HOUSTON Described as “leadership training for all aspects of ministry,” this year’s EQUIP church ministry conference will include more than 90 speakers and some 260 breakout sessions covering an expanded range of ministry contexts.
Organizers for the Aug. 10 event at Houston’s Champion Forest Baptist Church, sponsored by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, hope to exceed in number the 1,600 people who attended last year’s conference at North Richland Hills Baptist Church near Fort Worth. This year’s theme is “Reaching Gen Z.”
“This year we’ll also have Spanish-language, Korean-language and black-culture equipping tracks,” Mark Yoakum, SBTC’s director of church ministries, told the TEXAN. “We have a particularly strong lineup this year in preschool and children’s ministry, with offerings such as ‘How to Teach Kids When They Can’t Stop Wiggling.’
“We’ll have four sessions on ministering to special-needs kids,” Yoakum said. “In the youth area there’s a session on ‘Teens and God’s Design for Gender’ and a session on ‘Ministry for Spiritual Orphans,’ aimed at leaders of teens who attend church without their parents.”
EQUIP 2019 will include 20 breakout sessions in the Spanish-language track led by ten session leaders; 12 Asian ministry sessions led by five different speakers, including four specifically for pastors; 32 sessions for churches that worship in the black church context, led by nine different speakers, and much more. The 260 breakout sessions will cover 21 ministry categories (see sbtexas.com/equip for a complete list).
Keynote speaker Steve Parr is expected to address his current research on “Gen Z,” those born since 2001. In 2015, Parr wrote Why They
Strayed/Stayed, addressing Millennials’ spiritual attitudes. Parr, vice president of staff coordination and development for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, was well received at last year’s Heart of the Child Conference, Yoakum noted.
“A lot of people are talking about Millennials—those born between 1985 and 2000—but not many are focusing on those born since,” Yoakum said. “The older people get, the harder it is to reach them. If we can reach them for Christ as children and teens, they’ve got a whole lifetime to serve him, and if we don’t reach them now, it’s going to be harder and harder to reach them.”
EQUIP is attractive to church volunteers who work during the week because it is a one-day training, said Sonny Hathaway, pastor of LaBelle Baptist Church in Beaumont.
“I like that in my role as an Ephesians 4 equipper, the SBTC is committed to come alongside me in helping our leaders and future leaders grow in their confidence and passion for the church,” Hathaway said, referring to Ephesians 4:12-13, which speaks of the pastoral role “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up … to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
“The number and quality of the breakouts is top notch,” Hathaway continued. “I’ve been in pastoral ministry at churches of all sizes and I can tell you that any pastor and/or church would benefit from sending their volunteers to EQUIP.”
In 2014, SBTC leaders began hand-delivering the promotional materials for the conference, including the EQUIP program, to churches within a 60-mile radius of the host church. The conference alternates between sites in north and south Texas.
“Now it’s just grown by word of mouth,” Yoakum said. “We bring in some of the best speakers and leaders available. This is probably the number one training event in the nation for lay leaders.”
Breakout sessions include age-graded, as well as gender-, culture- and ministry-based categories.
“Leading with Love” will be led by Janice Pender, pastor’s wife at Fallbrook Baptist Church in Houston, a fast-growing church that worships in a black cultural context. “Tightening the Marriage Knot” is another in EQUIPs “women’s category.” Among topics in men’s ministry: “Reaching Men Who Don’t Fit in Your Box” and “The Father’s Family Blessing on a Post-Modern Family.”
For pastors: “Marks of a Mentor” and “Preaching with Relevance,” “Black Church Revitalization,” “Jumpstarting your Church,” and “Introducing Change without Blowing Up Your Church.”
There are 20 sessions planned on ministering to families that tackle single-parenthood, blended families, ministering to those who parent grandchildren, and engaging families who have alternative lifestyles.
Charles Draper of Houston-area Spring Baptist Church told the TEXAN it’s important to him to be able to take his entire teaching team to an affordable conference that gives them access to “top-notch ministry leaders from all over Texas and the United States.”
The $10 per person pre-registration incudes a Chick-Fil-A box lunch. It’s $15 per person the day of the event, which opens for registration at 8 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 10. The first session starts at 8:45 a.m.