Montana Baptist E-News

The Montana Baptist E-News | February 2014

2014 CALENDAR

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April

4.1 Staff Meeting

4.5 Statewide VBS Training

4.11-12 Get Real Youth Conference

4.13 Cooperative Program Sunday

4.19 Developing & Managing People Training

4.20 Easter

4.21-25 Exponential Conference

4.24-26 Celebration for Women


May

5.6-7 TSBA Men's Retreat

5.6-8 Spring Staff Retreat

5.9 ELEVATE Training

5.19-21 Transitional Pastor Training

5.19-23 Yellowstone Innovators Missionary Orientation

5.26 Memorial Day Office Closed


June

6.2-4 Summer Missionary Orientation

6.5 Staff Meeting

6.9-11 SBC Annual Meeting


July

7.4 Independence Day Office Closed

7.27-8.10 Peru Mission Trip

7.28-29 Send North America


August

7.27-8.10 Peru Mission Trip

8.5 Staff Meeting

8.8-9 MSBW Leadership Team Summer Retreat


September

9.7,14,21,28 Montana Missions Offering Emphasis

9.1 Labor Day Office Closed

9.4 Staff Meeting

9.16-17 MTSBC Executive Board Meeting

9.18-19 ELEVATE Training

9.30 Staff Meeting


October

10.7 Associational Leadership Meeting

10.7 Pastors’ Conference

10.7 Pastors’ Wives Luncheon

10.7-8 MTSBC Annual Meeting


November

11.6 Staff Meeting

11.20-21 ELEVATE Training

11.27-28 Thanksgiving Day Office Closed


December

12.30-1.7 International Missions Emphasis

12.10-11 Winter Staff Retreat

12.11 Christmas Party

12.25 Christmas

12.24-31 Office Closed


MTSBC

When Faith and Cancer Meet, The Tami Jones Story

By Brandi Taber

Tami and Paul Jones. Tami took every chance she got to share the Good News of Jesus Christ while she was in the hospital.

Do you ever have one of those moments when you are reading a well-known Scripture and God forms a picture in your mind of someone in your life that exemplifies His words? I have been given a clear, real-life picture of a woman that embodies the words of Proverbs 31:25-30,


“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue…many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”


November 18, 2013 started off a little rocky for Paul and Tami Jones as Tami was having terrible effects of what they thought might be a slipped disc or pinched nerve in her back, but didn’t think it was anything a chiropractor couldn’t work out. One phrase I’ve heard many times from their mouths is, “sometimes you just don’t know what the Lord will bring in day.” By the end of the day, after being strongly advised to go to the emergency room and going through a series of tests and scans, the unthinkable was announced. There was a tumor found in Tami’s brain, roughly the size of an egg. The next week, the week before Thanksgiving, would be a whirl of appointments, emotions, facts, and decisions that led up to a risky surgery on Thursday, November 21 to remove this tumor from Tami’s brain.



Photos of the Jones’ family, courtesy of Brandi Taber, taken just a few weeks before Tami’s diagnosis.

The surgery went smoothly with God guiding the hands of talented neurosurgeons. If you have the privilege of knowing Tami Jones at all, you know she is a fighter, a strong woman in many ways. She came out of surgery remarkably well. What was supposed to be a week-long stay in the Intensive Care Unit turned into a mere 48 hours and she actually went home Saturday, November 23. Yes, you read that correctly. The Lord gave Tami such a quick hospital recovery that she was discharged 2 days after having major brain surgery…just in time for Thanksgiving with her family. God did so many incredible miracles in that time alone. For example, by the time Tami was headed into surgery, she couldn’t walk. The tumor was growing and pressing in so badly she could barely move her right arm or leg. Given her quick discharge, she was up, moving, and walking well the day after surgery.


Tami took EVERY chance she got to share the Good News of Jesus Christ while she was in the hospital. Every doctor, nurse, and technician was immediately her mission field. Tami said, “The thing about having a brain tumor is that, when you talk, people listen!” And she talked about Jesus, A LOT. I’m sure every one of those people will remember the kind, beautiful woman that talked to them about Jesus as she had just woke up from brain surgery just hours before!


Fast-forward two months, after wonderful times with family over Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s January 27 and it’s Tami’s 50th Birthday*. As of this day, she is 6 treatment days away from a break from an aggressive treatment of radiation and chemotherapy aimed at the Stage 4 Brain Cancer Tumor that was removed over 2 months ago. After testing, the surgeons were able to remove about 90% of the tumor, which was a positive percentage for this type of tumor.


The effects of such a nasty, aggressive treatment are taking a big toll on her body, but the Tami we know and love…she is fighting and she is strong…in the Lord. She said, “I am a weak woman. But through Christ, I am made strong.” That verse in Proverbs 31:26 that says, “she opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” is exactly what comes to fruition in and through Tami.


She is facing one of the hardest battles of her 50 years on this earth, yet she still speaks life and wisdom into everyone she encounters. She views every person as an opportunity to either share Christ with or speak encouragement to. Even a day after she was mourning the loss of what was left of her hair, she took advantage of a moment when one of her regular radiation nurses asked her about the loss of her hair and turned it into a witnessing opportunity.


One of the common questions Paul and Tami were both asked during the last 2 months was, “how are you really doing?” With emphatic resolve, the answer was clear. “We are good. Really good. Sure, we are sad and have our times we have to grieve certain things, but God has been good to us.” Even during these hard, exhausting days, Paul and Tami continue to seek the Lord for their strength and guidance. After a few weeks off initially after Tami’s surgery, Pastor Paul has been back in the pulpit preaching on Sundays and meeting the staff and church members as he is able. Tami was cleared to do her regular duties and encouraged to engage in the things that she loves, like spending leading a weekly women’s Bible study and soaking in time with her family.


Ephesians 6:10 is another verse that shines through Paul and Tami’s life, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” They have shown that their strength (and every other good thing) is from God alone. The two of them have shown what an unwavering, steadfast faith in Jesus looks like. Their biggest desire during this adversity in their life is that Christ would be glorified in and through them. Psalm 20:1-7 was given to Pastor Paul as a ‘seasonal’ verse as they go through this trial, verse 7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” So, that is exactly what they are doing.


Many people have asked what they can do for Pastor Paul and Tami. So here is what you can do at this point in time. Prayer is the biggest need right now. Paul and Tami need us to approach the throne boldly for them, so let this be a prayer guide for you to use throughout the week:


1. Pray for Tami’s healing.

2. Pray that God would protect her physically. Right now is the time she needs to stay healthy and rest. She is extremely tired and her stamina is low. Pray that the Lord would keep Pastor Paul healthy and rested as well as he is her loving caretaker.

3. Pray for their hearts as they face this extreme difficulty together, that God would draw close to them as they draw close to Him.

4. Pray for finances and provision.

5. Pray for their children and their families.

6. Pray for our Emmanuel Staff, that we would be able to step up in ways that would bless our Pastor and wife.

7. Pray for Emmanuel, that through this, our church as a whole would glorify and worship God.


Encouragement is also of great value to them right now. If you would like to share a verse or words of love and encouragement, please send them to:


Paul and Tami Jones

Emmanuel Baptist Church

328 South Shiloh Road

Billings, MT 59106.


*Tami will be done with radiation and chemotherapy the week of February 4. She will then have testing and scans done in the weeks to follow to learn more about the tumor post-surgery/treatment and determine what steps they will take next.


Brandi Taber is a close friend, mentee to Tami Jones and serves on staff at Emmanuel Baptist Church.

MTSBC

MPact Montana 2014

The Montana Southern Baptist Convention

MTSBC

Planters & Wives Gather for Training and Fellowship

The Montana Southern Baptist Convention

Executive Director Fred Hewett addresses planters and wives.

On January 16th and 17th over seventy church planters and leaders from across the state gathered at Fairmont Hot Springs for the annual Church Planting Retreat hosted by the Starting Team of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention. William Johnson, Church Starting Team Leader and coordinator of the event, stated that the event was started several years ago as a time of training and retreat for church planters and their families.


This year the event was held in conjunction with Elevate, an ongoing leadership development training for church planters, pastors, church planting interns, and other church leaders from across Montana.

Kevin Bruursema.

Planters in a teaching session.

The emphasis and main theme throughout the weekend centered on leadership development. Organizers of the event recognized that leadership development was one the greatest needs stated by church planters and pastors across the state.


The keynote speaker for the event was Kevin Bruursema who serves as a pastor with New Life Community Church, a multi-congregational, movement church with 19 sites throughout Chicago. While he pastors one of the 19 congregations, he spends a lot of his time coaching and raising church planters in strategizing how to engage new communities.


Many planters and their wives stated that they look forward to this event each year. They enjoyed the amenities of the Fairmont facility and having time to spend with their families in a retreat type setting. They also enjoy the time built into the schedule for fellowship, networking, and catching up with other church planters from across the state.


Another highlight of the weekend was the Planter’s Wives Luncheon coordinated and hosted by Teresa Johnson and Cherryl Hewett. The format of this year’s luncheon featured several of our Montana church planter’ s wives sharing practical insights on topics such as The Church Planter’s Wife and the Many Hats She Wears, What I Learned My First Few Years as a Church Planter’s Wife in Montana, and How I Can Make or Break My Husband’s Ministry. This time is set aside each year to honor and reach out to church planter’s wives allowing them time to meet and talk with other church planter’s wives from across the state.


Comments and feedback from the event:

“Thank you for your service and encouragement in the Lord.”

“Thank you! I appreciate that the MTSBC continues to make these opportunities available.”

“Thanks for providing this opportunity for us and our families. It is both a need and a blessing.”

“Leadership development topic was relevant and needed.”

“Awesome retreat/training! Thank you for making this event happen."

MTSBC

MLK Day Celebrated in the Christian Community of Anaconda

Reprinted with permission, Anaconda Leader Reporter

Rev. Hilton McClendon, Pastor of Mt. Haggin Baptist Church

It was a birthday party like no other Monday night, as Gateway Christian Fellowship hosted an evening of “Unity in our Community” in celebration of Martin Luther King Day.


Rousing speeches, music and prayers for an end of hatred and prejudice filled halls already packed full of people – standing room only – at an event intended to bring Anaconda together around ideals such as freedom, justice and equality.


The evening featured two keynote speeches, one by Montana Supreme Court Justice James A. Rice, the other by the Rev. Bob Porter of the Immaculate Conception Church of Deer Lodge.

While a member of the Montana Legislature in 1991, Justice Rice cast a vote in favor of establishing Martin Luther King Day as a holiday in Montana, a vote he said didn’t make everyone happy but he felt it was the right thing to do.


“It’s easy to judge a person based on outward appearances, and by judging deem less than you, but this is the way all societies in the world were organized,” Justice Rice said. “But while man looks on the outside, God looks on the heart.”


Justice Rice traced the history of human freedom, starting with the Declaration of Independence and the movement to abolish slavery all the way up to figures such as King, Gandhi and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, but brought it all the way back to 2,000 years ago.

“The idea of human equality started with a king, an unusual king… One born to the common people, in a manger, who broke bread with the poor, who honored women and called children to him,” Rice said, referring to Jesus and quoting the Biblical statement that “there are neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you all are all one in Christ Jesus.”


Finally, Justice Rice extolled people to continue King’s revolution, which was “unique in that it didn’t try to tear anyone down, it only tried to lift people up.”


“This is a small but important thing: you can pass all kinds of laws, but until you change the hearts of the people those laws will have little affect,” he said. “Build people up instead of tearing them down. Build a community that is unified. Change hearts one person at a time.”


Also preaching on unity was the Rev. Bob Porter, who shared his recollections of the Civil Rights Era.


“In August of 1966 I was in Chicago and Martin Luther King came to town, and that was scary business,” said Porter, who related that due to his background and FBI allegations at the time that King was a Communist held him back from going to see him. It was only after making a personal connection to one of the Catholic priests who marched with King at Selma, Ala., that he rethought what he had been told about King.


“Survival demands that we grapple with the problem (of prejudice). We’ve got to stay together,” Porter said. “Let’s make a Jericho walk around Anaconda until the walls of hate and prejudice come tumbling down.”


People were visibly uplifted as they left the celebration. Anne Dobney with the Anaconda Coalition for Tolerance Education, which for several years has campaigned against prejudice in Anaconda, was pleased with the event.


“It dovetails into what we’re all about, which is promoting justice and combating prejudice,” Dobney said.


The event was sponsored by the Anaconda Ministerial Association in part to stand up against several recent acts in the community that appear to have been motivated by racial hatred, including defacing property with swastikas and racial slurs.


Steve Fowler, state missionary for the Southern Baptist Convention in Montana, spoke in support of the Rev. Hilton McClendon and his family, an African-American pastor at Mt. Haggin Baptist Church, who reported some of those incidents.


“I’m proud to know Hilton and to have worked beside him. He’s doing a great job serving the Lord in a great way, the church is alive and He has blessed them,” Fowler said. “God has brought us a long way as a denomination. We’ve asked Him for forgiveness for our past, and we are hopeful for the future.”




Planters in a teaching session.

MLK Day Celebration in Anaconda

Dan McCarl


On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, (MLK) 2014, Steve Fowler, Pastor Dave Strand, and I attended the MLK Celebration in Anaconda to support Mt. Haggin Baptist Church’s pastor, Hilton McClendon. The celebration was held at the Gateway Christian Fellowship and many churches from Anaconda and Deer Lodge were represented.


Hilton is the pastor of Mt. Haggin Baptist Church just outside Anaconda and has been dealing with racial issues since he moved there as pastor. The three of us traveled to the MLK Celebration in order to encourage Hilton and his family as well as the Mt. Haggin Church Family at large.


Steve Fowler was part of the program and shared with everyone our thankfulness to the Lord for Hilton and his family being part of our state SBC family. Other parts of the celebration were the singing of praise songs, a speech by Montana Supreme Court Justice Jim Rice, other speeches and sharing from pastors of the area, as well as Pastor Hilton singing “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” (The Battle Hymn of the Republic). He did a great job.


Please be in prayer for Pastor Hilton and his wife Bernadette and their three children as they serve the Lord in Southwestern Montana.


Dan McCarl serves as pastor of First Baptist Church, Boulder and Treasure State Baptist Association Moderator.

MTSBC

Choose to Invest in Yourself

By Bruce Speer

All of us have one thing that levels the playing field, it’s called time. We all have the same amount and the difference between success and failure is how you choose to use it.


There is nothing more painful than unfulfilled dreams. Dreams slip away as time passes. Defeated dreamers roll over in bed one morning and say, "what's the use, it will never happen."


One secret to seeing your dreams fulfilled is to keep choosing to invest in yourself. All leaders are learners. That means you never quit trying to learn how to develop your skills and talents to be a more effective servant of Christ.

As a pastor it is easy to simply believe that all we need to do is prepare good messages each week in order to keep growing in our own spiritual lives. There is no question that preparing messages from a sincere heart helps each of us grow in our walk with the Lord. But there are so many other areas that we must develop if we are going to be capable leaders in our churches.


For instance, we all need to be proficient at building relationships with people, learning to be good biblical counselors, the art of confrontation, building leadership teams around us, discipleship, evangelism, fund raising, organizational skills, delegation, leadership skills, communication skills, etc.


So where do you begin with so many key components to develop? I would encourage you to invest your time in your own self development. The Montana Southern Baptist Convention offers a lot of opportunities to continue your education and leadership development. This year at Mpact the theme is Leadership in the Church. It is an opportunity to learn from some very successful leaders how to do our jobs more effectively. Throughout the state there are small groups of pastors meeting to read together and encourage one another. Mark Langley and Doug Hutcheson are committed to helping pastors grow to be better leaders. You can call them and get personal assistance.


What is the one excuse pastors have for not taking steps of self-development? It is almost always the same, "I am already overcommitted." Remember this, over commitment is the inability to say no. Chronic over commitment reflects lack of priorities. Weak, insecure leaders fill their calendars to the point of panic.


The hardest choice isn't deciding what to do, although that can be tough. The hardest choice is deciding what to stop doing. Starting is easy. Stopping takes wisdom, resolve, and most importantly, courage. In a world of limited time and energy, competent leaders stop doing what doesn't matter.


My challenge to you is to choose this year to invest in yourself to become a more useful leader in one of the key areas that God has made clear to you. Don't let another year pass without taking the time to become a more accomplished leader.


Dr. Bruce Speer serves as Pastor of Cross Point, Missoula and as MTSBC President.

MTSBC

Dr. David Roberts Gives Medical Lecture in Peru

The Montana Southern Baptist Convention

Marco Torres and Tito Sevilla of Tom Cox Seminary in Trujillo, Peru, sporting the new jackets given to them from The Rock Church in Laurel.

On January 14, 2014, Dr. David Roberts of The Rock Church in Laurel left the winter cold to travel to Peru, where it is the middle of summer in this South American county south of the equator.


In July of 2103, Dr. Roberts went with a mission team from the Montana Southern Baptist Convention partnering with Tom Cox World Ministries to work with medical outreach clinics held throughout the northern coastal region of Peru.


“I fell in love with the people in Peru.” Roberts stated after returning back to Montana. For the following few months he felt compelled to return even before the next mission trip was finalized.

Dr, Roberts gives medical lectures with his translator, Deanna Lazaro.

Left to right, Marco Torres, Deanna Lazaro, Ken Bowie, and Tito Sevilla all have a lunch after the lectures.

Dr. Roberts is a certified OB/GYN. His work with women in third world countries pioneering a procedure to repair fistulas after giving birth was something that he felt he could instruct Peruvian doctors to implement. This became a driving desire for Dr. Roberts after seeing women in the poorest barrios in the city of Trujillo, Peru.


After many e-mails, phone calls and working in conjunction with the Tom Cox Seminary in Trujillo to finalize logistics, Dr. Roberts left on January 14, 2014 to lecture at a major hospital to other surgeons. Ken Bowie, official missionary to the seminary, Tito Sevilla and Marco Torres helped Dr. Roberts with the transportation, housing, setting up the lectures and procuring a qualified translator.


Starting the lectures with his personal testimony, Roberts gave the gospel before he instructed the Peruvian doctors on the procedure he developed. Translator, Deanna Lazaro, who was not only a believer but a fifth year medical student, Dr Roberts was able to share the good news of Jesus Christ and how to help women who are often outcasts in society because of the urinary and bowel incontinence associated with the fistulas.


“Deanna was phenomenal,” Roberts said. “After meeting with her and the rest of our team, she understood the material I had prepared and then went home to study it. She was able to teach her professors something new.”


Renae Hunt, a semester missionary at The Rock Church, who is studying Spanish as her major at MSU – Billings, helped Dr. Roberts stateside to prepare power point slides in Spanish.


“Without the donations I received from Montana Southern Baptist Women, the MTSBC and a donor, I wouldn’t have been able to afford to make the trip.” Roberts said.


On his last night in Trujillo, he received a call from one of the doctors he has spent time with during the lectures. The Peruvian doctor asked for Dr Roberts to see a patient in the emergency room.


“It is all about building relationships.” Roberts said. “I was able to make a connection with this doctor and when I return this summer, I hope to spend time with him and his family.”


Also on this trip Dr Roberts was able to give a word that God had laid on his heart to a small church in Milagros. The MTSBC team had spent time last summer in this area. In his message, Roberts used the great commission in last chapter of Matthew to encourage Pastor Antonio and his congregation to not only reach out to their neighbors, but to other countries as well. During the invitation, 13 people came forward in response.


Roberts is planning to have examining rooms set up to be able to help women in the medical clinics that Tom Cox World Ministries will be conducting from July 27 to August 10, 2014


If you would like to be a part of the MTSBC team that travels to Peru, go to the Sending Team page or contact Stan Bricker, Sending Team Leader at sbricker@mtsbc.org or 406-839-7876.

Mark Langley
Vision 20/20

Aiming at Nothing

By Mark Langley, MTSBC Church Strengthening Team Leader


How is your church doing at achieving the goals of the Vision2020 Report that was adopted by the 2012 annual meeting of the MTSBC? Perhaps you’ve lost track of what those goals were. There is an old adage that says “if we aim at nothing…then we’ll hit it every time.” Just like a shot in the dark.


In light of this reality, I think it would behoove us to take a fresh look at the Vision2020 goals. The original Vision 2020 report was a six page, 2500 word document. Therefore, for the sake of simplicity, I’ve summarized the essence of those goals:

  • More frequent state-wide prayer and fasting events
  • Doubling your worship attendance by 2020
  • Averaging one baptism for every 10 worship attenders by 2020
  • 134 new church plants by 2020
  • More training afforded to pastors, planters, and church leaders
  • New pastor’s and wives orientation
  • Have a mission education structure in place by 2014
  • Conduct an annual cooperative program emphasis
  • Increase cooperative program giving to 10% of annual budget by 2020
  • Increase contribution to 30% of annual state receipts sent to SBC by 2020
  • Participate in the three annual missions emphases by 2020
  • Be involved in one in-state and one out-of-state mission trip by 2020
  • Pastors would be involved in network groups by 2020

  • Good News!! Early results of the 2013 ACP are already telling us that our baptisms, small groups, and worship attendance will be markedly up over 2012. Hallelujah, we’re on our way!

    MTSBC

    Yellowstone Christian College

    The Montana Southern Baptist Convention

    We’re Serious about Affordable, Quality, Christian Education.

    Yellowstone Christian College is “restructuring into a multi-faceted, regional Christian training center,” according to Bruce Cannon, YCC President. “Our core values include working with students in theological, spiritual, practical, social, and financial areas in order to produce mature, capable, debt-free graduates.”


    YCC offers traditional classes for students of all ages within AA and BA degrees in Christian Leadership. YCC’s May 10th graduates will include a variety of students ranging from 20-somethings to senior adults.


    Early-Start for high school juniors and seniors provide general education courses for transferable college credit. Leadership Core Group specializes in courses for high school church interns and church-sponsored future leaders.

    The YCC library houses more than 35,000 items. Library cards are also available for the general public.

    Yellowstone Bible Institute is the evening adult, religious education arm of YCC. YBI offers 12 fast-paced, low cost courses each year, meeting one night per week for five weeks. The courses are taken for one college credit each or personal enrichment. Topics include NT and OT Survey, Ethics, Church History, World Religions, Leadership, Conflict Resolution, and more.


    Troy and Helena churches host YCC’s on the road style educational format. Both cities offer a variety of classes involving church leadership and the laity.


    Fourfold Worship Band Concert and Dinner

    YCC is sponsoring our initial city-wide worship band ‘festival’ May 9 at the Billings Montana Convention Center (Holiday Inn). Worship bands representing four or five of the area’s largest churches will perform a three-song set, including traditional, contemporary, and original numbers.


    The evening is designed with fun in mind, beginning with a quality three-course meal. Attendees will experience multiple door prizes, silent auction items to benefit student scholarships, and voting for their favorite songs and bands. Two ticket options include an all-event pass including the meal or just the music portion of the evening.


    Contact YCC by calling 656-9950, or preview YCC at www.yellowstonechristian.edu.


    Visit the Yellowstone Christian College Homepage

    MTSBC

    Training 'Anytime, Anywhere' Via Ministry Grid ready for Churches

    By Bob Smietana

    NASHVILLE (BP) -- Pastors know that well-trained lay leaders and volunteers are essential for the health of a local church.


    But implementing a training strategy can be difficult, said Todd Adkins, director of leadership at LifeWay Christian Resources.


    Enter MinistryGrid.com, a new site for online delivery of easy, affordable and high-quality training.


    Ministry Grid features more than 2,000 original, readily accessible video sessions on topics from church leadership and finances to parking ministry and childcare.


    The idea behind the site is to give churches a framework for their training programs, Adkins said, noting, "If you don't give people a framework, they won't grow."

    In the past, local congregations sent volunteers to conferences or utilized denominational programs such as Training Union to equip church members for ministry, Adkins said.


    "People used to take a week of vacation to attend training events like Sunday School week at Ridgecrest," he said. "They don't do that anymore."


    Instead of sending volunteers or staff members to an event, Ministry Grid allows churches to bring the training to their people via computer, Smartphone, tablet or other mobile device. There's also an app for off-line viewing.


    "We want to focus on training being available anytime, anywhere," Adkins said.


    However, Ministry Grid doesn't replace face-to-face training. Instead, the training model is based on the idea of a "flipped classroom" now common in colleges and high schools.


    In this case, volunteers and church members learn by watching videos and reading resources on their own time. Then they'll be better prepared for in-person discussion.


    It's all part of creating a culture where leadership training and personal development are a normal part of church life.


    "The church wins when ministry is handed back to the people," said Eric Geiger, vice president of LifeWay's church resources division which oversees Ministry Grid as a service to "help churches more intentionally invest in leaders."


    The site is easy to use. Once a church subscribes, church leaders can place volunteers in categories such as greeters, small group leaders, Sunday School teachers or staff members. A training plan can be created for each group.


    When members first log in, the site will automatically set up a personalized profile page with links to recommended training resources. From there users can watch videos, read resources and keep track of their progress. It's as simple as point, click and learn.


    A "group at a glance" feature allows pastors and church staff to track members' progress.


    For users, the site is part Facebook, part Netflix and part Discipleship Training. They can have some fun along the way by earning badges similar to Royal Ambassadors patches or Sunday School bars for completing parts of the training process.


    Adkins said the badges were inspired by his experience growing up in a Baptist church in Kentucky and going to church training classes on Sunday evenings.


    "It's a combination of old-fashioned accountability and achievement psychology," Adkins said.


    Ministry Grid organizers believe churches of all sizes can benefit from the site's training options. Church leaders can choose built-in tracks or video sessions, upload their own video content, link to additional articles, turn off unwanted content and even put their church's name and logo on the site.


    In its first month, the new MinistryGrid.com site has drawn nearly 12,000 unique visitors from more than 60 countries.


    Videos already on Ministry Grid's free preview site include Melita Thomas, of LifeWay Kids Ministry, discussing eight approaches to how children learn; Danny Franks, connections pastor at The Summit Church in North Carolina, on the importance of preparing for guests who visit your church; and Mark Marshall, pastor of ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin, Tenn., relaying practical tips and information to pastors about the "what" and "how" of baptism.


    Among other contributors are Tami Heim, president of the Christian Leadership Alliance; Mac Lake of The Launch Network; Kevin Peck, lead pastor of Austin Stone Community Church; Derwin Gray of Transformation Church; and Aubrey Malphurs, professor of leadership and pastoral ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary.


    Malphurs, who serves as an adviser to Ministry Grid, said most congregations don't do enough to develop leaders and volunteers. He said Ministry Grid's content and its use of technology are appealing.


    "I am the kind of guy who likes to think ahead, in a positive way, about what is coming down the pike, and about what we need to do to develop leaders," said Malphurs, a member of Lake Pointe Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Rockwall, Texas. "And I think Ministry Grid fits that."


    Ministry Grid also has partnered with congregations like Austin Stone Community Church; Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tenn.; and Sojourn Church in Louisville, Ky.


    Subscriptions start at $9.99 per month for individuals and $24.95 a month -- or $134.95 per year -- for small churches. Subscriptions for larger churches are based on weekly attendance.


    "At LifeWay, we've made this issue a major priority," LifeWay President Thom Rainer said. "We see a great opportunity to provide almost unlimited training in this digital age that could not be done in earlier years. We've created something that will be convenient for church leaders and those being equipped at an affordable cost for all churches."


    Bob Smietana is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. Carol Pipes contributed to this story.


    Visit MinistryGrid.com