” Sunday School ministry that focuses on relationships, evangelism, assimilation and life-changing Bible study.

“Sunday School is not dead but in many churches it has lost its purpose,” Stone said.

Sunday School should be an open group, he said.

“It’s the hugging group,” he said. “It’s where a new disciple, a new learner can come in and find life-changing Bible study on his own level.”

Stone spends a lot of time on the road, including a recent 700-mile trip over two days that took him from the western part of the state to the east.

When he leaves a church he makes sure the leaders know how to contact him.

“The thing I love to tell people is, ‘I belong to you,’” Stone said.

From late August through November, Stone had 31 individual conferences or consultations on his calendar.

“I love being with people and helping them know how to make the next step,” he said.

Stone said consultants can err when they sit in an “ivory tower” and see what churches can be.

“We ask churches to make a leap and that’s discouraging,” he said.

A better strategy is to help the church see the vision, but let the congregation take one step at a time.

Stone lives near Moncure and attends Moncure Baptist Church with his wife, Sherry. Their children Jason and Jackie, and their families live nearby.

Stone has a bachelor of arts in music from Augusta State University; a master of religious education from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and a master of theology from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

He said he would like one day to earn a doctorate in worship.

He loves creative worship, where he also asks how to get people involved.

Additional roles

Stone also helps churches with church administration and church building planning.

In church administration, Stone loves to coach churches through a visioning process. This involves helping the congregation see where God is leading, after coming to an understanding of how is God using them now.

The vision is based on what gives the church vitality and what does the congregation value. Once they see the vision, the church can discover its mission.

Stone said too many churches stop at mission instead of continuing to determine strategies and organization.

“If it doesn’t end with organization, with a calendar and a budget, there’s no reason to do it,” he said.

When the church gets a mission, everything changes. Everything comes under that mission.

Churches planning to build also need to think about mission and vision, Stone said. The building should be a ministry tool to accomplish the mission of the church, he said.

If not, the church will have a building with no purpose, as often happens with family life centers that end up as simply fun places for the kids to run around.

“It has to be a part of the vision and mission of the church,” he said.

 Contact Stone at, (919) 467-5100, or (800) 395-5102, ext. 5643.

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9/9/2009 8:39:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 1 comments

Training strengthens church’s growing ministries

September 9 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

Donnie Gamble says applying biblical principles to Sunday School can help a church grow.

He knows. He’s seen it happen at Hermon Baptist Church in Waxhaw where he is pastor.

Gamble introduced his Sunday School leaders to training offered by the Baptist State Convention (BSC) when he came to Hermon in January 2002. Since then, the Sunday School has grown in quantity and quality and the church’s other ministries have taken off as a result.

Church leaders attend training as often as possible. Phil Stone, the BSC’s senior consultant for Sunday School, has come to Union Association several times, said Gamble, who is the association’s Sunday School director and a regional specialist for the BSC.

Prayer is an important part of the church’s Sunday School effort, which Gamble said has a biblical foundation.

“It starts with the spiritual aspects,” he said.

Gamble believes in Stone’s outline of how to build a “REAL” Sunday School ministry through relationships, evangelism, assimilation and life changing Bible study.

“Those are the main points we try to do here at Hermon,” Gamble said.

Since 2002, average Sunday School attendance has more than tripled to 180.

Gamble said the congregation’s “attainable goal” is about 15 percent growth in Sunday School each year.

The church consistently tries to build enrollment.

“To do that, you have to reach people,” Gamble said.

The church encourages its members to build relationships with their friends, co-workers and classmates, and then to invite them to Sunday School.

“If our enrollment grows, our attendance should grow,” he said. “So far it has.”

Gamble said that through the Sunday School, churches already have in place an organization to carry out the Great Commission.

“If you get someone enrolled in Sunday School who’s not a Christian, chances are real high within a year, they’re going to get saved,” he said.

Since Sunday School has started growing the church has had to add a second worship service and recently had to move the two services into its family center for more room, Gamble said. The church’s mission efforts also have increased.

“What this has done, it’s helped our other ministries to grow,” he said.

Gamble said Stone has helped equip Sunday School leaders to carry out their roles. The teachers have job descriptions and know what they are expected to do. Similarly, they know what to expect from the church.

“We give God all the glory,” he said. “Along the way, through these different principles, the Lord has worked through us and Phil (Stone) has been a big part of that.”

Gamble said he believes churches that apply biblical principles to Sunday School can grow.

“I believe it,” he said. “I’ve seen it work.”

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9/9/2009 8:35:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Young adults’ spirituality explored

September 9 2009 by Kelly Shrout, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Young adults don’t seem to have a problem with Jesus. In fact, they describe themselves as spiritual. But many of them are looking everywhere for spirituality except the church.

Such topics were at the forefront of a “Connect Conference” sponsored by the Threads young adult initiative of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn.

Geared toward church leaders who work with young adults, the conference included sessions recapping recent statistics about why many 18-34-year-olds leave the church.

Photo by Kent Harville

Jim Johnston, ministry and business development, speaks during a panel discussion at the Lifeway’s Connect Conference. The panel members included, left to right: Sam Rainer, Michael Kelley, Valerie Hancock, Brent Hutchinson, Johnston, Jason Hayes, Adam Thomason and Jason Hale (moderator).

Sam Rainer, who co-authored Essential Church: Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts with his father Thom Rainer, LifeWay’s president, offered reasons for what some speakers describe as a “mass exodus.”

“We find that the No. 1 reason young adults leave church is that they simply want a break from church,” said Rainer, noting that 16 is the critical age when most students begin to drop out.

“Our research shows that at around the age of 16 many of the net gains for attendance switch and become net losses,” Rainer said. “Spiritually, the problem begins earlier than young adulthood.”

Rainer also offered solutions to the dropout problem.

“Churches must build a sense of community,” he said, citing data that indicates 83 percent of young adults who have been active in a small group or Sunday School class remain in the church after five years.

“The younger generation goes to church because of the sense of purpose and mission,” he said. “They value authenticity and depth.”

Thom Rainer, also a featured speaker at the Aug. 20-21 conference, outlined three components of depth as discussed in Essential Church.

Depth begins with the pastor, he said. Depth also must come from small groups and Sunday School classes. Finally, depth must come from personal devotion and Bible study.

The Rainers also mentioned three characteristics of individuals who stay in church: Studies show that they come from families who regularly discuss spiritual matters, serve together on a mission trip or service project, and pray together consistently.

Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, reviewed data about how young adults view God and their beliefs about the church.

Stetzer noted that 81 percent of 20-29-year-olds believe that God, a higher or supreme being, actually exists.

He cautioned conference attendees about statistics that portray young adults as unspiritual.

“Don’t believe that young adults, even unchurched young adults, are not interested in spiritual things,” Stetzer said, noting that they are looking outside of the church.

According to a survey released in the book Lost and Found by Stetzer, Jason Hayes and Richie Stanley, 73 percent of unchurched 20- to 29-year-olds consider themselves “spiritual” because they want to know more about “God or a higher supreme being.”

Further, 77 percent of 20-somethings believe Christianity today is more about organized religion than about loving God and loving people.

Yet this is a generation that God could use to change the course of history, said Jason Hayes, young adult ministry specialist at LifeWay.

“For both churched and unchurched young adults, we have found that they recognize that their choices make a difference, and they want to improve the world around them,” Hayes said. “As a result of this heightened sense of responsibility, we can help create a door for service and evangelism.”

Photo by Kent Harville

Participants of the Connect Conference 2009, held at LifeWay’s home office in downtown Nashville, ponder the various needs of young adults in their churches and discuss strategies to reach them during the roundtable discussions. 

Hayes said young adult leaders must teach the whole Bible, foster discussion and answer the difficult questions of faith.

“Offer quality, exegetical Bible teaching and sing theologically sound music that accurately depicts the word of God,” he counseled.

Conference attendee John Oswald, assistant pastor at Grace Baptist Church in St. Louis where the young adult group has grown from four members to 30 in the past five years, attributed the increase to assimilating young adults into the life of the congregation.

“We raised the level of expectation of our young adults and became intentional about how we ministered to them,” Oswald said. “We offered opportunities to go deeper into scripture and began a mentoring program that paired young adults with seniors in our congregation.”

Lee Saunders, associate pastor of Garden Oaks Baptist Church in Houston, credited the Connect Conference with offering information on the importance of dispelling the myths of the younger generation.

“We must correct those myths within our churches and realize that young adults are not hard to reach,” Saunders said. “We have to let the Holy Spirit guide us. God ultimately has to be in what we are doing. It’s not about us, but it is about reaching a generation for Christ and offering spiritual growth and development.”

The Connect Conference included small-group discussions about leadership, the postmodern worldview and the importance of understanding the young adult context. The conference also offered a question-and-answer panel forum.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Shrout is the employee communications editor at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. For more information about the young adult ministry at LifeWay, visit

9/9/2009 8:31:00 AM by Kelly Shrout, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Church efforts earn family status at school

September 8 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

During an appreciation breakfast when Eastway Elementary School Principal Star Sampson said the school’s relationship with the Summit Church in Durham had moved beyond partnership to friendship, teachers quickly indicated it was even deeper.

“Family,” they shouted almost in unison.

BR photo by Steve DeVane

While the food did look scrumptious as teachers filled their plates, the event sponsored by the Summit Church in Durham was meant to show Eastway Elementary employees that church members care.

Sampson immediately agreed that Summit members have helped the school in so many ways and become so close to faculty, staff and students they are like family.

Chris Gaynor, worship pastor at Summit Church, said he knew the relationship had moved to a new level when Sampson called him after a choir member died. She wanted to know the family’s address so the school could send its condolences.

At the appreciation breakfast choir members sponsored for school teachers and staff Aug. 20 the signs of that relationship were numerous.

Before food was served, Gaynor walked around the school and heard how teachers liked their rooms, freshly painted by church members. A wall in each of the rooms was painted a light shade of yellow, blue, orange or green to offset the somber gray of the other walls.

Gaynor said in an interview that church members are active in the elementary school to show Christ’s love.

They offer to pray for the teachers and staff and answer questions when asked why they’re helping.

“Ultimately, yes, we want to share the gospel with people, but we’re not here to try to have a Christian school,” Gaynor said. “We’re trying to demonstrate the unconditional love of Christ and let that speak.”

Dorcas left people in tears
Gaynor said efforts like the 150-member choir’s ministry at the school are the result of a message by Summit pastor J.D. Greear, who read a Bible passage about how people wept when Dorcas was gone.

He asked if anyone would weep if the church was gone. Greear is a member of the Baptist State Convention Board of Directors and of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.

The partnership started several years ago when a neighbor who teaches English as a second language at Eastway asked Gaynor if the church could help a Hispanic family with a three-year-old that had been hit by a car on Halloween night.

The mother cooked to earn money. While she was with her child in the hospital, the family struggled.

The congregation got behind the family in several ways, and later was asked to help in similar circumstances.

“We started by responding to very specific needs,” he said. “Out of that we were able to build a relationship.”

Eventually, choir members came and talked with Sampson about the needs at the school.

Their first project was an “Extreme Makeover” of the teachers’ lounge and faculty bathrooms, Gaynor said.
Three years later, teachers still take pride in the lounge, he said.

Choir members also pulled staples out of corkboards, scraped tape off walls and redecorated the principal’s office. They held a carnival for the school with inflatable games and hot dogs.

Food and clothing

Gaynor said a high percentage of students get free or reduced lunches. Because some kids wear the same clothes day after day, or have no coat or wear shoes that don’t fit, the church has held two clothing drives.

Church members were asked to donate clothes they would gladly give Jesus if He showed up at their door, Gaynor said.

Church members also filled about 500 boxes with food to give to school families. The families could get a box then go to the gym to look for clothes.

“It looked like a clothing store,” Gaynor said. “We gave out tons of clothes.”

One year the school didn’t have enough money to put on a Christmas play. The choir brought refreshments and sang with the kids.

The church also gives the teachers supplies.

Choir members start each year by providing breakfast for faculty and staff.

Each year ends with a luncheon.

About a dozen choir members mingled with teachers at the start-of-the-year breakfast Aug. 20. Gaynor told the teachers there was a bag of supplies for each classroom. The teachers could also take two reams of paper, which he said was “kind of like gold” at the school.

In previous years, the church also painted murals and decorated the lunchroom and painted an Eagle logo on the wall of the gymnasium. Church members have also collected money to fund student field trips.

About 30 choir members also adopted teachers last year, serving as class moms. After the breakfast, teachers rushed to sign up their classes to be adopted this year.

Mentoring students
Cortnee Pierce, who has been at Summit Church for about six years and sings alto in the choir, was in a group that adopted a kindergarten class last year. The group included her husband Jeremy, Todd Gronewald, Jed Gronewald and Ashley Christian.

Pierce, a researcher at Duke University Medical Center, was so moved by the experience that she is going to coordinate the choir’s efforts this year.

“I am passionate about this,” she said. “I love it.”

Pierce said she and Christian loved and nurtured the kids while the three men served as mentors for the students.

“A lot of them don’t have fathers,” Pierce said.

The group went on field trips and helped out in other ways. Pierce said her mother and her uncle, who is a chef, cooked a Thanksgiving meal for students in the class and their families.

Pierce especially recalls the changes in one little girl who was withdrawn at the beginning of the year.

“At the end of the school year, she was talking, and she was starting to read,” Pierce said. “It was amazing.”

BR photo by Steve DeVane

Erin Dawson, left, and Carly Lewis, teachers at Eastway Elementary Shool in Durham, show school pride at the Summit Church's breakfast.

Carly Lewis and Erin Dawson are team teachers for a third-grade class at Eastway.

They spoke highly about the help they received last year.

Lewis said the church’s consistency shows that the congregation is “not just on a good-will kick.”

She appreciates the church’s persistent support.

“A lot of times if you’re in a school like this you feel like you’re on your own,” she said.

“It’s was just knowing somebody had your back if you need something,” Lewis added.

Sampson, who has been principal at Eastway for five years, said the church’s efforts have made a “tremendous impact” on the school.

“They are doers,” she said. “They just support us in so many ways.”

Sampson said the church’s efforts have played a large role in the school’s improving academic performance.

Eastway is meeting the state and federal guidelines for schools making progress in all of its 21 subgroups, she said.

Sampson credits the church’s participation in building stronger ties between the school, the families and the community.

The staff and children at the school are happier because the church has made the school campus beautiful, Sampson said.

“It’s motivating,” she said. “They go the extra mile.”

The choir members handle most any request the school has, Sampson said. They have helped the teachers, the staff, the students and the families, she said.

“We’ve built a relationship,” she said. “We love them, and we know they love us.

“I hope the partnership never ends.”

Good news spreads
Word about the church’s efforts has spread, inside the church and out. When church representatives talked to the principal of another middle school, he was initially hesitant.

But his attitude changed when he learned they were the Summit Church that was helping Eastway. Gaynor said about 13 other schools have asked the church to help them.

Gaynor said choir members have already been talking to teachers at Eastway about their needs.

When he mentioned getting sports equipment for the older grades, teachers cheered.

When he talked about the possibility of hanging a curtain in front of the stage in the gym to make it easier for students to perform plays, one teacher jumped up and down and spun around with joy.

The church also hopes to buy computers so the school can implement a new computer-based math curriculum.

“If you ask anybody in the choir, ‘What’s your community ministry?’ they’d say ‘Eastway,’” Gaynor said.

At the year-ending luncheon last year, teacher after teacher asked Gaynor, “Are you going to be back next year?”

At the breakfast this year, teacher after teacher stood to thank the church members for what they’ve done to help the school.

Gaynor said the church has a dream to “do something big for the school.” Church members are looking for a way to “raise a significant amount of money,” he said.

“We want to turn Eastway into a place that teachers are fighting to get over here,” he said.

Gaynor said the choir wants to help create an environment where the teachers can use their gifts to help the students grow up to become respected members of the community.

“We’re here, not to advance us, but to help them succeed,” he said. “They know what we stand for as a church, but also know we’re committed to help them.”

Related stories
Time ripe for church to form school partnerships
Ahoskie church blesses teachers

9/8/2009 7:20:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Time ripe for church to form school partnerships

September 8 2009 by Robert Dilday, Associated Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. — Scarce funding for public education may offer churches an opportunity to work more closely with public schools in their neighborhoods.

That’s the assessment of Diane Smith, children’s ministry specialist at the Virginia Baptist Mission Board, who is developing a ministry she calls “1:1 — One Church, One School.”

“Many schools are experiencing cutbacks in staffing, resources and budgets,” she said. “Our school staffs are being asked to do more with less.”

Working with public schools gives congregations a chance to work with children and families, and to minister “outside the church house,” she added.

A 1:1 ministry starts with a conversation with a school’s principal, Smith said. Among the talking points to be made:
  • Ask, “How can we help you in your job of educating our children?”
  • Make a commitment that you will not “religiously influence” students or staff.
  • Promise to work within the boundaries determined by the school administration.
  • Commit to conducting criminal background checks on all church members who participate in the endeavor.
  • Ask if the church can “adopt” the school faculty and staff and “treat” them at various times of the year — for instance, providing snacks in the teachers’ lounge.
  • A 1:1 ministry could include several facets, Smith noted:
  • Eating lunch with a class or student.
  • Reading to students.
  • Tutoring.
  • Assisting office or media center staff.
  • Providing after-school playground watch.
  • Helping teachers and students plant and cultivate a vegetable or flower garden.
  • Offering “Friday backpacks” filled with food to be given to students who staff and teachers know will not have adequate food during weekends. The backpacks are returned by the students on Monday.
“It’s very important to keep the commitments made to the staff regarding religious influence,” Smith said. “Our schools are required to work within specific legal limits and we need to support that. Bottom line is — be helpful and be kind. Sounds like a Bible verse, doesn’t it?”

Another partnership effort is Kids Hope USA, a national mentoring program that equips churches to train and recruit mentors within their congregation to form one-to-one relationships with at-risk children in neighborhood schools.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Dilday is managing editor of the Virginia Baptist Religious Herald, the newsjournal of the Baptist General Association of Virginia.)

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Church earns family status at school
Ahoskie church blesses teachers

9/8/2009 7:18:00 AM by Robert Dilday, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ahoskie church blesses teachers

September 8 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Tom Raven, pastor of Creech Memorial Baptist Church in Ahoskie, wanted to bless the teachers in his town as they begin the new year.

“Not only do we want to affect the lives of the kids, but we want to change the culture in our schools as well,” said Raven, whose father is an “overworked, underpaid” high school math teacher.

He planned a blowout Teacher Appreciation Day and distributed 700 invitations “to every public, private, and home school teacher in Hertford County” for a special service Aug. 30 at Creech Memorial, where 60 would constitute “high attendance day” in Sunday School.

“The service itself is to be almost like a commissioning service, culminating in a closing prayer where we pray for the teachers, for their classrooms, and for the year to come,” Ravan wrote in anticipation of the event.

Members would commit to the teachers to pray for them for the entire year, communicating with them about any special needs or requests.

Ravan secured gifts from local businesses to give to the teachers.

He planned for a huge day, setting up video feeds to overflow rooms off the sanctuary and borrowing chairs from other churches.

He was anticipating the church’s outreach would open the door to a long-term relationship with the school system. Those who were distributing invitations heard very positive responses and an appreciation of the offered prayers.

“I am praying for a lasting kingdom impact that is much more than just one crowd on just one day,” he said.

Unfortunately, Creech Memorial’s special effort attracted fewer than a dozen teachers. The others who were invited “missed an incredible, God-blessed day,” Ravan said. The music, message and participation all involved special signals of appreciation to teachers.

He challenged members to make a public commitment to pray regularly for teachers and “to contact them as a reminder and as an encouragement.”

Related stories
Church earns family status at school
Time ripe for church to form school partnerships

9/8/2009 7:17:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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