Euless, Texas ? The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention recently named Rita Kirkland, director of media services at First Baptist Church, Euless, as state church library consultant. Kirkland will help SBTC churches with current library needs or help in starting new library ministries.
Kirkland has been a librarian since 1966, serving as the director of the church library at First Baptist Euless since 1979. Although this is a new consulting position for the SBTC, Kirkland is no stranger to helping churches with library ministry problems. When she isn’t enforcing the Dewey Decimal System at her home church, she’s takes her expertise on the road as one of only four media consultants for Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Kirkland also speaks at conferences across the country in this capacity.
Before taking the position with the SBTC, Kirkland served the Baptist General Convention of Texas in library resources, a position she occupied since 1985.
Kirkland said she hopes to rid SBTC churches of the negative stigma attached to church libraries being musty-smelling converted closets containing a hodgepodge of unwanted books. The idea of an unused church library filled with books that nobody wants to read is a sore topic for Kirkland.
“We represent the Lord Jesus Christ,” she said. “We are not a ministry of castoffs and hand-me-downs.”
She believes that the church library should be considered a vital part of the ministry of the church. The books and resources in the library should show “that we reflect him in all that we do,” according to Kirkland.
Kirkland will seek to demonstrate to churches the vital ministry role the library can and should play in the local church.
“The library is an excellent form of evangelistic outreach to the church body and the community,” she said, adding that the library is the only organization that is capable of ministering to the entire church. From the preschoolers, who first learn about Jonah and the giant fish through popup books, to moms and dads who get advice on how to raise a child, the church library can touch the lives of all its members.
Kirkland has seen this impact the lives of many, including the unsaved. She tells the story of a woman ? a non-Christian ? who began attending First Euless. The woman wanted to find some Christian fiction to replace her Harlequin Romance novels. A transformation took place after Kirkland introduced her to wholesome books. The Holy Spirit used the words on the pages to introduce the woman to the Savior.
The Christian message can be found in almost every genre of Christian literature from inspiration, to books on parenting, to the growing field of Christian fiction, she said. There are books for almost any literary appetite on the Christian bookshelves today.
As an SBTC consultant, Kirkland will travel throughout the state helping churches establish library ministries and training those who will assist those ministries. She will work with individual churches as well as conducting conferences where other media ministers can network and attend specialized training.
Kirkland will immediately begin working toward her two main objectives for the church library ministries around the state: 1) For Texas to be the number one church library state, and 2) Helping church libraries become an evangelistic outreach tool to the local church and the community.
What can a local church do to help their library ministry succeed? Kirkland believes there are three key elements in creating a successful library ministry.
First, as with any organization, good communication is vital. Kirkland suggests the church staff communicate to the congregation what types of resources the local church library has to offer. Another suggestion is for a pastor to let the library staff know what topic he’ll be preaching about on Sunday mornings, so the library staff can display books and other resources pertaining to that topic.
Second, a church library must have a budget that reflects the size and people of the church. A church library must have the funds to keep the ministry current and relevant.
Third, a successful library must have a dedicated staff that sees the vision and understands how the library can benefit the church. There is no age requirement ? or restriction ? when it comes to who can serve in the church library. All it takes is individuals who care and want to make this ministry truly that?a ministry, she said.
What about the smaller church that can’t afford a large library?
“There’s no such thing as a small church,” Mrs. Kirkland said. She said every local church is in the business of serving God.
According to Kirkland, even if a church has just a few books that fit into a basket that are brought to the church each weekend, the library ministry can flourish.
Kirkland also believes a good library should be stocked with plenty of good books and other resources for the members. “The church library should be a place where a child can finish his homework,” she said. “We’re not in competition with the public libraries, but we would prefer to keep them out of the them