Month: May 2023

Retreats for senior adults, pastors’ wives mark a first for SBTC en Español

CEDAR HILL—The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s en Español department marked a pair of firsts in April when it hosted separate retreats for senior adults and the wives of senior pastors. The retreats aimed to provide resources and minister to the physical and spiritual health of those attending.

“We have a vision to support the development of Hispanic churches in Texas in a healthy and effective way, so we are constantly looking for ways we can impact the different segments of leadership in these churches,” said Chuy Ávila, SBTC en Español lead associate. “We decided to do these events because [senior adults and pastors’ wives] are two of the most neglected groups, yet they are valuable to the body of Christ.”

Both events were held at the Mt. Lebanon Baptist Retreat Center, beginning with the Senior Adult Retreat held April 17-18. The focus of the retreat was to encourage senior adults to serve in their churches by sharing their lives and discipling younger generations.

Retreat attendees were encouraged by Jorge E. Díaz, who pastors Semilla de Mostaza Centro Familiar Internacional in El Paso and is also an author and lecturer who served at Casa Bautista de Publicaciones for 35 years. Diaz invited his listeners to accept the challenge of choosing to be happy through the renewal of the Holy Spirit. He also led the final session of the event, challenging senior adults to make disciples as they invest in the lives of others.

Fernando de Luna, pastor of First Mexican Baptist Church of Odessa, led worship, and Teodoro Perez, a pastor and humorist, led an evening of humor and dynamic activities for attendees.

The senior adult retreat also included:

  • David Galvan, who retired after 40 years as senior pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Dallas and was the first Hispanic to serve as vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Galvan taught about “Managing Your Spiritual Life” (Proverbs 4:23), which included topics such as assurance of salvation, learning Christian doctrine, living an exemplary life, and establishing a systematic time for God’s Word, prayer, and evangelism.
  • Frank Palos, who has an extensive background in stewardship and administration. He provided adults with information on how to be financially secure in retirement.
  • Roland Johnson, senior pastor at Primera Iglesia Bautista in Keller, who spoke about Alzheimer’s disease and encouraged the audience to make changes, take precautions, and live healthier lives through exercise and nutrition.
  • Hervin Antonio, who has been in ministry for 50 years and pastors Iglesia Bautista Maranata in Arlington. He talked about how senior adults can cope with the loss of a spouse by leaning on the promises of the Lord. He urged them to continue in the Lord’s work and surround themselves with family, friends, and siblings.
Asistentes al retiro de adultos mayores de SBTC en Español en un tiempo en adoración. FOTO COMPARTIDA

Come Away Pastor Wives Retreat

The retreat for the wives of senior pastors was held over three days, from March 30 to April 1. It was designed to provide a time of rest, fellowship, and training for the women.

“Pastors’ wives are … the most misunderstood because of the great burden that has been placed on their backs that they are not obligated to carry. … There are very few church members who really understand and comprehend their role in ministry,” Ávila said. “As a result, [many] isolate themselves and shut down because of their frustrations and disappointments.”

The retreat began with a concert of prayer led by Irma Ramos, who has served alongside her husband, Marcos, pastor of FBC Galena Park, for more than 40 years. Mrs. Ramos led the women in a time of worship, prayer, and confession based on Nehemiah 9:3, which shows that worshipping a holy God goes hand-in-hand with confessing sin.

Mrs. Ramos was also in charge of Friday’s campfire time, where she presented a study on “The Calling of One” based on Nehemiah and focusing on how God calls us individually.

“It was a privilege and a blessing for me to share these days with my sisters,” Mrs. Ramos said. “It was good to see some I already knew, and I was so happy to see so many young pastors’ wives.”

Clara Molina, retired teacher, speaker, and author of several books including Oh No! I Married the Pastor! shared several verses from Scripture to remind the pastors’ wives of the importance of rest. She also offered tools for the women to share the gospel.

Other speakers included:

  • Zoricelis Dávila, a psychotherapist and author of several books, including I Don’t Know What’s Wrong With Me. She led a dynamic session on “Reflection of the Inner Self,” which aimed to help the pastors’ wives analyze their emotions for the purposes of creating balance and setting boundaries.
  • Natalie Arzate, wife of Pastor Jose Arzate of Bridge Church in Richardson. In addition to leading worship, she taught a workshop on how to use technology in ministry.
  • Diana Puente, adjunct professor at Louisiana Baptist University and wife of Pastor Juan Puente, who serves as a Send Network planter at Lakes Church in Florida. She introduced the women to various Southern Baptist Convention resources available to them. She also taught the last session, “Live the Calling,” where she talked about the calling of pastors’ wives.
  • Carla Arriola, wife of Send Network SBTC Director Julio Arriola, who led conversations about the next generation and having healthy friendships.

The retreat concluded with a panel discussion featuring Ramos, Arzate, and Puente, who shared their experience as pastors’ wives and answered questions from attendees.


A moment of clarity, a lifetime of impact

After answering God’s call at M3 student camp, Texas native finds himself serving church plant in Colorado

Church planting intern Marco Baltazar has seen God work mightily through the local church and, particularly, student ministry. Called to ministry one summer during an M3 student camp in Austin when he was only 13, Marco, now 23, has been on an unexpected journey ever since.

“Time will tell,” Brandon Bales told Marco and other similarly called youth after that M3 camp a decade ago, explaining that if they were truly called to ministry, they wouldn’t want to do anything else. At that time, Bales, who now serves as student ministry associate and oversees M3 camps for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, was Marco’s youth pastor at Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Humble. 

During his freshman year of high school, while studying Ephesians 4:12-13, Marco realized he could think of no other future than
serving the church. 

After all, the church had always been there for him and his family. 

Marco’s father, Miguel, migrated to the U.S. from Mexico. His mother, Emma, was born in the Rio Grande Valley. They raised their four children in Houston and Emma took the kids to a small Hispanic Baptist church where Marco trusted Christ as Lord at age eight. The following year, most of the family started attending NEHBC, where Marco was baptized.

Marco’s father, raised Catholic, was uninvolved in church, but he did talk to his son about matters of faith over the years.

Baltazar joyfully baptizes his father, Miguel, at NEHBC in the summer of 2019.

“I have seen the Lord restore my family growing up, restore me, and use the local church to bless my family in times of need financially and relationally."

“He had stopped following God in any form or fashion,” Marco said. “I would tell him what Scripture said. We would talk about the Bible. The Lord just started to convict him.”

When Marco turned 19, the same year he started working as an apprentice pastor at NEHBC under then-pastor Nathan Lino, Miguel became a believer. Marco baptized his father at the church’s outdoor baptismal area in the summer of 2019—a joyous occasion.

“I have seen the Lord restore my family growing up, restore me, and use the local church to bless my family in times of need financially and relationally,” Marco said.

On-the-job training

During his two years working directly with Lino at NEHBC, Marco received a first-person view of the pastorate. He served as Lino’s personal assistant, getting an up-close look at what it takes to lead a church.

In addition to working part-time at NEHBC, Baltazar started college online, receiving tuition assistance from the national coffee company for which he still works, also part-time. 

“It’s not how I planned [college],” Marco said, “but it’s how the Lord orchestrated it.”

Neither had he planned a move out of state. But after NEHBC planted Cross Family Church in Parker, Colo., in 2019, Marco headed north to help in July 2021.

Cross Family, located 30 minutes south of Denver, has grown to 100-120 in Sunday services. As a part-time church planting staff intern, Marco occasionally preaches and regularly delivers announcements from the pulpit. He teaches and leads in the men’s ministry and has prepared and coordinated some of the church’s door-to-door outreaches. He has served in children’s ministry, too, gaining wisdom from the director of that department.

As a church planting intern at Cross Family, Baltazar gets opportunities to preach and fill various leadership and teaching roles.

“I’ve gotten to experience almost every area of ministry,” Marco said, adding that he even helped coordinate the work of three interns last summer.

He also continues to pursue his bachelor’s degree. The job gives him the opportunity to meet hundreds of people. “It’s been a blessing,” he said.

Not surprisingly, Marco said he feels called to one day be a senior pastor of a multiethnic church where he can preach in both English and Spanish. To continue preparing for that, he plans to move to Fort Worth this June, eventually enrolling at Southwestern Seminary after he completes his undergraduate degree.

Marco’s road to salvation began in the local church, but his call to ministry came at student camp, which he credits with providing opportunities to “develop deep relationships with people who are further along in the faith.” He credits those relationships, as well as his connection to Bales, as blessings the Lord has used to help him grow.

“I’ve had the privilege to see Marco come to faith, grow in his faith, be called to ministry, and be sent off as a missionary to help a church plant,” Bales said. “I’m proud to call him one of our former students. He does well to honor our Lord.”

Of M3 camp, Bales added, “A single moment in a camper’s life may become a lifetime of impact for the kingdom of God.”

Florida first responder sees career as spiritual calling

FORT PIERCE, Fla. (BP)—For Tommy Neiman, an award-winning firefighter and paramedic, the theme for his vocational calling has become about challenging first responders to be believers, and believers to be first responders.

Neiman described being fascinated with the lights and sirens of emergency vehicles as he was growing up. His curiosity would soon lead him to this spiritual calling.

“I remember following firetrucks and any vehicle with lights and sirens going as best as I could to find out where they were going,” Neiman said. “That intrigue led to me going into that kind of work full-time after college. I really felt that God’s calling in my life was to see the Lord work through my responses, and He certainly gives us the desires of our hearts.

“God is still using me in a very powerful, spiritual way to share His Word and to encourage others, even despite the tragedies and the emergencies that they’re going through.”

Although no longer working full time “on the line” as a firefighter and paramedic, Neiman still occasionally responds to calls if needed and helps with the training division of the St. Lucie County Fire Department.

Additionally, he has been ministering as a chaplain since his ordination in 1997 and currently serves as a staff associate at the South Beach Campus of Westside Church in Fort Pierce, Fla.

His decorated 30-year career includes being named 2003 Firefighter of the Year in Florida and doing chaplaincy ministry at Ground Zero in the wake of 9/11.

Neiman explained the numerous emergency calls throughout his career have provided clarity that spiritual opportunities could happen at any time.

One example came when an emergency call resulted in Neiman visiting the house next door to his childhood home.

As his old neighbor was dying of cancer, Neiman would have the chance to pray with and minister to this neighbor, with whom he’d had a negative relationship years before.

“[This emergency call] kind of made me look at my career in a new light in seeing that any call I go on, I didn’t want to take for granted and just go through the call,” Neiman said.

“I would always really have a consciousness that God could be doing something or I could be used some way spiritually on the call.

“It just seems like a lot of calls that I had you could just clearly see God’s presence on the scenes in one way or another or His divine appointments by the impact that it had.”

This realization would launch Neiman into his next stage of ministry as a writer. In 2000, Neiman compiled several noteworthy emergency calls from his career into a book titled “Sirens for the Cross.”

The book has since been updated several times. The latest version, published in 2019, features more than 15 stories from Neiman’s career.

The book’s website features endorsements from former SBC presidents Adrian Rogers (former pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis), Jack Graham (senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church near Dallas) as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and famous Southern Baptist cartoonist Joe McKeever.

Neiman eventually started his own ministry organization based around encouraging first responders also titled “Sirens for the Cross.” He has spoken at more than 400 churches, often on nights when the church would be recognizing the first responders in their congregation.

His latest project is a children’s academic workbook titled “Rookie Rescuer: Learning about God and ‘First Responder’ work through real calls!”

The fill-in-the-blank book is designed for second- to sixth-grade students. Neiman hopes it can be used to help them learn about and be inspired by first responding to work like he was as a child.

“I could take children on the scenes with me and not only share with them those spiritual truths and encouragement but also give them practical information and knowledge about actual first-responder work,” Neiman said.

Through the “Sirens for the Cross” ministry, Neiman developed the theme of challenging first responders to be believers, and believers to be first responders.

Much like a first responder should be sensitive to spiritual opportunities on the scenes they respond to, all Christians should be sensitive to spiritual opportunities which may be around them each day.

“I really felt like God had placed me in this role and because He fulfilled my desire to be a career first responder, then I would serve Him through it,” he said.

Southern Baptists host National Day of Prayer events, release prayer guide

WASHINGTON (BP)—Kie Bowman, who is helping the SBC Executive Committee develop a national prayer strategy, quotes a common saying of EC Interim President and CEO Willie McLaurin: “If we don’t make prayer our main business, we’ll soon be out of business.”

A diversity of Southern Baptists will join the nation in prayer on National Day of Prayer (NDOP) May 4, leading and joining in prayer events in churches, civic spaces, businesses and homes. The EC has released a one-page guide as a publicly available resource for the day.

“The prayer guide is based on this year’s theme and text for the National Day of Prayer but has been tailored to fit our unique interests as Southern Baptists,” Bowman told Baptist Press. “A guide is a prompt. It’s like a springboard to help us dive into prayer with specificity around those themes. It can be used, therefore, for personal or group prayer as we join millions of others around the United States in prayer.”

Southern Baptists “recognize the depth of the need in America,” Bowman said, “and the great opportunity to join our hearts with believers from many parts of the Christian family across the country, in urgently crying out to God for the Nation we love.”

“Pray Fervently in Righteousness and Avail Much” is the 2023 NDOP theme, based on James 5:16. The national observance will be livestreamed and broadcast on multiple outlets at 8 p.m. Eastern from the Museum of the Bible in Washington. Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, is among several ministers on program for the event.

Southern Baptist churches within and outside the traditional Bible Belt are among churches of various denominations hosting events.

At Epic Church in urban North Seattle, pastor Keith Carpenter will host a prayer gathering at 7 p.m. Pacific of the 20 churches in the interdenominational North Seattle United pastors’ coalition. The pastors are in the habit of gathering bimonthly for prayer.

“We’ve been praying in the city now for six years as churches, every other month, going around the city and praying at different churches,” Carpenter said. “This just made sense to put in what we’re already doing. We’re not trying to come up with something new.

“Our city and our country need some serious prayer and we need to turn to God in this time of national chaos. It really draws our churches and our ministries together, here in the city of Seattle. Praying together is really, really important.”

NDOP promotes seven pillars of prayer focused on the government, military, media, business, education, church and family.

First Baptist Church of Marlborough, Mass., will host a community-wide prayer gathering from 7-8 p.m. in downtown Marlborough, pastor Logan Loveday said.

“Our goal is to bring churches together across network lines for a focused one-hour prayer gathering. There will be no speakers, bands, or highlighting any specific church,” Loveday said. “We are working with the motto “no platforms, just prayer.”

The event will feature prayer stations at various points in the sanctuary where attendees can offer prayers focused on specific categories, praying aloud or silently, whether alone or in small impromptu groups.

“The churches in our city are very connected and do similar group things,” Loveday said, “but the goal of this is to join in spirit with others all over the country praying for specific requests. We know this will continue to build Christian unity and Gospel impact in our region.”

The NDOP is an official day on the SBC calendar, and prayer is an official ministry assignment of the EC.

“Prayer moves the hand that moves the world,” Bowman said. “In 2021 Southern Baptists meeting in Nashville gave the Executive Committee the ‘assignment’ of prayer – a special opportunity among all of our entities. We should thank God for that and maximize every opportunity to pray.”

Access the NDOP livestream here, catch the event on the NDOP Facebook page, watch the event on NDOP broadcast partners DayStar, GodTV, NRBTV and CBN News, or listen on the Bott Radio Network.

In addition to Graham, the national event will include host Kathy Branzell, president of the NDOP task force; cohost Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; noted pastor, author and ministry leader Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas; LeCrae; Barry Black, chaplain of the U.S. Senate, and others.

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

Arab Southern Baptist pastors find rest, rejuvenation at conference

GRAPEVINE—Many Texans have a general understanding they live in one of the most diverse states in the nation. What they may be less aware of is how many Arabic-speaking Southern Baptist churches exist in the Lone Star State.

Suffice to say, an even smaller number understand the difficulties Southern Baptist Arab pastors and their families face: disconnect from their native communities, adjusting to a new culture, the struggles inherent to a minority immigrant population—not to mention the burden of shepherding their churches and finding opportunities to share the gospel with the half-million Muslims who call Texas home.

Lack of a support system to face those challenges is what drove Ra’id Al Safadi, pastor of Arabic Baptist Church in San Antonio, to form the Arab Pastors Network, which held its third-annual conference in April at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s offices.

Al Safadi said the purpose of the conference was multi-faceted: to help build community among Arab pastors who often struggle to connect, to provide training and resources to equip and encourage them to focus on their calling as they face countless challenges, and, simply, to give them time to rest. One pastor and wife at this year’s conference, Al Safadi said, had not had a vacation in 15 years.

Ra’id Al Safadi, pastor of Arabic Baptist Church in San Antonio, said his own experiences of isolation and struggle in the ministry led him to form the Arab Pastors Network. SBTC PHOTO

“The idea is really just to be together with like-minded pastors, to hug each other, and to tell each other we understand each other’s challenges,” Al Safadi said. “It’s a big deal because they’ve never had anything like this before.”

The conference drew 19 pastors and their wives (a total of 36 people) who came not only from across Texas, but from 10 states and Canada. Six countries were represented: Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Eritrea, and Lebanon.

Bruno Molina, SBTC language and interfaith evangelism associate, delivered a message from John 17 on the opening day of the three-day conference. The theme of his message, he said, was that “the prosperity of our unity is for the purpose of partnership to the glory of God.” He explained that Christ is the basis of our unity and that the purpose of that unity is fruitfulness that leads to personal transformation as believers grow into the likeness of Christ. Those factors combine to lead followers of Jesus to partner with one another to share the gospel with those who are lost—bringing glory to God.

Molina noted that all coins manufactured for monetary use in the U.S. have inscribed on them the Latin phrase, “E pluribus unum,” which means, “Out of many, one.”

“Though many countries are represented here today, we are one in Christ,” Molina said. “No matter what our ethnicity, no matter what our language … our culture should express the love and character of Christ.”

Echoing the theme of unity, SBTC Executive Director Nathan Lorick encouraged the pastors and their wives and said he prayed they would experience the presence of God at the conference so they could continue to have gospel influence in the places the Lord has called them.

“Here at the SBTC, we live by the phrase: ‘Reaching Texas and Impacting the World Together,’” Lorick said. “You being here is an extension of reaching the world together from your cities and communities all around the globe.”

SBC Executive Committee declines Wellman recommendation, forms new search committee

DALLAS (BP)—In an unprecedented move, the SBC Executive Committee (EC) did not affirm the candidate nominated by the group’s Presidential Search Committee. Jared Wellman, the EC’s former chairman, did not receive the votes needed to become its next president and CEO.

“It’s been one of the greatest honors of my life to serve the Southern Baptist Convention through the Executive Committee,” Wellman told the group after the vote total was announced.

He said his “heart is with” the EC as it serves in the days ahead.

Calling it an honor to lead the search committee, Adron Robinson said, “The committee worked hard to serve the Executive Committee by presenting the candidate that we felt was qualified to lead the Executive Committee in these turbulent times.”

“We respect the decision of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we commit to praying for the new search committee as they begin their work,” he told Baptist Press in a written statement.

Tensions surrounding the vote included the fact that Wellman was a member of the search committee until he recused himself Jan. 26. He had served as an ex-officio member of the search team since June 2022 when he was elected EC chairman. He had served on the EC since 2015 before stepping down in mid-April.

EC members met that Grand Hyatt DFW in executive session as mandated by EC bylaws. The meeting was held in a hybrid format with 11 members joining by Zoom.

The vote total was 50 voting against the recommendation of Wellman and 31 voting in favor. There were 81 members present in the meeting.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed about the outcome of today but I’m hopeful for the future as the new committee begins their work,” said David Sons, EC chairman and member of the previous president search committee.

Sons pledged to do all he could to help ensure the EC can find its new president.

“I am incredibly thankful for the eight years that Dr. Wellman served as an SBC EC Trustee,” said Willie McLaurin who will continue to serve as EC interim president/CEO.

“It was my joy to serve alongside him as he chaired the Executive Committee this past year. I will be praying for Jared and his family.”

SBC President Bart Barber told Baptist Press, “The sentiment of the Executive Committee was unanimous that Jared Wellman is a godly man, a good Southern Baptist, and a strong leader. Whatever the outcome was going to be today, there were going to be some people who celebrated it and some people who mourned it.

“Everyone can see now that the Executive Committee is not a rubber stamp. It is a collection of people who take seriously our polity and who vote their conscience.”

The EC elected a new presidential search committee, according to EC bylaws.

Search committee members are:

  • Corey Cain (Tennessee)
  • Neal Hughes (Alabama)
  • Drew Landry (Virginia)
  • Sarah Rogers (South Carolina)
  • Nick Sandefur (Kentucky)
  • Nancy Spalding (Michigan)
  • David Sons (South Carolina), ex-officio

McLaurin called on Southern Baptists to pray for the newly-elected search committee members.

“Now is the time for Southern Baptists to unite around living out the great commandment and fulfilling the Great Commission,” he said.

The next meeting of the Executive Committee is scheduled for Monday, June 12, just before the kickoff of the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

This article originally appeared on Baptist Press.

What’s your story? Even when we wanted to leave, God showed us a better plan

In 2003, my fiancé, David (who is now my husband), and I were debating on whether to put down roots in Texas or go to Oklahoma. As we were praying about it, I was really convicted because we weren’t in church even though I knew we needed to be. During the time I was praying for guidance, we were driving down the road not far from my mom’s house in Euless and I saw a church I had to have passed dozens of times but had never noticed before. It was North Euless Baptist Church.

When we visited, it immediately felt like home. We met a man, Blake McKamie, who became a friend right off the bat and, since we were 19 and 20, we fell into the large college and career group. It was about 40 people at that time. It was a booming little church, about 300 people, including children.

About three years later, our pastor left and we called a new pastor who had been serving as the youth pastor at the time. The church was kind of holding steady, losing a few members here and there, but nothing too dramatic. It wasn’t long after that, as senior citizens passed away and families started moving away, that different conflicts arose in the church. We had some pretty hard business meetings related to the style of music, how we were going to afford to fix the air conditioners that were broken, and even how to pay our utility bills. 

Within a few short years, the church dwindled to about 60-80 people. But by God’s grace, we didn’t split. Still, the ministry just kind of became ineffective. At one point, we were like, “Maybe it’s time to start looking for another church.” We were praying about that, and every time I was at peace with the idea, David said, “Let’s give it a little bit longer.” And when I would get to that same point where I was at peace staying, David would be ready to go. 

Casey Lewis was on staff at First Keller before joining Foundation Baptist Church as one of its pastors.

I’m glad I didn’t quit my church and trusted God’s plan for the future even when it was scary to let the old church go. There were some hard times that made me want to leave, but I know staying was God’s best plan for us.

I mean, I even had my resignation letter written and kept it with me every Sunday. There was one Sunday I had put that letter on the pastor’s desk while he was in the sanctuary getting ready to preach. When it was offering time, the Lord made it super clear to me that it was not time to go, so I discreetly got up and pulled my little letter off his desk. So we kept going and kept serving as the Lord led us, waiting for Him to give us direction and unity in the decision about when to leave.

Then, in 2012, our pastor was called to lead another church. At that time, I was the head of the personnel committee, our friend, Blake, was chairman of the deacons, and then we had our worship leader. The three of us suddenly found ourselves in the most senior positions, being the heads of these ministries. We got together to pray and were like, “OK, what’s next?”

We decided to ask Ted Elmore to meet with us, and the church called him as our interim pastor. At that point, our church’s vision was to get an interim pastor, hoping maybe a third party could give us an idea of how we could resurrect the church and bring it back from the brink of death. Ted did a really good job of coming in and triaging the situation and giving us a lot of good insight. 

But the congregation was pretty worn out and membership had fallen to 30 or 40 people. We were just a few people and we were all wearing many hats, doing a lot to try to stay alive. Even David and I were worn out. In addition to leading the personnel committee, I was co-leading the women’s ministry, and on many Sundays, working in the nursery. David was a deacon, teaching a class, working with our audio/visual equipment, and serving on our building and grounds team. All the while, we were working full-time jobs and raising a special needs kid. 

In 2013, Ted brought up the subject of replanting our church with First Baptist Church of Keller. After much prayer and many meetings, God led our members to go through with the replant and close North Euless Baptist Church in 2014. While the church was closed for renovations, everyone from North Euless attended First Keller. They were so gracious, they even sent a bus each week so we could ride to their building during this transition time.

That’s when we were introduced to Casey Lewis, one of the youth pastors at First Keller who ended up being the founding pastor of Foundation Baptist Church, our replanted church in Euless. It was when we met Casey and his wife, Amy, that we were glad we didn’t quit our church. It was an incredible blessing to see people excited about doing ministry in our community again.

Today, the church is growing steadily in faith, maturity, and numbers. We became autonomous in June 2020 and voted to call Blake as our second pastor, serving alongside Casey. We average between 90-100 each Sunday, have seen three people baptized already this year, and have at least two more baptisms scheduled in the next few weeks. In June, David and I will celebrate 20 years of worshipping and serving God in that building.

So what’s my story? I’m glad I didn’t quit my church and trusted God’s plan for the future even when it was scary to let the old church go. There were some hard times that made me want to leave, but I know staying was God’s best plan for us.

What's your story?

Want to share a story of what God is doing in your life or your church? 

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Taking your VBS to the next level

Vacation Bible School is an enriching time when various volunteers from all parts of the church join together to plan and lead a special event with one theme in mind—sharing the gospel with children. I was one of those church kids who accepted Christ as my Savior during VBS at age 9. I love VBS! 

Though fewer parents are taking their families to church on Sundays, many will bring their children to VBS. The week of concentrated Bible study, worship, missions, fellowship, and salvation opportunities continues to be the most “immediate practical way of increasing the Bible study time for our children,” Landry Holmes wrote in his 2018 book, It’s Worth It.

After 125 years planning, creating, training, sharing, fellowshipping, and teaching, what could take this evangelism opportunity to the next level of excellence? 

"Before finding a leader or director, purchasing curriculum, or recruiting teachers, enlist a prayer team of three to five people to lead the church in praying for VBS."


In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul instructs us to “pray without ceasing.” The entire VBS experience needs to be immersed in prayer from beginning to end, from recruitment to follow-up.

Before finding a leader or director, purchasing curriculum, or recruiting teachers, enlist a prayer team of three to five people to lead the church in praying for VBS. Consider asking volunteers who cannot attend VBS to be diligent in weekly prayer. Explain to these individuals that prayer is one of the most important parts of VBS and their consistent prayers are needed before, during, and even after the event. 

Faith and salvation conversations 

Faith conversations could happen when a child, while walking from one activity to the next, asks a volunteer questions about God, church, faith, etc. The volunteer may comment on how God blessed the day with sunshine and warm weather. This one comment may begin a casual conversation about God and faith. Leaders need to be trained to become active listeners so they can purposefully converse with children in these casual faith conversations. 

Other times, children want to talk specifically about salvation. Sharing the gospel with children should be a part of VBS training for all leaders and volunteers. We should never assume adults know how to share the gospel with children.


Follow-up is the icing on the cake, the bow on the gift, the finishing touches on a well-executed plan. Most people would not only say follow-up is important, but that it is the most forgotten part of VBS.

Follow-up with visitors may simply be sending an invitation to the family for future church events or leaving a goodie bag at their home. For non-attending members, a phone call, card, email, goodie bag, or other type of communication can deliver an important message: “We miss you!”

The most important follow-up efforts involve contacting families whose child became a Christian during VBS. An arranged, in-person visit from church leaders is most effective. This visit allows the leaders to talk with the parents and child about the child’s decision to follow Christ. It is also a good opportunity to discuss the child’s baptism. Perhaps the family does not attend church. This visit helps parents know they are welcome at your church and gives them a place for their child’s baptism. Follow-up matters.