HESSTON, Kan. — Executive Minister John Williams closed the annual gathering of the Central Region of American Baptist Churches USA Oct. 18 by pointing to six contributions the region made to its churches over the past year.
In his state of the region message, Williams listed:
“In the past year, 23 of our churches have called new pastors,” he said. “Perhaps what I like best is that to find 19 of those new pastors we didn’t have to raid the pulpits of other Central Region churches.”
He cited examples of churches that have been revitalized, are reaching more people and are showing excitement in their ministries. Churches reported they had together baptized 337 people, 71 more than a year earlier, he said.
Other churches have discovered new ministries for outreach, including one who received a special ministries grant to begin a ministry for families of disabled and special needs children. Others have established peace and justice ministries and clothing ministries, among others.
Many churches face struggles with diminished finances, dropping attendance, advanced age, changing community demographics, internal conflict and other issues, Williams acknowledged. They, too, have been helped by regional office efforts, he said.
The region does several things to reach out to pastors, Williams add, including providing a fellowship for new ones. “It is a place where critical relationships are established and nurtured,” he said.
“It is a time for answering questions and providing resources. “It is an important component of further developing the best pastors for the churches of the Central Region.”
Williams pointed to the Prairie Pastors Leadership Event, which also involves pastors from the Dakotas, Nebraska and Mid-America regions. Clergy cluster groups, are resourced by the pastor-to-pastor adjunct to provide support, encouragement and networking opportunities.
“Shared ministry opportunities are significant things our churches do in cooperation with one another….,” he said.
The camping ministry, with 17 camps across the region in 2014, involved 144 volunteers, served 522 campers and resulted in 27 decisions for Christ.
A series of conferences addressed missions, senior adults, women’s and men’s ministries, a junior high event and denomination-wide events, including hosting the “wider ABC family as we gather in Overland Park (Kan.) next June for the Mission Summit Biennial,” Williams said.
Williams noted the annual gathering theme, “Standing Together With One Spirit and One Purpose,” and referred to the ABC-wide “Transformation by the Spirit” and evangelism emphases.
“Unity does not mean we all think alike; it means we choose to work together as brothers and sisters in Christ and as sister church,” he said. “Granted, we have those who stand apart because they are uncomfortable with our diversity, but this is who we are, and we make room for them as well.”
Williams referenced the work of the Kansas Baptist Convention Foundation and the planned giving emphasis as he gave an update on the various offerings that support regional work and the efforts of partner institutions, some ahead and others behind projected goals for the year.
Williams said the region will utilize more volunteers to fill gaps in a reduced-staff plan adopted by the board. At the beginning of 2015, the search will begin for a successor to Jerry Seabaugh, regional associate minister who took disability leave in June. “We are at a new stage, redefining how we will move forward into the place of ministry God has given us together as the American Baptist Church of the Central Region,” he said.