Afew weeks ago, Caleb Fleming—pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Sherman—received news that someone he loves was facing a potentially serious medical diagnosis.
He instinctively reached out to the leadership team of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Young Pastors Network (YPN), of which he is a member. Within minutes, he said his phone began “going off” with messages from team members committing to pray for his family.
“It is seriously overwhelming, the depth of friendship and fellowship we get to enjoy by being part of the Young Pastors Network,” he said. “YPN is one of the most life-giving things I have been able to be a part of. I am so thankful the SBTC sees the value of investing in us young guys.”
The Young Pastors Network consists of SBTC pastors 40 years old or younger. It provides networking and leadership development opportunities and is headed by Spencer Plumlee, pastor of First Baptist Church of Mansfield. YPN gathers twice a year—at the Empower Conference held each February, and at the SBTC Annual Meeting, which is scheduled this year for November 14-15 at American Bank Center in Corpus Christi. Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville who was recently elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, will give the keynote address at the YPN’s Annual Meeting gathering.
The YPN has three main objectives, Plumlee said: to encourage pastors, to connect members with other pastors across the state, and to empower young pastors to have a voice in shaping the future of the SBTC.
YPN offers a Young Pastor Cohort led by an experienced mentor who coaches young pastors in the areas of soul care, preaching, church leadership, and more. Those groups consist of 7-10 young pastors each and meet four times over a two-year period.
Matt Bowles, pastor of Ovilla Road Baptist Church in Ovilla, said he got a later start in ministry than many of his peers, having been called as a youth pastor in his 30s. He was called to serve as Ovilla Road’s senior pastor a couple of years ago knowing he still had much to learn about how to lead a church while at the same time facing the reality that “many people think senior pastors are supposed to have all the answers.”
“I can’t express how soothing it is to be able to ask other pastors questions, share struggles, and realize that you really are not that crazy,” Bowles said, “and that things that happened and problems you face are not always as unique as you think they are.”
Bowles recalled attending a dinner with YPN members at last year’s annual meeting that provided an opportunity for those present to talk about the joys and challenges of ministry.
“We sat around and told crazy stories about things that happen to us in our churches, and we praised God for placing us in those churches,” he said. “We laughed at those crazy things and all expressed that we felt like the luckiest guys alive to be called to do what we do. [Pastoring is] hard—but we are not alone.”