VALDOSTA — COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into the gears of Georgia Baptist churches wanting to strengthen their discipleship programs. A new group with a longtime presence looks to help them clear that hurdle.
The Georgia Baptist Disciple-Makers Network, formerly Georgia Baptist Association of Christian Educators, will host a fall tour beginning Sept. 28 to assist ministry leaders in connecting with others for networking, collaboration, and encouragement.
“We want to help Georgia Baptists build on each other,” explained Christopher Sanchez, the group’s president and administration pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Valdosta. “Through the Network, they’ll develop relationships with people in their area of ministry who are dealing with challenges in a similar context to their own.”
Sanchez has been involved with the group since 2016. Other leaders include President-elect John Spencer, adult ministries and pastoral care pastor at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, and Vice President Mark Ward, minister of education and outreach at Flat Creek Baptist Church in Fayetteville.
The tour will begin Monday morning on Sept. 28 in the Northwest Region before meeting again that evening in the Northeast Region. The morning session on Sept. 29 will take place in the West Central Region, then move that evening to the East Central Region. On Oct. 5, the morning meeting will occur in the Southwest Region with the Southeast Region gathering taking place that evening. More details will be forthcoming.
Sanchez said the regional format helps in the goals of the Network.
“Many folks don’t have relationships with others [in their ministry area] who are across town. So, regionalizing our organization is ideal for what we’re trying to accomplish in terms of networking.”
Sanchez points to an example within his own church. Amber Voigt, a member of Northside, was in law school when she felt a calling to children’s ministry. Then she connected with Jenni Carter, Georgia Baptist Next Gen consultant for kids ministry.
“Jenni was a great resource for our church and Amber,” said Sanchez. “Amber wasn’t sure what to do as a children’s director. Through Jenni and the Network, Amber has grown in her role and made an impact at our church.”
While the tour was initially going to be in-person, COVID-19 concerns dictated that it become an online gathering. Therefore, all of the meetings will be taking place via Zoom. Sanchez, Georgia Baptist Discipleship catalyst Scott Sullivan, and others will join in a panel discussion.
“Folks don’t have to deal with ministry in a pandemic on their own,” Sanchez emphasized. “We’re all trying to figure this out. We’re better – and stronger – together.”