Advance Weekend ‘invaluable’ for church planters, revitalizers

April 30th, 2017 / By: Erin Roach | TEXAN Correspondent / comments

Advance Weekend ‘invaluable’ for church planters, revitalizers

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards speaks to church planters and revitalizers and their wives during the Advance Weekend. Photo by Kenneth Priest

SAN ANTONIO Church planters and church revitalization pastors received training and refreshment free of charge at “Advance Weekend,” an annual retreat designed for their sharpening and funded through the Cooperative Program. 

Damien Williams, a church planter at The Word Community Church in Dallas, told the TEXAN his ministry has been impacted “because Cooperative Program dollars gave my wife and I the opportunity to participate in a weekend of being poured into while we escape the busyness of parenting, life and ministry.”

Advance Weekend was March 30-April 1 at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort in San Antonio.

Guest speakers included former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Ken Hemphill and his wife Paula, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Director Jim Richards and his wife June, SBTC director of evangelism Nathan Lorick, and SBTC director of Hispanic ministries Mike Gonzales and his wife Dalia, among others.

Church growth, leadership, evangelism and balancing church and family were some of the topics addressed at the retreat.

Williams noted he and his wife could not have afforded a weekend getaway apart from this opportunity, and this one included “practical and ministry-changing sessions.” 

“I will be able to immediately put things in place at our church that will be beneficial to us for years to come, and for that I’m grateful,” Williams said. “I would recommend that all SBTC church planters and their spouses attend Advance Weekend. It’s worth the time for the sake of our marriages and our churches.”

Shane Pruitt, director of missions at the SBTC, told the TEXAN more than 250 people attended this year’s retreat, marking the largest turnout ever—and there was a waiting list. 

“On Thursday we want them to just come in, relax, spend time with each other, connect and network with other church planters and revitalizers,” Pruitt said. 

On Friday morning, participants chose from various breakout sessions. This year two tracks of breakouts were completely in Spanish, Pruitt said, and six were in English. 

A luncheon included Nic Burleson, pastor of Timber Ridge Church in Stephenville, Texas, and his wife Johanna speaking on finding the rhythm of family and ministry. On Friday afternoon, church revitalization pastors had a Q&A session with Hemphill. 

Friday evening was a banquet with Christian comedian Jason Earls, and on Saturday participants were encouraged to relax before heading back to their ministry fields. 

“We just want them to recharge with their wives, to feel equipped, network with other planters and just have fun,” Pruitt said. “We feel if we can be a blessing to the pastor, the leader, then ultimately we can be a blessing to the church because they’re being sent back recharged and revamped.”

John Herring, pastor of First Baptist Church in Prosper, Texas, called the retreat “a double blessing.”

“During the weekend, we got to renew friendships and start new ones with people who are planting and revitalizing,” Herring told the TEXAN. “We shared our stories and learned from each other. That is invaluable.  

“But on top of that, we also sat under the teaching of experienced leaders. My notebook was filled with implementation ideas sparked by their sessions. When you’re in the thick of ministry, it is hard to break away and get the bigger picture. That is the value of this weekend for me: time and space to prayerfully consider these important questions,” Herring said.

Kenneth Priest, director of convention strategies at the SBTC, said they try to design the sessions to address current needs of church planters and revitalizers, and pastors are “able to be encouraged, be challenged, and go back into their mission fields with renewed effectiveness.”