News

Ministry Leaders Seek, Share Innovation

By Celeste Ryan Blyden

Nearly 150 people gathered in Columbus, Ohio, earlier this week for the 5th Annual Conference on Innovation (sdapartnersininnovation.org). Founded by the Ohio Conference and several sponsors, the event draws pastors, educators, collegiates, thought leaders, and grassroots ministry makers who relish opportunities to network, share, learn, hear case studies on ministry innovation, and deepen their personal perspectives on ministry. “I came because I needed the opportunity for reflection, renewal, and growth with others who think about what it means to minister,” said Dexter Richardson, pastor of the New Life Fellowship in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “I’m glad to see we can have conversation like this.”

The three-day conversation was led by nine keynote presenters, including sociologist Michael Lindsay, Christianity Today editor David Neff, and author Margaret Feinberg who shared success stories from her “toolbox of ideas” and informed the audience that “it’s time to move beyond the term ‘postmodern.’”

After each session, attendees like Robert Stevenson, new principal at Mount Vernon Academy in Mount Vernon, Ohio, discussed how the speaker’s message could be applied to their ministry. “This event has given me food for thought,” Stevenson said. “I don’t know everything, but the one thing I do know is that if we don’t innovate, we will cease to be relevant.”

Relevance, noted Gaspar Colon, a dean at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md., and director of its Center for Metropolitan Ministry, is what ministry-makers seek. “We long for people in our communities to consider the ministry that God has entrusted to us as relevant,” he said in a presentation titled “Dream Out Loud.”

One highlight of the event was author Suzy Welch, who shared the story behind her new book, 10-10-10, a values-based, decision-making tool, that she strongly believes parallels faith.

Another highlight was the announcement of Innovative Church of the Year. Vervent (vervent.org) a part of the Church Resource Center at the North American Division headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., chose Atlanta’s Berean (atlantabereansda.org) church because of its innovative approach to evangelism. “We’re a good example of how to reinvent a church,” said Pastor Carlton P. Byrd, who accepted the award in the company of several members of his ministry team. Under his leadership, the 106-year-old city church has grown to 3,400 members who employ a variety of outreach and evangelism strategies and have baptized 300 or more people during each of the last three years.

The Visitor is producing a news video about this event; watch for it soon. Meanwhile, learn more about the conference at sdapartnersininnovation.org.