Oklahoma Baptists will see a new way convention leaders are helping churches through direct relations. During the Annual Meeting at Oklahoma City, Quail Springs on Nov. 12, James Swain introduced the Church Relations Group, which consists of Affinity Group Ministry partners and Regional Ministry partners.
“A lot of the work of our group is going to be working to encourage and support pastors and their wives and their children,” said Swain who is serving as associate executive director for the Church Relations Group.
Regional Ministry partners
The Regional Ministry partners are Brett Selby for the Southwest Region, Mark Dance for the East Central Region, Buddy Hunt for the East Region and Griff Henderson for the Northwest Region.
Selby has been serving Oklahoma Baptists as a pastoral leadership specialist for the past 13 years and has made the transition to fill this role of serving churches in the southwest region. He and his wife Brenda have two adult sons.
Dance recently served at LifeWay Christian Resources as director of pastors, and along with serving the east central region, he will be the director of pastor development for Oklahoma Baptists. Dance and his wife Janet have two adult children.
Hunt has served as pastor of Tahlequah, First for the past 11 years. He and his wife Michell have two adult daughters and one granddaughter. He continues to live in Tahlequah as he serves the eastern part of the state.
Henderson has served as pastor of Edmond, Waterloo Road for the past 10 years. He and his wife Shari have two adult sons, a grandson and a granddaughter who is soon to be born. He will be connecting with churches in the northwest region.
Purpose of Regional Ministry
During the Sept. 10 Oklahoma Baptists’ board meeting, Hance Dilbeck, executive director-treasurer for Oklahoma Baptists, gave details of how the new regional ministry partners will be serving.
“These ministry partners will encourage Gospel advance by providing contextualized support for our pastors and churches and challenging them toward the goal of church health and growth,” Dilbeck said. “They will seek to be directly connected to pastors, present and accessible.”
Swain gave further details about the regional ministry partners during his Annual Meeting introduction. “These regional ministry partners will be working with our associational partners to help provide the support and encouragement that is needed in these parts of the state,” he said.
Swain said the partners have a personal focus, which involves checking on pastors’ personal and family wellness and consulting pastors on pursuing educational training such as seminary. Personal focus, Swain said, will be on helping pastors “sharpen their sword as they serve the church and shepherd the body of Christ.”
The partners also will have a general focus, which will help pastors with conflict resolution, leadership and staff development and church revitalization.
“More than 70 percent of Oklahoma Baptist churches are in need of revitalization,” Swain said. “We want to help our churches with answering the question ‘What are some things we can do to turn the tide?’”
The partners will have a practical focus with churches, which involves evangelism, discipleship and mission partnerships. Swain said, “These are things that help churches move forward in reaching people, in training them, and seeing them become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Finally, Swain said the regional ministry partners will have a transition focus, which is helping churches select a transitional pastor and consulting pastor search committees.
“All of our churches will go through a period of transition,” Swain said, “and the regional ministry partners will be helping them, whether it’s with a transitional pastor or encouraging them in that way or helping their search committee as they are looking for their next pastor. We want our Church Relations Group to meet that need.”
Affinity Group Ministry partners
Swain also introduced current Oklahoma Baptists’ staff members who are now serving with the Church Relations Group as Affinity Group partners.
Ever Borunda is the Hispanic ministry partner. He and his wife Donia have two children.
Walter Wilson is the African American ministry partner. He and his wife Velma have one daughter.
Emerson Falls is the Native American ministry partner. He and his wife Shirley have two adult children and three grandchildren.
“We have a number of our churches that are Native American churches, African American churches and Hispanic churches,” Swain said. “We have people on this team who understand that context and can speak into that context.”
Petersen serves as new ministry wives partner
Amy Petersen joins the Church Relations Group as ministry wives ministry partner. She has experience serving churches in youth and adult education.
Swain said Petersen will be a help in connecting with pastors’ wives and wives of church staff members. Petersen’s husband Brandon has served in full-time ministry. The couple has three boys.
Dighton serves as ministry consultant
Steve Dighton also was introduced at the Annual Meeting as a ministry consultant. Swain said Dighton will provide insight in key areas for growing churches, especially those considering multi-site locations.
Dighton retired in 2015, as pastor of Lenexa, Kan., First. He previously served as pastor of Piedmont, First. He and his wife Mary have two adult sons and four grandchildren.
For more information on Oklahoma Baptists Church Relations Group, visit oklahomabaptists.org.