The Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders is putting together a panel whose purpose will be to clarify, modernize and establish a credentialing process for the role of associational leaders throughout the country.
Florida’s own Rick Wheeler, lead missional strategist for the Jacksonville Baptist Association, has been tapped to head up the associational study team. Following its nomination by the SBC Executive Committee, the group will be commissioned at the SBCAL meeting in Phoenix on June 11.
Though not the most important of issues to be considered, a foundational discussion will center on the title “director of missions,” which, according to the SBCAL publication The Encourager, was coined the last time a similar panel was assembled in the 1960s.
Wheeler, who understood the need for a title change when he took the reins at the JBA in 2011, took the title of ‘lead missional strategist’ rather than DOM.
“That served us well for a season, but the mission field has changed and churches have changed in how they want to collaborate in Gospel efforts,” Wheeler said in a phone conversation about the study team.
The piece that Wheeler is most excited about is the creation of competencies and credentialing for associational leadership. He hopes that a list of commonly agreed upon standards and skills will help associations identify effective leaders while also allowing individuals considering associational leadership a concrete way to evaluate their ability to do the job well.
Wheeler is passionate about the important role local associations have in helping churches survive and thrive now and into the future.
“Churches are asking like never before,” he said. “How are the local associations, state conventions and national convention adding value?”
Wheeler invited Ted Traylor, lead pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, to be a part of the team.
“If associations need to be competent at adding value to local churches we need local churches speaking into this,” Wheeler said.
The Pensacola Bay Baptist Association recently chose a new executive director, and Traylor was a part of the conversations surrounding that important appointment.
“I am honored to serve on this task force,” Traylor said in written remarks. “I believe the local Baptist Association can have great impact as it helps unify churches to do together more than we can do individually.”
With the importance Millennials place on personal relationships, local associations can play an important role in attracting and keeping a new generation engaged in the collaborative work of Southern Baptists.
For Wheeler, adding value to churches goes beyond offering financial support and entails getting in the trenches with them and helping them think through their strategies for making disciples and reaching the nations.
“Relationships bring people into the tribe,” he said. “Associations who are fast, flexible, focused and friendly in serving the churches have a great future.”
The Associational Study Team is expected to bring a report of its findings to the SBCAL meeting in Dallas on June 10, 2018.
Nicole Kalil is the Jacksonville-based reporter for the Florida Baptist Witness, the official news source of the Florida Baptist State Convention. She can be reached by phone at 904.596.3169 or via email at nicole.kalil@goFBW.com