By Rick Bennett
Is your church conference going the way of all the Earth?
In Joshua 23:14, the leader Joshua tells the Israelite leadership that he is about to “go the way of all the earth.” Sometimes, when I’m sitting in our quarterly church conference meetings, I can’t help but wonder the same about this Baptist tradition so seemingly essential to the priesthood of all believers and local church autonomy. While I’m certain that in the 1950s attendance at church conference was significantly better, today it draws an average of 25 people out of an average worship attendance of 138.
As a strategy for increasing attendance, our church moved quarterly church conference to the traditional Sunday School hour on the advice of a consultant two years ago. Initially the captive audience complied, but increasingly classes are electing to remain in their classrooms and study rather than to gather for the plenary session in the fellowship hall.
This trend was recently acknowledged in our monthly deacons meeting, prompting a request that the pastor inquire about the trends and realities being experienced by other CBF related congregations.
So, how often does your church hold church conference?
How is participation? How has it changed over the years? How has your church responded to any new or developing attendance realities?
What’s your forecast or prediction for church conference among Baptists? What innovative ideas have you considered (or have you seen utilized) for making church conference more relevant to the average member? Would we be less than Baptist if we let conference “go the way of all the earth?”
All insights are welcome and appreciated. Please weigh in with your comments below or connect with me via e-mail here.
Rick Bennett is pastor of First Baptist Church, Elkin, N.C.