Newcomers, Young Adults Embrace This Year’s Black Church Leadership and Family Conference

Former Southern Baptist Convention president Fred Luter (fourth from left), pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, led a class on effective evangelism at the 2017 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference. Photo by Diana Chandler

Ryan Littlejohn of Wichita, Kan., attended his first Black Church Leadership and Family Conference July 17-21 after hearing a glowing report of the previous year’s gathering.

“I came because my pastor (Tarrance C. Floyd) and first lady (Jacqueline Floyd) came last year, and they just really, really loved what this place offered and everything they learned,” Littlejohn told Baptist Press on the grounds of Ridgecrest Conference Center, the site of the annual event. “And they shared it with the congregation, and a group of eight of us came here, based on just what they said. We came and it’s been everything and more thus far. I’m just excited and really learning a lot here.”

An evangelism leader in his mid-30s, Littlejohn was among 30 percent of the nearly 950 attendees who were newcomers to the 2017 event, according to conference host LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“I just love coming together with fellow believers and then just all the things you’re adding to what you already know,” Littlejohn said. “And it just has so much to add to your life and to your ministries, and even opening your eyes up to some future things and more things that you can do, not just what you’re doing now.”

Littlejohn also is among a growing demographic of millennials and young adults the conference is attracting, said Mark Croston, LifeWay’s national director for black church partnerships.

“We have been trying to be more intentional about adding classes and activities focused on this important growth area,” Croston said. “Among the activities are our evening Young Adult Coffee Houses, a zip line course and laser tag, to mention a few. Joseph Howard, youth pastor, Mount Olivet Missionary Baptist Church, Rockmart, Ga., led our young adult efforts this year and the group has given us even more engaging activities we are already planning for 2018.”

Young adults could be seen participating in various conference sessions, including a small group of about 15 who participated in the post-evening worship coffee house discussions on contemporary topics and issues important to the demographic.

Racial reconciliation, sexual orientation and gender identity, the black church and politics, and the biblical call to protect life at every stage comprised a conference track of classes focusing on contemporary issues. Classes were categorized into nearly 30 tracks, including the Bible, church growth, evangelism, personal finance, missions, women’s ministry, men’s ministry, and seminary-level instruction and discussion.

“What makes this conference unique is that there really is something for the entire church family,” Croston told BP. “As we plan, we specifically pray and plan to meet the current needs of our church leaders and the age-appropriate needs of their families. This event is information, inspiration, exhilaration and relaxation all wrapped up in one.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Diana Chandler