The goal of the Discipleship Collective is not small.
“The big picture,” said David Adams, director of discipleship for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, “is to train Texas.”
To do it, Texas Baptists are taking training on the road.
The Discipleship Collective is an effort to provide training and resources for church leaders “to equip (Christ’s) people for works of service” (Ephesians 4:12). Aimed at small group leaders and Sunday school teachers, Discipleship Collective features at least one training conference in each of Texas’ nine regions every year, with the additional goal of moving around within the regions from year to year.
The conferences include adult, student and children’s ministry tracks with a breakout for pastors, as well. The conferences are held in the fall, mostly on Saturday mornings.
“We want to help leaders focus on teaching toward living out God’s Word, and not just knowing it,” Adams said.
The equipment isn’t new, but the proactive approach of bringing it to each region began in 2022.
“We would like to be within a relatively easy drive of most of our churches in an area every three years or so,” Adams said. “Pre-pandemic our primary strategy was to be as responsive to training requests as we could be. If someone said, ‘Would you come do some training?’ We’d do it, and we still do that as much as possible. But we realized there were parts of the state we just weren’t getting to, and we wanted to be a lot more intentional about getting to those areas.”
In 2022, the first year of Discipleship Collective, BGCT held 13 training events; 519 leaders from 107 churches participated.
For 2023, Discipleship Collective will run from August-October and feature 10 conferences spread throughout Texas. It’s possible more events could be added.
Although Adams and other members of the Texas Baptists’ discipleship ministry team are vitally involved, Discipleship Collective features regional church leaders with expertise in various areas of ministry (including children, students and adult ministry).
Robby Barrett, minister of education at First Baptist Church of Amarillo, who helps lead Discipleship Collective in the Panhandle region, participated in two conferences in 2022. He said he was so encouraged by the initial events, he “would recommend it for every teacher we have.”
“It’s well worth it,” Barrett said. “When somebody leaves that conference, they have had kind of a fresh look at what teaching is and what they’re teaching. I feel like they have a new appreciation for the calling of being a teacher, and a freshness of encouragement.
“I think they’re more excited about teaching than when they arrived.”
Concentrating on the basics
Adams said the goal is to train leaders “to focus on discipleship more than just information transfer.” But recognizing the content of discipleship is of utmost importance, participants in the 2023 regional conferences will be given a copy of the book “A Light Unto My Path: A Practical Guide to Studying the Bible,” by Jim Denison.
Adams said as churches rebound from the pandemic, one issue has been finding new leaders — and that many of these new leaders are inexperienced. For that reason, he said, Discipleship Collective is “trying to concentrate on the basics.”
“The content is Scripture,” he said. “We want to make sure they handle God’s Word correctly, so this is hopefully a step toward that.”
Barrett was encouraged to see churches who brought a group of leaders. He said the conferences can help build community as a church’s leaders catch a common vision and see their shared purpose.
An added bonus, he said, is the camaraderie and encouragement that comes with trading ideas and sharing challenges with leaders from other churches who are teaching in the same ministry track.
“There’s some really good fellowship,” he said. “You’ve got adult workers in one room, youth workers in one room, children’s workers in one room — so there’s good fellowship from folk from different churches.”