Florida Baptists gear up for online training and resources

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JACKSONVILLE— With in-person events on hold for the foreseeable future, the Florida Baptist Convention will come alongside its churches to virtually provide beneficial training and resourcing.

“So much of this resourcing in the past happened at face-to-face gatherings but COVID-19 has caused all of us to rethink how things are delivered and the digital events platform was a natural next step for this season that we are living in,” said Micah Ferguson, director of strategic initiatives for the Convention.

But don’t expect these events to be just another Zoom meeting. The digital conferences will encompass multiple segments featuring keynote speakers, breakout sessions and question-answer periods, while utilizing various levels of live and pre-recorded content. This methodology is designed to ensure the highest quality experience possible for the events.

The first of these events, West Florida’s regional “Leading Sunday School/Groups in the 21st Century Digital Conference” is scheduled Aug. 27. The conference will focus on pragmatic approaches for pastors, staff and volunteer group leaders as they prepare to reach and disciple in in 2020 and beyond.

“Participants will receive practical and creative tools for pursuing effective spiritual development in various stages of life,” said Lewis Miller, Florida Baptist’s catalyst for the west region.

Participation is simple, he added. “Everyone will sign on using the Zoom invitation they receive when they pre-register. The only technology know-how required is how to connect with a Zoom meeting.” A Zoom account is not needed to attend the event.

The conference format begins with a plenary message from Tommy Green, Florida Baptists’ executive director-treasurer. Then participants will be given a Zoom code for their interested ministry leadership area. Four breakout sessions will target pastors, adult leaders, student/youth leaders and children’s leaders.

Each breakout will be facilitated by local church leaders and will allow a time for viewers to ask the questions during the breakouts.

Breakout leaders include: pastors–Mike Orr, pastor, First Baptist Church in Chipley and Tim Coleman, pastor, The Point Church, Pensacola; adult ministry leaders–David Flatt, First Baptist Church in Panama City and Justin Gambrel, Pine Terrace Baptist Church in Milton; student ministry leaders–Matt Sawyer, First Chipley and Bob McNeil, Woodlawn Baptist Church, Crestview; and kids ministry leaders– Tammy Kirkland, Hiland Park Baptist Church, Panama City and Shelley Waters, Pine Terrace Baptist Church.

At the conclusion of the conference, another question-answer session will feature all group leaders.

On Sept. 5-6, the Convention’s Hispanic ministries will host “Shine/Brilla,” a virtual retreat and conference for married couples, young adults and students.

Florida Baptist Convention, Digital Conference, Emanuel RoqueThe event is designed to encourage and equip people to let the gospel “Shine (Brillar)” in their personal lives, marriages, families, churches and communities while helping churches start a new ministry or strengthen existing ones in these areas.

“Shine/Brilla offers a virtual experience of excellent content, engagement and speakers while giving opportunity to do it personally at home or as a group in churches while also connecting with people from all over Florida and possibly beyond,” said Emanuel Roque, Hispanic church catalyst. “There is even a virtual vacation Bible school fully developed by a local church that will allow for children to participate with kits to follow along.”

Roque said the conference is “an easy experience accessible to all who use technology. If they can stream from the internet and have access to Zoom, they can fully participate.”

The conference, which includes a Saturday morning presentation and Sunday night celebration, is designed to be used both individually and as a group experience.

Churches planning to host the event as a group experience should have the capacity to project the content via audio/video equipment, and rooms for each group including marriage, next generation and kids.

“There will be additional follow-up podcasts with some of the speakers to dive deeper and follow up more with their area of passion and ministry,” added Roque.

Registered participants will have links to nine topical conferences to choose from on Saturday morning after the large group experience. This format will be applied to both married couples and young adult conferences which will be happening simultaneously.

The cost of the virtual conference is $100 for church groups; $10 for individuals; $15 for couples and $25 for families.

Next Generation (Next Gen) ministries will also host the Kids Ministry Digital Conference Sept. 24 and Student Ministry Digital Conference Oct. 1.

According to Billy Young, lead catalyst, Next Generation ministries, “The biggest challenge will be the lack of in-person connections and conversations but the biggest positive may be that more people can participate.”

Ferguson added, “We can do everything possible to deliver a digital event. However, the environment the participant creates will greatly impact how impactful the resourcing and information is.

“The temptation will be to have the event on in the background while you keep working. Participants should plan to block out time on their calendar to fully participate in the events – much like what they would do if they were attending in person.”

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