Virtual Equip draws 2,375 registrants with participants from Texas to Indonesia
September 1st, 2020 / By: Art Toalston | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
GRAPEVINE Despite COVID-19, the annual EQUIP conference—the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s key training event—drew 2,375 registrants for sessions that were held online Aug. 8.
Mark Yoakum, SBTC director of church ministries, was on target in envisioning the virtual gathering as yielding “opportunities to expand the reach of the training since people will not have to travel to participate; churches from all over Texas will be able to join us. We hope we’ll even get some participants from other states since it’s more easily accessible.”
Not only were there registrants from New England, Montana, the Dakotas and Colorado but also from South Korea, Mexico, Indonesia and Canada—in more than four dozen other states and countries in all.
Responsiveness to the training, Yoakum said, came in “multiple comments of: ‘This is great,’ ‘I am going to take this back to my church’ and ‘This is really helpful to us.’”
Pastors, church staff, deacons and lay leaders chose from more than 275 breakout sessions under 20 general topics including evangelism; missions/church planting; adult home groups and Sunday school; worship; leadership; discipleship; family; men’s and women’s ministry; preschool and children; preteens; student and collegiate ministry; NextGen; communication and tech; and chaplaincy.
Breakout sessions also were held for leaders of Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American churches.
Nearly 90 presenters from the SBTC and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a range of local church leaders led the EQUIP breakouts, along with others in Southern Baptist life such as Shane Pruitt, former SBTC staffer now serving as the North American Mission Board’s Next-Gen evangelism director; Doug Carver, NAMB’s executive director of chaplaincy; and Lee Clamp, team leader of evangelism for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
EQUIP’s keynote speaker in the 9 a.m. opening session was Allen Taylor, executive pastor of ministries at First Baptist Concord in Knoxville, Tennessee, and former director of Sunday School and church education ministries at LifeWay Christian Resources. He is the author of “The Six Core Values of Sunday School” and “Sunday School in HD” and has three DVD training series, “Sunday School Done Right,” “Forward from Here” and “Sunday School Matters.”
Watch parties drew more than 20 attendees at First Baptist Church in rural Fairfield southwest of Dallas and at First Baptist in Carizo Springs in southwest Texas. While there were 600 registrants from the Houston area—where 2,500 registrants gathered for the 2019 EQUIP conference at Champion Forest Baptist Church—distant locations such as El Paso had 20 participants; Spring, 49; Lufkin, 18; Wichita Falls, 16; and Laredo, 5.
Registrants will have access to the full scope of breakouts through December 31, 2020.
“Incredible work pulling this off,” Clamp said in a follow-up email to Yoakum. “You have done amazing with communication and opportunity for training.” Beyond Yoakum, however, EQUIP’s coordination was handled by SBTC staff members who took the needed technology training in order to connect with conference speakers who were giving their presentations from their homes or offices.
Kenneth Tan, leadership development senior consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s church health and revitalization team, led three of the breakout sessions for Asian American churches and also made time to attend the chaplaincy session, which he called “very memorable.”
“God will use these sessions to help many people beyond the conference,” Tan told Yoakum in an email. “Thanks for inviting me to participate in this marvelous event to inspire others to serve and accomplish God's purposes in Texas and beyond.”