OMAHA, Neb. — Becoming the youngest among regional ministers for American Baptist Churches-USA was "just luck more than anything," Greg Mamula said. But his role as the associate executive minister for ABC-Nebraska gives him an outlet for his passion to help pastors.
He credits two adjunct professors at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge, Ark., with helping him understand the networks in place to assist pastors. He had not grown up in church and didn't know much about denominational structure. Both professors also worked with the Arkansas Baptist Convention, affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
While in college, "I got to attend a state convention and saw how it works," he said. "I saw their [his professors'] hearts for pastors and their churches."
After completing an undergraduate degree in Christian ministries, Mamula earned a master of divinity degree at Truett Theological Seminary. He became associate pastor for family and youth ministry at First Baptist Church, North Platte, Neb., shortly after graduating in 2007. Deciding to be as involved as possible, he took on regional jobs "any time someone asked me," he said.
That willingness throughout his five years at First Baptist opened the door to his current post in January, just as he approached his 30th birthday. He believes his age — with a "slightly different perspective" on ministry and skills in social media and blogging — has worked in his favor. "I think about things differently…. I'm always willing to try new things because I don't know that they can't be done," he said.
Although he had been concerned pastors in the region would react negatively to his age and limited church experience, "it has been a really positive reaction" so far, he said.
The response has allowed him to serve. "My passion is for the pastors and the churches — for wanting them to be the best they can be and just being that resource for them," he said.
Mamula often assists with technology and Internet options, especially as more congregations have turned to social media and blogs. Many pastors are using blogs as a way to track sermon series, to start conversations about issues or to tease their sermon throughout the week, he explained.
Facebook also has become a means of live interaction on Sunday mornings, sometimes in conjunction with Twitter. Or it's set up for members to post comments later. Some churches are using their websites more effectively as well, he added, making them more informative and interactive.
While the digital age increases interaction between congregations in many ways, Mamula envisions churches engaging in additional cooperative ministry. "I would like to see us do more as groups of churches," he said.
He especially hopes rural congregations can fellowship and minister together, although he recognizes the difficulty the distance between them creates.
Ministry is more effective as churches work together to impact their areas, he said. "Getting into the community is crucial to the church…. It allows us to be the hands and feet of Christ."