By Blake Tommey
Have you attended Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s annual General Assembly? Was your head spinning from all the breakout sessions, ministry resources and mission opportunities that CBF has to offer? Did your fitness tracker record more steps in two days than you’d taken all month? Did you find yourself craving more intimate community and conversation?
Then come relax and be renewed March 1-4, 2020, at ChurchWorks, CBF’s annual gathering for clergy and ministry networks. In fact, registration for ChurchWorks 2020 is now open!
This year’s ChurchWorks will focus on ministerial wellbeing and self-care. Held at Central Baptist Church Fountain City, in Knoxville, Tennessee, ChurchWorks 2020 is the perfect opportunity for you or your staff to retreat, connect with other clergy and be better resourced for the rich and complex work of ministry, said Josh Speight, CBF’s Manager for Leadership Development.
For many years, ChurchWorks functioned as a resourcing conference for Christian educators, or those in a traditional “minister of education” role, Speight explained. As both CBF and the role of clergy have rapidly evolved, however, ChurchWorks has become a community for all clergy, no matter their focus.
“Churchworks has expanded to include all clergy as well as those in CBF’s many networks, such as the Children’s Ministry Network, Youth Ministry Network, Latino, chaplains, church starters and the Affirming Network,” Speight said. “We want to help all minsters know that they are not alone, but that there are specific communities within CBF life that focus on their area of ministry.”
This year, ChurchWorks will feature Susan Sparks, a stand-up comedian and pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in Manhattan, as keynote speaker. For 15 years, Sparks has worked at the convergence of humor and spirituality, even teaming up with Rabbi Bob Alper and Muslim comic Azhar Usman to create the Laugh in Peace Comedy Tour. On Monday evening, March 2, ChurchWorks participants will be treated to a performance from Laugh in Peace as well as to Sparks’ reflections on the role of humor in ministry throughout the week.
“The bulk of our spiritual life is trekked through the grit and reality of everyday life: preparing a report for work that bores you to tears, waiting in an ‘express’ line at Wal-Mart that is 10 people deep, making weekly grocery lists, vacuuming, mowing the lawn, stressing about your kids, worrying if you’ll have enough money to retire,” Sparks writes in her 2010 book, Laugh Your Way to Grace: Reclaiming the Spiritual Power of Humor.
“The ultimate question is how to introduce spiritual grace into this daily grind. As a veteran of the punch line and the pulpit, I believe that humor can empower us to live with elegance and beauty and a generosity of spirit. It is the one tool that can enable us to live our daily lives, our spiritual lives, with grace.”
In addition to Sparks’ keynote and a performance from Laugh in Peace, ChurchWorks will feature workshops that help clergy incorporate self-care into their daily lives. These will include sessions which focus on professional yoga, prayer and meditation and also a session with a nutritionist who will engage eating choices from a theological perspective. Ultimately, workshops will equip participants to care for their own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs, Speight said, and send them home with highly practical how-tos for self-care.
Three years ago, when ChurchWorks last engaged ministerial wellbeing, Matt Bloom of the Flourishing in Ministry Project focused on why clergy and other caregiving professionals must prioritize self-care. Because a minister’s work is complex, often under-appreciated and subject to rapid change, Bloom emphasized, maintaining a sense of calling and fulfillment is of central importance. This year, ChurchWorks will center on how clergy can most effectively do so, Speight said.
“Many ministers are very good at taking care of other people when needs arise; but more often than not, they don’t take care of themselves as much as they want to or should,” he explained.
“If you’re not able to physically, mentally or emotionally take care of the things you’re dealing with, it’s much harder to take those on for other people. ChurchWorks will be a time to think about caring for yourself in different ways. This is a space for you to come and take a break from the day-to-day work, to network, to connect, to relax and to be renewed in your work as a minister.”
CBF will conclude the three-day gathering with the presentation of two awards, the CBF Young Baptist Leadership award and the Christian Educator award, both of which are peer-nominated and issued annually at ChurchWorks.
Registration for ChurchWorks 2020 is now open! To learn more about ChurchWorks and to register for the 2020 gathering, visit www.cbf.net/churchworks2020.