WBU to host conference for smaller churches; pastors share how COVID-19 has impacted their churches

WBU to host conference for smaller churches; pastors share how COVID-19 has impacted their churches

WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. (KAIT) - Over 60 small churches in Region 8 plan on attending the Equip Conference at Williams Baptist University Saturday.

The conference has been around for a few years now, but this is the first year they’ve held the conference since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Dr. Robert Foster, Department Chair of Christian Ministries at WBU, helps direct the Equip Conference every year. He said the pandemic is a point of discussion.

“I’ll be surprised if the pandemic doesn’t come up in every single one of our sessions,” Dr. Foster said. “But the main purpose of it is to try to be an encouragement and give some refresher to skills and help building skills for ministers that serve in the smaller size churches.”

Part of the encouragement this year is for the smaller churches who have navigated the unknowns of COVID-19. Many pastors in small churches, over half of the Baptist churches in the state, work a daily job outside of being a pastor.

For Pastor of New Liberty Baptist Church in Marmaduke Chris Woodall, it’s not just the pandemic in their church he’s balanced, but also at his workplace.

Woodall is the Manager of Integrative Services at Hytrol, plus pastoring around 35 people a week at New Liberty Baptist.

Woodall said the pandemic between work, church, and at home has been challenging in many ways.

“It can be tasking, but you know what, when God calls you to do something, He’s going to give you the ability to do it,” Woodall said. “He’s blessed me extremely with that, so I am not going to complain.”

Woodall said the church is persevering through the pandemic and even grew by over ten people thanks to live streaming the sermons on Facebook.

Like Woodall, Pastor Jake Guenrich at First Baptist Church Walnut Ridge says the church has helped them through the pandemic.

“It’s helpful to be a part of a community of faith that loves you and cares about you and can really support you during times like this,” Guenrich said.

As for the conference this Saturday, Dr. Foster said the conference aims to encourage pastors while also celebrating the creativity in serving their communities.

“We want to celebrate the creative things people have done, encourage them to keep on after it and do the best they can, and ask other churches for help,” Dr. Foster said.

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