Introducing... The Truett Church Network
For over 25 years, Truett Seminary has equipped God-called women and men for gospel ministry in and alongside Christ’s Church. Over the last several years, Truett has begun placing a renewed interest in going beyond the equipping of current students by helping to equip the churches they will be serving and the Truett alumni and friends serving in them.
Through this desire to serve the church and alumni, a new initiative has been launched — the Truett Church Network. This hub of support and encouragement will connect friends of Truett to each other and to the wide array of resources available through the Seminary and through Baylor.
“If our mission is to equip men and women in and alongside the church, there’s no reason that should stop at the education of masters-level and doctoral-level students,” said Dr. Matt Homeyer, assistant dean of external affairs. “Why shouldn’t that mission expand out into the pastorate, out into the ministry, for our alumni and friends once they leave their degree program? That’s really what the Truett Church Network is trying to do. We’re trying to take what Truett does well — equipping men and women for ministry — and expand that beyond just our degree programs.”
Supporting Current Resources
One focus of the Truett Church Network will be to act as an umbrella over and provide support to resources for churches and alumni that already exist at the seminary. Many of these programs have seen significant growth or developed promising new initiatives within the last several years.
The W. Winfred Moore Center for Ministry Effectiveness
The Center for Ministry Effectiveness, established in 1997, engages with congregational and ministry leaders to equip and encourage them in their work. Conferences and workshops are held throughout the year to — as the name suggests — aid in ministry effectiveness. In 2014, the Center moved from across campus to Truett Seminary and Dr. Ron Cook was appointed as director, bringing its mission of strengthening and enabling Christian ministers home to Truett. This past spring, the Center was named in honor of its inaugural director, Dr. W. Winfred Moore, and following Cook’s retirement in May, is now led by Homeyer.
The Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching
The Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching provides opportunities for preaching education and practice for both seminarians and pastors. Under the new leadership of Dr. Joel Gregory and with the help of Shawn Boyd, the Kyle Lake Center program coordinator, three new preaching conferences have been introduced for 2019. The inaugural Boomers & Beyond Conference was held in May, and the National Preaching Conference and African American Preaching Conference will be offered this fall. In addition, through a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., the Kyle Lake Center coordinates preaching cohorts across the state of Texas led by experienced mentors.
Office of Ministry Connections
Truett’s Office of Ministry Connections, led by Jack Bodenhamer, offers an abundance of placement resources for both churches and alumni and friends. The reach of the office has grown tremendously over the last several years. At any one time, Bodenhamer is working with over 100 churches as a search committee or hiring consultant and around 300 ministers as they move through the job search process. Truett faculty and staff also frequently serve as interim pastors for churches in transition or as guest preachers across the state, while a growing number of students have the opportunity to supply preach every Sunday throughout the year.
Online Certificate Program
Under the leadership of David Tate, the Seminary’s Online Certificate Program has flourished with over 200 ministers and laypeople currently enrolled in the program. This resource claims the space “between Sunday school and seminary,” seeking to educate bi-vocational pastors, lay-ministers, church volunteers, and others who want to gain knowledge of the Christian faith and increase their effectiveness in ministering to others. Recently, the Certificate Program has partnered with Texas Baptists to offer a Certificate of Chaplaincy Ministry and an Advanced Certificate of Ministry in Children’s Ministry.
“Truett is already doing a tremendous amount to equip, support, and encourage pastors and churches,” Homeyer said. “The Truett Church Network is partly about packaging and bringing all of these resources together under one banner.”
Developing New Support
“We will definitely be involving technology more and really thinking about how people connect and learn today,” Homeyer said. One of the Network’s first projects will be launching a ministry leadership podcast. The goal will be to host weekly episodes featuring Truett faculty, alumni, and campus guests speaking on their expertise as it applies to church leadership and ministry effectiveness. “Most of it will be about equipping pastors — and pastors in the broad sense of all congregational ministers — and providing great resources that they can apply to their ministry,” Homeyer said. “The second part will be about lifting up Baylor and Truett to help entrench us as leaders in ministry thought for the whole world.”
Another Truett Church Network project will be leadership huddles. These small groups will be composed of ministers in similar life stages or facing similar challenges in ministry. The huddles will meet virtually for 12 to 18 months to discuss the challenges they face and to learn from one another. The Truett Church Network will bring in a thought leader relevant to each particular group, and then the huddle will conclude with an in-person retreat.
The Network also will offer an expanded number of retreats for affinity groups — student ministers, senior pastors, children’s ministers, and others — during which ministers can gather to meet with others in their same role for a time of rest and encouragement.
“We really want to listen to our ministers in our network, to listen to our friends who love Truett,” Homeyer said. “We want to ask them, ‘What struggles are you facing and how can we help put together some resources to address those struggles?’” Truett Church Network events will be held in Waco, in Texas, and around the country. Many of the events also will be streamed or recorded to provide greater access for those unable to travel.
A Ministry for the Ministers
“Truett has graduates doing wonderful ministry in a variety of fields and job areas — all with a call to vocational ministry. The Truett Church Network is really targeted to churches and congregational ministers — those serving on a church staff and those working in, by, and for a church,” Homeyer said. “While we value ministers doing other things, the funding for this program and the endowment we have is really to support congregational ministers.”
While Homeyer hopes Truett alumni are heavily involved with the Network, the programming and resources are not restricted to Seminary graduates. All friends of Truett are welcome and encouraged to participate.
“The Truett Church Network is for any ministers who want to receive good training and develop their own network of support and friendships,” Homeyer said. “Though we’ll target alumni initially, it will expand far beyond that. We hope this will be a theologically diverse, denominationally diverse, geographically diverse, ethnically diverse gathering, and that we will all benefit from that.”
Pastoral ministry and congregational ministry are increasingly challenging, and many of the resources available are aimed for specific segments of the population, like churches of a particular size or point of view.
“This is a call back to Truett’s original DNA and the thoughts and prayers and hopes that founded us — that we would not just be a place that educates master- and doctoral-level students, but that we would support the church by equipping and encouraging ministers at all phases.”