GLORIETA, N.M. –A group of 13 leaders form the Forest Baptist Church traveled to the LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center for Black Church Leadership Week, July 21-25. The week, a joint effort of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, the North American Mission Board, the International Mission Board, the Annuity Board and Woman’s Missionary Union was designed to present the resources available for African American churches.
“The Leadership week presents an overall picture of what is available for African American churches in the SBC," said LifeWay's Jay Wells, who coordinated the event.
The 13 member group from Forest, under the leadership of Pastor John Crittenden, represents an agglomeration of different leaders at the church. Crittenden’s wife, Margaret, is a youth director; Janita Perry, Sunday School director, and her husband, Al, treasurer; Charlene Williams, women's Bible study leader; Dye Ann Foree, a new member still pondering a leadership position, and her husband, Charles; and Lisa Jacobs, who attended for spiritual renewal. Two young people also joined the group -- Josh, the Crittendens' son, and Austin, the Perrys' grandson.
We are "growing and exciting," "a loving family," "caring," "sharing," "spiritual," "encouraging," "friendly," "Christ-centered" and "biblically based," they exclaimed during the event.
Michael Smith, pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Shepherdsville, Ky., and his wife, Betty, also joined the group on their Glorieta journey "to learn."
"This is my first time here, and it has been a blessing," Smith said. "It's never too late to learn. I have so many notes from the workshops I've taken that I'm going to have to get them in order to share with my congregation."
Currently, Crittenden’s church utilizes many of the resources offered by the SBC, including the FAITH outreach evangelism program and Lifeway Sunday School program. Still, Crittenden said he hopes never to miss an opportunity to attend the Black Church Leadership Week.
"The reason I love the week is because when I come home I have tools to put in motion. I wouldn't be coming back if I wasn't getting fed."
"We are a Kingdom-focused church and Great Commission Christians,” he continued. “Our vision is to impact our community by winning the unsaved to Christ and developing the saved for Christ."
Wells noted the impact of the leadership week, saying that while many of the conference weeks at Glorieta and at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center are "one-dimensional -- for Sunday School, music or discipleship leaders, at Black Church Leadership Week, churches bring their whole groups, and a lot of the churches have no idea of what makes up the SBC.
“We're trying to tell them what's available to them from our various denominational entities."