23 Churches to ‘pull back curtain’ hosting Sharper! Conference on site

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Sharper!, a one-day seminar designed to provide insights for church staffs to strengthen and build ministry teams through group and peer experiences, will be held Feb. 23 simultaneously in 23 churches across the state.

The conference will take place in designated Florida Baptist churches where host ministry teams will individualize and design their own content and enlist speakers to ‘pull back the curtain’ to enable visiting ministry teams to gain insights from the host church.

Each host staff will focus on discipleship, prayer, preaching, teaching, leadership, church multiplication, small groups and other critical issues, said Micah Ferguson, director of the Convention’s Strategic Initiatives.

“Staying honed and ready to be used by God can be difficult as the challenges of the day pull you in multiple directions,” said Ferguson. “The dullness takes its toll, forcing you to work harder to maintain the same level of effectiveness as you minister to your church.”

The Sharper! conference is designed “to pull back the curtain and gain insight and fresh perspectives from each other. And be encouraged to keep getting better at evangelism, discipleship, prayer, preaching, teaching, leadership…church multiplication, small groups and other critical issues,” he said.

There is no cost for church ministry staffs to attend the conference at any site. The meetings are sponsored by the Florida Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board through Cooperative Program funds.

Each church has customized its own program and schedule.


Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville has designed a time training, discussion and encouragement in ministry for churches in the area, said pastor David Chauncey. Breakout sessions facilitated by the staff across will cover a broad range of subjects–preaching, administration, leadership, music and worship, media, student ministry, children’s ministry, church administration, facilities, church planting, health clinics, stewardship, discipleship, and missions.

“Participants will be able to glean what they can from Westside’s methodologies and experiences while having an opportunity to discuss and share what they are doing to make disciples around the state as well,” said Chauncey. “It will be a time for ‘iron to sharpen iron’ while encouraging one another in our calling.  We truly hope people will walk away with some new tools and ideas, or the same tools just a little bit ‘sharper.’”

He continued, “I never hang out with other pastors and leaders without learning something of value. Time together as leaders is absolutely critical to effectiveness and survival in ministry. As a result, I look forward to this special time of strengthening and stretching to be the best steward of God’s calling possible.”


North Jacksonville Baptist Church will begin its meeting with a luncheon where Pastor Herb Reavis will share a time of encouragement. A brief video presentation will follow and then breakout sessions will be held in music, married adults, singles, students, children, preschool, administration and life groups and special events. The time will close with a question and answer period with staff.

“We hope above all else that the conference will be an encouragement and a reminder to pastors and staff that the challenges we face are all the same just ‘packaged’ a little differently from church to church,” said Chris Coram, associate pastor for administration. “I’m confident that our staff will gain as much from meeting with our counterparts from other churches as we hopefully will be able to give to them.


First Baptist Church in Sebring plans to provide large group sessions, breakout sessions and a fellowship lunch, said Pastor Matt Crawford.

Breakout sessions with topics relevant to senior pastors, associate pastors and lay leaders will be led by First Sebring’s staff, as well as guest speakers Sam Rainer, lead pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church; and Jordan Richmond, music and worship pastor at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz.

Also, Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway Christian Resources, will speak on a prepared video and respond to questions submitted by attendees prior to the event. “Dr. Rainer has a ministry leadership podcast called “Rainer on Leadership” that has been extremely helpful to me as a pastor,” said Crawford. “And he has been a blessing to countless churches through decades of consulting work.  I’m excited and grateful that we have the opportunity at our event to glean from his wisdom and experience.”

“Our staff will be working to tailor our Sharper! Conference to the needs of churches in our part of the state, including specific sessions and discussions about lay-led ministry.  We also will be giving away book resources to every attendee,” Crawford added.

“I hope participants at this event will gain: first, relationships with other pastors and ministry leaders that will be encouraging and helpful to them for years to come.  Second, knowledge and ideas gained from the experience of others.  Third, a renewed passion for discipleship and seeing the lost come to Christ.”


The Sharper! Conference hosted by Family Church in West Palm Beach, “will take a look at scalable principles any Pastor and team could apply in context of their own church’s mission and vision, said Bev Bonner, director of Church Life/Assimilation at the church.

The church will offer 29 conferences in evangelism and church plating strategies; communication, assimilation and groups, worship and production arts, leadership development and family ministry.

Bonner said the event is worthwhile investment of time. “There is no question that we are better together and Sharper Conference gives all of us an opportunity to ‘sharpen the pencil.’”

Because each church has developed and tailored the Sharper! conference’s content to its site and region, many have different schedules and registration processes. These can be viewed at www.flbaptist.org/sharper and on the church’s website. For more information contact Charlene Allen at 800-226-8584, ext. 3072.

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