Christian meetings in 2014 disclose two trends. One is the predictable gathering with the same “old” programs and speakers. The other is passionate, content-rich events with much to celebrate and contribute.
Dynamic gatherings attract a crowd and expand the organization’s constituency, building unity around initiatives that strengthen and equip churches to make a measurable difference for the common good.
Predictable gatherings attract the same crowd as usual – mostly organizational types, those already committed to the cause. Some of these events will proclaim sizzle without providing steak.
They may have polarizing program leaders who issue decade-old rhetoric without current relevancy and provide sound bites without equipping rank-and-file churches for doable action plans.
Or they may present the same “stump” speech about why folk ought to support their organization, their ideological agenda.
EthicsDaily.com readers are a discerning lot.
Rather than to point out the negative, here’s a list of some of the dynamic gatherings in March that deserve your consideration.
Global Women is hosting its annual summit at Third Baptist Church in St. Louis on March 7-8. Its international guest is Natasha Klapanyuk, who directs Restoration Department for Beginning of Life in Moldova, an initiative focused on sex trafficking and prevention, clearly a contemporary issue that calls for greater church engagement.
According to a Twitter message, one summit attendee is Holly Smith, renowned activist and author of “Walking Prey: How America’s Youth Are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery.”
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina (CBFNC) observes its 20th anniversary, March 28-29, at First Baptist Church in Greensboro.
A host of empowering and practical workshops are offered, including the topics of human trafficking, struggling with affluence, focusing on small churches, and ministering to families of children and youth.
One intriguing title is “Biblical Women You Wouldn’t Want to Mess With.”
The event offers a screening of “Through the Door” in the church sanctuary on March 28 from 2:15-3:15 p.m.
The documentary showing is open to the public. That is, non-Baptists and non-CBF members. That commitment in and of itself is evidence of CBFNC’s constituency-building attitude and ecumenical spirit.
Ecumenical invitations are being extended to Greensboro Urban Ministry, Kairos Prison Ministry of North Carolina and non-Baptist churches.
Restorative Justice Ministry Network of Texas (RJMN) also celebrates its 20th anniversary on March 28-29, held at First Baptist Church in Huntsville, a city known as the prison capital of Texas. The church itself is next door to the Walls Unit.
One workshop focuses on “ending the school to prison pipeline.” Another features the Texas Department of Justice re-entry initiative.
Prison ministry folk are passionate about their work. They are theologically conservative Christians who are social justice believers. They see the need. They make a difference. They’re short on rhetoric and long on real engagement.
One of the stories in “Through the Door” is the Texas story about RJMN’s bus stop ministry.
Regrettably and due to the lack of space, we didn’t include in the final cut of the documentary a passionate interview with Bill Kleiber, RJMN’s executive director, arguing for the restoration of voting rights for felons.
Limited financial resources and full vocational schedules result in discriminating choices about what conferences to attend. Plus, church members have a lot of meeting options.
The old day of denominational loyalty is ending. The new day of investing in dynamic, relevant gatherings is here.
Better to move forward than to cling to what doesn’t work – out of some sense of we’ve always done it that way.
Gatherings are an important tool for connecting with core constituents and expanding support. That requires continuous innovation.
The warning is clear: Fail to innovate – plan to stagnate.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.