Each year I bring a report to the Executive Board during October Board meeting. When I make this report each year, it is a time to reflect on the past, report on the present, and reveal direction for the future.
As I reflect on the past, I know that I am grateful. Grateful to the Lord for directing me to Kentucky, grateful for those who have gone before me, grateful for those who have served on our Board and our staff. I am particularly grateful that people have been gracious, encouraging, and supportive in so many ways. I am grateful for the opportunities to have represented Kentucky WMU across our state, at national WMU, and even around the world.
You have heard the staff reports on the present. We have an excellent staff who are all hard workers. We’ve recently all taken an on-line version of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and I took note that every person on our staff has a J in the mix of four letters that describe their personality type. That means we are all highly structured. Now beyond that, we have many differences, but we are united around one purpose – missions.
Back during the summer, we were asked to participate in shooting a Cooperative Program video. What KBC wanted was for each agency to do something that represented their work and end with a group of people saying thank you. I chose to do this at Kentucky Changers. As I tried to think of a way to say what Kentucky WMU does, all I could come up with was a list of a lot of WMU activities. So that is what we did. (NOTE: This video will be shown at the KBC Annual Meeting on November 15 and posted on our web site after the meeting. We have been asked not to release it yet.)
Not long after making this video, we were having a discussion about the work of WMU in a staff meeting and we were asked to describe succinctly what WMU does. Someone said, “WMU facilitates missions involvement.”
I immediately latched on to that statement. Short and to the point. Just think about it. When we plan things like Kentucky Changers or Mission Adventure for Kentucky Kids, we facilitate the missions involvement of those who come. It fits with what KBC has as our mission statement: “The Kentucky Baptist Convention, created by churches, for churches, to help churches reach Kentucky and the world for Christ.” Kentucky WMU helps KBC do this as we help churches learn, pray, give, go, and send. By planning Changers and MAKK, we have helped churches have a way to send students and children on mission. Now of course, we know that the participants have also learned about missions and prayed during their experience. (See Kentucky Changers Video from Frankfort, July 2016).
When Kentucky WMU sends out posters, prayer guides and envelopes for each of the missions offerings, we facilitate the missions involvement of 2400 churches who have the opportunity to learn, pray, and give for missions.
Kentucky WMU partnered with Baptist Global Response and the KBC in 2014 and again this year to do the Bucket Project. By organizing and promoting this effort, we are helping individuals and churches to be involved in taking the gospel to people with AIDS. (See CP/Buckets of Hope Video.)
When Kentucky WMU plans a missions trip and people join us, we facilitate their opportunity to go. When we teach leaders to plan and conduct local mission action ministries, and they go home to their own churches and associations to do this, Kentucky WMU has had a part in helping people go get involved in missions.
In 2017 we will have many ways to get involved. We will promote these through an insert that will be in the February 2017 Missions Mosaic. It promotes events in 2017 from about February up to the end of July. It is built around the theme of WMU facilitates missions involvement. Be on the lookout for it when your February Mosaic comes. Share it with others. If you need copies, it will be on the web and you can print more.
I spoke in Daviess-McLean association this past Monday night, and went through a lot of the events that Kentucky WMU sponsors.
Larry Gritton, president of Oneida Baptist Institute, spoke after me, and jokingly said, “I’m sorry you don’t have enough to do.”
We have plenty to do and a wonderful staff who lead these activities. My job some days is just to get out of their way. But I am also the one who is approached by others when they are seeking WMU partnership, involvement, support. At that point, my job is to envision possibilities. I don’t always get it right but it is exciting to be part of new things.
Sometimes we have to let go of things that are beloved to us in order to embrace new opportunities. This was the case three years ago when we knew we had to give up having camp at Cedar Crest. But letting go of camp opened the door for Mission Adventure for Kentucky Kids, a tremendous mission trip opportunity for children in grades 4-6 and their leaders.
I am excited about the future direction of GA activities through Wild About Missions. Due to scheduling, we cannot even do the camp overnights at Jonathan Creek and Cedar Crest next summer. But Stacy came to me with a new idea for GA activities to do instead, and I think they are going to be great as girls have an overnight at the Louisville Zoo, a day at the Kentucky Horse Park, and an overnight at Camp Joy and trip to Mammoth Cave. These are new ways to learn about missions.
I must say that I am excited about the future for national WMU. Our new executive director, Sandy Wisdom-Martin, is creative, funny, caring. It is God’s providence that Sandy has several articles in this year’s WMU Year Book, and those were written long before we began talking with her about becoming our new exec. She also has a great series of articles in Mosaic about practical things you can make for missions. I am saving every one of the articles. But I want you to hear Sandy in her own words. (See Introducing Sandy Wisdom-Martin video)
What do I see for the future of Kentucky WMU?
- Strengthen partnerships. We need to work even more closely with other KBC agencies and institutions such as Oneida and Sunrise. The ministry projects we are doing this weekend are a way to partner with church planting as we write notes to church planter wives and as we provide the makings for s’mores for the international student retreat. Every time that others come to WMU to ask for help and find us ready and willing, it strengthens relationships and once again, WMU facilitates missions involvement. There will be opportunities for us with the KBC in partnership missions as well. I want to be ready to say yes when we are asked. I can also say that we are partnering within the KBC. Jason Stewart is joining us in planning and promoting the next Creative Ministries Festival. We believe we are going to connect with a new audience for this ministry. And of course, for WMU, creative ministries is an avenue for sharing the gospel, which is what we are all about.
- Grow the Eliza Broadus Offering. Our state missions offering has remained steady but we have not met goal in a number of years. There are missions needs in Kentucky that we need to be part of and support through the offering.
- Grow other sources of funding for Kentucky WMU such as the Heritage Fund. My goal has been to get to the point that every dollar of EBO is used for other state missions work and none kept for Kentucky WMU. We have been very blessed that when CP began to slide, we had begun to have real growth in other income sources. That growth allowed us to maintain our staffing level and continue on. While we are grateful to see an upturn in CP, Kentucky WMU needs to have other resources as well to keep growing our work.
- Advocate for missions education in the local church. This has been a long standing purpose of WMU, but the need is critical. I think the bringing home of over 1,000 IMB missionaries last year was a wakeup call to many. As a result, CP has grown this year. I also think there is a greater awareness that adults in our churches don’t just wake up one day and say “I think we need to support the Cooperative Program, and that we need to give more for missions.” Rather, attitudes about supporting missions are cultivated over time and through experience. So, it is important that we start talking about the Cooperative Program and our missions offerings with our children so that these are not foreign terms to them when they get to be adults. And for folks coming into our churches who did not grow up in missions, we must teach them as well. In the Development Committee, it was suggested that Kentucky WMU develop a Missions 101 conference and display, where we teach what CP, LMCO, AAEO, EBO are and why we support missions through them. I plan to follow up on this and offer my services to churches that would like to have a Missions 101 presentation.
- Remember our core strength. I read a book awhile back on leadership entitled “One Thing You Need to Know.” The author identified four points of clarity that organizations need to know: Who do we serve? What is our core strength? What is our core score? What actions can we take today? It is an informative read and I certainly could have organized my comments tonight around the four questions. But I want to close with a reminder about our core strength.
Luke 8:1-3 tells about the women who were in the company of the larger group of disciples who followed Jesus. After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him,2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.
I like to think of them as the first WMU group. They supported the work of Jesus financially. That is how WMU got started and it is still a core strength of our work. A vital service to the Kingdom that we provide – raising money for missions.
And then this morning I read a passage that jumped out at me from 1 Timothy 5. Here Paul is writing to Timothy about the care of widows in the church, stressing that if there is family, that is who should care for them. But in what he said about the widows who were deserving of the care of the church, there is a list that we must not miss. In 1 Tim. 5:3-10, Paul says: Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need…. 9 No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
The women were to be well known for good works, that is:
- Bringing up children – we all need to help bring up the children of the church – shame on us if a church cannot find WMU members willing to work with the children. And even if a church does not have RA and GA or MF, if WMU members teach SS, lead children’s church, etc., we can make sure that our children are learning about missions within those contexts.
- Showing hospitality – may we show hospitality to people in need, missionaries, people in our communities. It is OK for us to be known as the best cooks in town. When Brett came and asked for ‘smores for international students, my answer was yes, we can do that. He left my office loving WMU.
- Washing the saints’ feet – may we care for our missionaries, pastors, church planters, other believers. May we serve in whatever way is needed. That is why we are writing encouragement cards to church planter wives.
- Helping the afflicted – when we get involved with ministries to people in need, we are helping the afflicted. We do this through Kentucky Changers, MAKK, Missionsfest, Familyfest, BNF, local mission action, collection projects for Baptist ministries, and the list goes on.
- Devoted to good works – basically we do whatever needs to be done. We do not have to have a lot of recognition, or position, or titles – we just do what needs to be done. I encourage WMU leaders in churches and associations to find out what the pastor or DOM vision is and devote themselves to helping him accomplish it.
This is the kind of reputation we in WMU need to have.
In speaking in associational fall meetings over the past few weeks, I’ve talked about how WMU facilitates missions involvement. I’ve ended with this statement: Can you be involved in missions without WMU? Sure you can, but if you want to see greater missions involvement by your church, WMU has a track record of over 125 years of engaging people in missions. Encourage WMU in your church and the results will be amazing.
As Sandy said, “have we accomplished the great commission?” Until everyone in all the world has heard the gospel, then WMU has work to be done. It’s not about WMU, it’s about the gospel. WMU facilitates missions involvement. We help churches learn, pray, give, go and send.