More than a decade ago, Chris Osborne, longtime pastor of Central Baptist Church in Bryan-College Station, saw a need for mentoring and follow-up for the young men from the large, college-town congregation who had been called to full-time pastoral ministry.  

Osborne has helped guide dozens of young men into the pulpit over his 26 years at Central, most of them Texas A&M Aggies. Osborne’s wife, Peggy, said they have lost count at well over 100 men and women serving as pastors, missionaries and in other ministries who were active collegians at Central.     
“When we were young in the ministry, we had no one to go to. We had to figure things out on our own,” Chris Osborne recalled telling Peggy.

As a pastor’s wife, Peggy Osborne knows the difficulties of young pastors. She told the TEXAN that although pastors can “share a lot” with their deacon bodies or staffs, there are limits to such sharing. “What do you do when [certain] situations happen in your church? How do you handle staff? How do you lead them?”

Young pastors face challenges dealing with their own families, raising kids, keeping their marriages strong. “They will hit hard times,” she said. “We didn’t want to see our young men and their wives getting discouraged.”  

Thus, 11 years ago, Central Baptist began sponsoring its yearly gathering for these pastors and their wives at the Resort at Tapatio Springs, nestled in the Texas Hill Country near Boerne. The location is a draw; the resort hosts golf tournaments, concerts and private events. Participants simply call it “Tapatio” or the CAPS (Central Aggie Pastors) retreat.

“It was the quickest thing that ever passed a deacons’ meeting,” recalled Chris Osborne about Central’s initial commitment to the retreat. “An older deacon got up and said, ‘We should have been doing this years ago.’” The vote was unanimous.

Central Baptist continues to pay for the Hill Country weekend, including lodging and meals for the pastors and their wives. Participants must arrange their own transportation to Boerne, but otherwise they incur no expenses.

The prerequisites for participation: one must have attended Central Baptist and must currently be the pastor of a church. While some attendees come from out of state, all Texas participants are pastors of SBTC churches of varying sizes, from small congregations to megachurches. The group, which started with four couples, has grown to 15 couples, including the Osbornes.

The young men have a lot of connections, Peggy said. In addition to their involvement at Central and choice of vocation, all were students at Texas A&M.    

Kevin Ueckert, pastor of South Side Baptist in Abilene, was a college minister at Central Baptist when the retreat started. “Chris’s vision was to continue to equip and encourage pastors. That Central would continue to foot the bill even though we are long gone from the church is unbelievable,” said Ueckert, who, with Nathan Lino of Northeast Houston Baptist Church, helps Chris Osborne map out the plan for each year’s retreat.

“We are indebted to Central Baptist for providing this ministry to us,” Lino commented. “Central is amazing when it comes to supporting missionaries and pastors who come out of their church. For Central, out of sight is not out of mind.”

Ueckert added, “Guys say this is the most valuable weekend they spend all year for their churches and marriages.”

It is not just a weekend of R&R.

“The vast majority of the time is spent with the men meeting with Chris and the wives meeting with Peggy,” Lino said. Pastors and wives arrive on Thursday afternoon. After dinner, the men and women split into separate groups for sessions. Separate morning meetings follow Friday breakfast. The women head to the Peach Tree Café in Boerne for lunch and then a free afternoon of shopping, fellowship or resting while the men participate in an afternoon session at Tapatio. Saturday features much the same schedule except that the men have a free afternoon for golf or other activities while the women have a book exchange at the home of a local Christian photographer.

Evening meals at local restaurants—where the rule is that couples must eat with different people each night—are followed by sessions as well. The retreat concludes Sunday with a time of teaching and prayer led by Chris Osborne

The sessions are demanding. “Chris has cultivated an environment with the men that really sharpens us on several levels, as Peggy has with our wives,” Lino said. “We are challenged and held accountable. We evaluate each other’s philosophy of ministry and preaching. We discuss trends going on in the church world. We discuss different scenarios pastors face. We also spend a lot of time discussing our marriages and fatherhood/parenting. Chris is interested in our being effective husbands and fathers [as well as] effective pastors,” Lino said.

The group reads books and other material in advance of the retreat, and each man submits a sermon to be read and critiqued by the others.

“We don’t pull punches,” Chris Osborne remarked.

 “It is very much a ‘lion’s den,’” affirmed Nathan Lino, who added, “If you just want to be patted on the back and told ‘Good job,’ you probably won’t like it. But if you want peers who love you and will be very honest with you so you can grow and be sharpened, it is a fantastic experience.”

“It’s good for me, too,” said Chris Osborne, who insists that the retreat has been a blessing for him. “At 60, you can be kind of old school. These guys help me learn what’s working out there.”

If the men are challenged and encouraged by the weekend, the women benefit equally. According to Lino, “My wife, Nicole, often says if she could pick one resource to equip her as a pastor’s wife, she would select her time with Peggy.” Ueckert’s wife, Lynlee, has said that the retreat “brings life” into her soul. Peggy Osborne sees her role as that of encourager and “mom.” Topics discussed include how the wives can better support their husbands. The women are encouraged to share what God is teaching them individually.

“I learn much more than they do,” Peggy said. “I get so inspired! I don’t worry about the future of the church when I see what God is doing with these young men and women.”

The women’s book exchange has become a retreat favorite, with Beth Coyle, a Boerne-area photographer, opening her  Hill Country home to the group for the Saturday event. Even that connection is remarkable. Peggy, a fan of Coyle’s work, contacted her last year to see if she would be exhibiting her work at a local craft fair. During the ensuing conversation, both women discovered common ties (Peggy had taught school with Beth’s mother), and Coyle volunteered her home for the book exchange.

The 2013 CAPS retreat is already scheduled for next May. Pastors Osborne, Lino, and Ueckert all confirm that the retreat has fostered deep friendship among the men and their families. Some couples vacation together. The men fill one another’s pulpits. They go on mission trips together. Perhaps most important, the men and women are modeling in their own churches what they have learned from the Osbornes.

“Several of us are very intentionally spending time discipling guys called to ministry from our own churches,” Kevin Ueckert said. “I’ve got guys who are pastoring churches asking me, ‘When are you going to start Tapatio for us?’ It’s a question we are asking at my church. How will we be investing in the young pastors with whom we have a relationship?”

Chris and Peggy Osborne said they are happy to share with other churches what they’ve done at Tapatio. They may be contacted through the Central Baptist Church website:

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