During the evening sessions of a recent conference near Chicago, Southern Baptist college students from throughout the United States learned servant leadership skills from prominent business and ministry leaders, putting their insights to work throughout the community during the day. "Impact Zone," the conference sponsored by the North American Mission Board (NAMB), was held on the campus of Wheaton College May 22-29.
NAMB President Robert E. Reccord, who planned the mission effort, saw the week as a way of addressing the leadership crisis he sees ahead for Southern Baptists and the larger evangelical church community.
"If you study any of the research on college students, you'll see that they are caring less about church attendance, less about Bible reading, less about prayer or tithing than any other age group," Reccord told Baptist Press. "Our future as Southern Baptists depends on recapturing the vision and imagination of this age group."
In coordination with NAMB's World Changers program, Impact Zone participants spent their daylight hours refurbishing substandard housing in communities near Wheaton and in Hammond, Indiana. As participants replaced roofs, painted, re-decked porches and replaced worn-out gutters and downspouts in ten area homes, they also took the opportunity to share Christ with residents and neighbors.
In the evenings, the 85-plus Impact Zone participants heard from some of the nation's leading business and ministry leaders. Business leaders who addressed the evening Impact Zone sessions included Bill Pollard, former CEO and current chairman emeritus of ServiceMaster; Don Soderquist, retired senior vice chairman of Wal-Mart; and Foster Friess, whose asset management firm oversees $8 billion in investments. Ministry leaders included Reccord; Jay Strack, president of Student Leadership University; Lon Allison, director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College; and NAMB vice presidents Chuck Allen and Randy Singer.
At the conference, Reccord challenged the group to avoid the pitfalls the world associates with leadership and success. "The world tells you it's about position, power, possessions and prominence," Reccord said during the first session. "But the Bible tells us it's about placing our concentration on pleasing Christ, our determination on being content in Christ and setting our intentions on sharing Christ wherever we go."
Reccord warned participants not to arrive at the end of their careers only to discover they have achieved the wrong things. "Success is not found primarily in the position you hold, the possessions you obtain or the prestige you are granted," he said. "Success is the person of character and integrity you become as you achieve the potential for which you were created."