STARKE–As a bi-vocational pastor of a small church in Starke, Joey Hay has a heart for pastors like himself.
That’s why he was happy to see the success of a recent three-day conference he organized to benefit these pastors. “Refresh: Refreshing Passion for the Rural Church” featured three days of teaching and encouragement for pastors of small or rural congregations. He said it came at a great time.
“There was so much discouragement especially after COVID, especially for small churches,” he said. “We don’t have the membership to keep the tithes and offerings up. If you’re a small church, you don’t really have a staff, no one to help you carry the burden throughout the week, especially if you’re working a job and dealing with COVID there, too. It would be great to get together and have someone breathe some truth into us.”
In planning the three-day event, Hay said he was looking for “an older pastor, a middle of the road pastor and a young guy.” This was the lineup:
- Elbert Nasworthy, a retired senior pastor, certified church consultant and certified interim pastor;
- James Peoples, SEND Network Florida director for the North American Mission Board; and
- JimBo Stewart, replanting and revitalization strategist for the Jacksonville Baptist Association, and former lead pastor at Redemption Church in Jacksonville.
The conference featured a different speaker each day and was held at Cornerstone Baptist Church, where Hay is pastor. Lunch was provided by volunteers from Cornerstone. About 24 pastors had pre-registered with 18 attending the first day. Donated resources from NAMB provided a different book each day for attendees, along with other items.
“Everyone’s teaching kind of flowed into each other,” Hay said of his own takeaway from the conference. “It was really an idea of overcoming and not being defeated and to fight the good fight. Things that we hear all the time, but just need to be pumped back into us over and over. I think a lot of people are very discouraged, so for me it was a time of encouragement. It was really refreshing to get together with other pastors and to be ministered to.”
Paul Samson, pastor of Brooker Baptist Church, agreed.
“I think it was JimBo Stewart that said, ‘Not everyone is called to be a Moses.’ The takeaway from that for me is that not everyone is going to have a huge ministry or be in the limelight, but still be faithful in the ministry that God has for me,” Samson said.
Others attending had similar thoughts based on survey responses.
“Biggest takeaway – being able to connect to everyone. It wasn’t rushed. It was laid back.”
“We all have struggles and we have people to walk through it with us.”
“Very pleased with all aspects especially the messages of the speakers and their encouragement and advice. This was very much needed and greatly appreciated. You all far exceeded any expectations we could have had. Looking forward to the next one.”
Hay, who is an employee of the U.S. Postal Service, organized the meeting last year after a regional pastors’ conference was canceled. He suggested doing their own conference and getting members of New River Baptist Association together. He knew it was needed.
A member of his church donated $1,000 for the conference and donations grew from there. Someone else gave $100, then other donations came from a sister church, the Florida Baptist Convention and others. They ended up having excess funds, which will be used for next year’s event.
“It was a fantastic weekend,” Hay said. “We’re going to do it again next year. Every pastor we surveyed said they’d love to come together again.”