KINGWOOD Messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention annual meeting Nov. 12-13 approved a motion to study ministry to special needs families and also recognized Jim Richards for his two decades of service as SBTC executive director.
The special needs motion was made by messenger Lee Peoples, pastor of Heights Baptist Church in Alvin, and asks the SBTC Executive Board to study “the needs of special needs families and develop a strategy for equipping churches to minister to special needs families and reach them with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The executive board will study the topic and issue a report to next year’s annual meeting, Oct. 28-29, at First Baptist Church in Odessa.
Peoples quoted census data showing that one in five people in the U.S. have a disability. Families with special needs, he said, “are less likely to come to church than a typical family.” For example, a child with autism is less likely to attend church than a child without autism, according to LifeWay Research data.
“Special needs families could be considered one of the largest unreached people groups in the United States,” Peoples said. “As Christ followers, we must do what Jesus did: See the needs of others and go to them. It was Jesus who constantly ministered to the blind, the deaf, the lame and the leper. It was Jesus who accepted those who were constantly fighting for a place in our society. When we reach out to special needs families, we provide them with the hope of the gospel and the support of a community as well.”
Peoples’ youngest son was diagnosed with autism in 2010.
“We quickly learned as a family that we do not always fit into the norms of society as a special needs family,” he said. “We constantly have to fight for what we receive—whether it is insurance, service in schools [or] acceptance.”
Churches, he added, should “never be a place in which a special needs family has to fight to be accepted.”
“Let us make churches a place where we strive to reach all people no matter their ability level,” Peoples said.
He urged messengers to “be on the forefront of reaching families like mine with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
In other business, messengers:
- Approved the “East Texas area” as the location of the 2021 annual meeting. The site selection will be made by SBTC staff according to meeting space needs and hotel availability.
- Approved Andrew Hebert, pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, as preacher of the 2019 convention sermon. Messengers approved Mack Roller, pastor of Glen Meadows Baptist Church in San Angelo, as the alternate.
- Approved a budget of $28,881,116, an increase of $938 over the previous year’s budget. Fifty-five percent of undesignated receipts will continue to be forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention while 45 percent will remain in Texas for SBTC ministries. The 55 percent forwarded to the SBC is the largest percentage of any state convention.
Richards was recognized for the 20th anniversary of his election as executive director of the SBTC, which was formed the same year (1998) he took the role. Messengers watched a video from past SBTC leaders thanking Richards for his service.
Rocky Weatherford, board chairman from 1999 to 2001, recalled a conversation he had with Richards the day Richards became executive director.
“I can remember telling you that day that if God called you to this, you needed to forget all the disagreement and just go on and go forward. Follow where God leads,” Weatherford said. “And you answered and you did that and you’ve done that for the last 20 years. I’m really grateful for what you’ve done. I know that God called you there and God used you for his glory. And like Paul Harvey says, the rest is history.”