VALLEY FORGE, PA (7/23/19)—Over 100 seminarians and ministers new to American Baptist Churches gathered in Virginia Beach at the 2019 Biennial Mission Summit for the Orientation to American Baptist Life (OTABL) program. The new ministers and seminarians represented 29 of the 33 American Baptist regions across the United States and Puerto Rico.
The OTABL participants attended three pre-Biennial Mission Summit webinars to learn about the denominational family’s mission and ministry partners, held in March, April and May. The webinars featured presentations by: the ABCUSA Office of the General Secretary; the American Baptist Home Mission Societies; American Baptist International Ministries; American Baptist Men USA; American Baptist Women’s Ministries; the Ministers Council; MMBB Financial Services; and the Regional Executive Ministers. Participants had the opportunity to ask questions and interact with the presentations.
At the 2019 Biennial Mission Summit, OTABL participants attended special sessions in mentor groups to encourage support and networking. The mentors were volunteers from regional executive staff teams across the country*. The mentoring groups met four times and focused on sharing some simple ideas for exploring their faith and encouraging healthy and effective ministry.
ABCUSA General Secretary Dr. Lee B. Spitzer spoke to the OTABL participants on Sunday morning during breakfast about the importance of building lasting friendships in ministry. Dr. Spitzer’s talk was based upon his 2010 Judson Press book, Making Friends, Making Disciples: Growing Your Churches through Authentic Relationships. Of special note was Dr. Spitzer’s highlighting of his research that proves that pastoral leaders lose 80% of their friendships when they move to a new congregation. In light of this dynamic, Dr. Spitzer talked about strategies to help counteract this reality.
OTABL attendees were gifted with lunches from our major mission sponsors: MMBB Financial Services, the American Baptist Home Mission Societies and International Ministries. These luncheons highlighted the special focus and calling of the mission partners in our American Baptist family. A special gift was provided by Judson Press – a choice between a pre-packaged set of books or a gift of several books at the choosing of the OTABL participants.
This is only the second time that the OTABL program has been held in conjunction with the national Biennial Mission Summit. At the request of the 2017 OTABL participants, one major change was the addition of the pre-Biennial Mission Summit webinars so that attendees could participate more fully with the Biennial program.
Orientation to American Baptist Life was funded through: the generous support and a major gift from MMBB Financial Services; the generous giving of our American Baptist family through a percentage of United Mission giving designated by the Budget Covenant; lunches provided by MMBB, ABHMS and IM; and gifts from Judson Press to each participant.
Orientation to American Baptist Life has a webpage at: www.abc-usa/OTABL
Rev. Dr. Isaac Castaneda (Metro New York)
Rev. Dr. Robert Cochran (DC Baptist Convention)
Rev. Soozi Ford (ABC IN/KY)
Rev. Marlene Gil (TABCOM)
Rev. Doug Hubbard (ABCOFLASH)
Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Johnson (ABCOPAD)
Rev. Dr. Jim Kelsey (ABCNY)
Rev. Dr. Mary Day Miller (TABCOM)
Rev. Dr. Harry Riggs (ABCCONN)
Rev. Andre Towner (DC Baptist Convention)
Rev. Dr. Kevin Walden (ABCUSA)
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.