What makes a good Annual Meeting?
As they say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” In other words, people can often have different ideas regarding what they find attractive. The same is true in regard to defining what makes for a good Associational Annual Meeting. Opinions can differ.
Baptist associations have been holding Annual Meetings for a long time. On Sunday we will hold the 133rd Annual Meeting for the Parker Association, which takes us all the way back to the late 19th Century, shortly after the end of the Civil War. Parker County sat on the western frontier of Texas with settlement pushing westward. Communities and churches were isolated with travel being both difficult and dangerous. Meetings might last more than one day as churches gathered for fellowship and inspiration. They also met to hear reports of how their cooperative work was leaving imprints of the Kingdom in their local communities and beyond.
Through the mid-to-late 20th Century, Annual Meetings would have a revival-like quality to them with guest speakers and music mixed in with reports. They would last multiple sessions, if not days, carrying the same desire to bring churches together for fellowship and inspiration.
Times have changed. Meetings, in general, carry less value as people ration their time and attention. Churches are less isolated and communication flows more freely. Sitting in a meeting and listening to reports for several hours holds much less appeal when a report can be transmitted over the internet in a matter of minutes.
Fellowship and inspiration still matter, but the question of what makes for a good Annual Meeting in the 21st century still lingers. Here are the things I consider.
1. Churches and church members connect to something bigger than themselves. In my opinion, one of the primary purposes of the Annual Meeting is to remind each of us that our connection as churches fulfills a larger purpose. I believe that every church has a unique purpose and mission for expanding God’s Kingdom in its own context. We associate together in order to multiply our impact for the Kingdom. I hope each person leaves our Annual Meeting with a positive feeling about being connected to a larger mission.
2. Churches encourage one another. Large or small, every church has a seat at the Association’s table. No matter how many people attend every Sunday, or how much money your church gives to the budget, your presence is welcome. This can be a tough time for churches and church leaders. There are lots of distractions and difficulties to ministry. All of us should leave the Annual Meeting encouraged to continue serving Christ faithfully and trusting Him for the future.
3. Churches look to the future with hope. When churches were planted in our county in the late 1800s, times were tough and there were plenty of opportunities to lose hope. But those settlers persevered and their churches persevered with them. They carried hope into the 20th century and now it is our turn to carry that hope well into the 21st century.
What will the future look like? I am conscious as a Baptist leader that I cannot speak for the Association. But may I speak to you about what I believe to be God’s dream for our future? I hope for an Association that wisely invests in the ability of churches to train, empower, mobilize and send disciples of Jesus out to be witnesses for the Kingdom. I hope for:
- an increased number of churches experiencing vitality in disciple-making and mission,
- an increased number of leaders who are generating movements of Christ-followers serving the Kingdom, and
- that every person in Parker County who is far from Christ will have at least one meaningful relationship with a committed follower of Christ.
I believe that the Association can be a catalyst for that kind of movement; a network of churches committed to leaving imprints of the Kingdom in our local communities and beyond that help people to see and follow Jesus.
Purpose, encouragement and hope; if we can deliver those three things for one another then I would consider our Annual Meeting a success. Join us at North Side Baptist on Sunday afternoon.