What began with a frog in a kettle has evolved into a series of face-to-face dialogues throughout the country that began last month in Louisiana.
What began with a frog in a kettle has evolved into
a series of face-to-face dialogues throughout the country that began
last month in Louisiana.
LifeWay Christian Resources President James Draper
Jr. visited First Baptist Church of Bossier City to show his support
for and discuss the concerns of younger leaders throughout Louisiana.
They gathered to brainstorm solutions to issues raised on LifeWay’s
younger leaders online message board (www.lifeway.com/youngerleaders).
“I know the problems and you do, too,” Draper told
the more than 60 men and women gathered in the First Baptist Church
choir room. “But what are we going to do about it?”
With his “Is the Southern Baptist Convention a Frog
in the Kettle?” column last June, Draper opened the doors of
communication with Southern Baptist leaders under age 45 by voicing his
concerns about the “lack of denominational involvement and loyalty …
among younger ministers.”
When responses to that and subsequent columns flooded into his e-mail
inbox, Draper began inviting people to post their concerns,
observations and opinions regarding younger leaders and the Southern
Baptist Convention. More than 40,000 people have visited that site, and
about 1,700 have offered their insights since November.
“The whole intent is to find a way to set up a dialogue like this,” Draper said of the Web site.
“We can connect and find out what your concerns are.”
LifeWay pastoral ministries specialist Mitch Martin told the crowd that
most of the message board entries fall into one of five main categories
– missions and evangelism, creative and innovative approaches,
convention renewal, diversity and inclusiveness without compromising
Scripture, and healthy relationships.
“We don’t come with the answers,” Martin said. “We
come with open ears and open hearts for you to talk to us.”
Louisiana State Convention Executive Director David
Hankins and First Baptist Church pastor Fred Lowery welcomed attendees
before breakout sessions began.
As Draper and others listened, younger leaders met
in the breakout groups to discuss each of the five message board
categories and to brainstorm solutions.
“I wanted to be able to meet and get to know other
people in the area,” said Robyn Horton, children’s minister at First
Baptist Church of Bossier City. “I wanted to see what works and doesn’t
work and improve our ministry together.”
Martin instructed participants to spend time in
their groups considering the best way the Southern Baptist Convention,
state convention and associations could address concerns raised on the
message board, such as encouraging networking opportunities among young
leaders or creating more diversity among church leaders.
Groups then discussed ways individual young leaders could work toward solutions.
“We carry a responsibility to make a change for
convention renewal,” participant David Denton said. “I can model that
for my personal renewal and for my congregation.”
Denton serves as pastor at New Prospect Baptist
Church in Dry Prong, La. He said he journeyed to this first younger
leaders dialogue in hopes of hearing an “openness” from Southern
Baptist Convention leaders.
“This is very much a dialogue,” he said. “Before any decisions are made, there needs to be a dialogue.”
Each breakout group eventually chose the best
solution from its brainstorm list, and LifeWay’s younger leaders Web
site soon will post the suggested solutions. At least six more younger
leaders’ dialogues are scheduled nationwide, and ideas from those also
will be posted on the Web site.
The meeting in Bossier City featured a two-hour
condensed format because it coincided with the state evangelism
conference, but the other dialogues will allow attendees about five
hours for discussions.
“We want them to know we’re listening to them,”
Draper said. “We value their input and their
relationships and their opinions. We want to help them feel they
The dialogues will culminate with a final meeting in
June, just before the annual Southern Baptist Convention.