Tales from the VBS Road Trip

Tales from the VBS Road Trip

By Marc Ira Hooks
Associate Missions Strategist/Director of Communication

There is nothing more Southern Baptist than Vacation Bible School (VBS.)  Some of my earliest memories of church come from VBS. My mother was known in our church as “The Cookie Monster.” As school was coming to an end, she would begin collecting (hoarding is probably a better word) cookies and Kool-Aid to feed the numerous kids who would come through our church for a week filled with Bible study, crafts, games…and cookies.

When I was commissioned as an IMB missionary, I fondly recalled my early memories of missions education – standing on the stage during VBS as one of the volunteers chosen to act out the mission story of the day. They would dress one of us in rags that had been “bloodied” by catsup while another would don a white lab coat, stethoscope, and one of those reflector thingies that old-fashioned doctors would wear. Then we would act out the story as the leaders shared about how the missionary-doctor traveled to a foreign land to bind the wounds of the broken. And how Jesus, just like that doctor, can heal our spiritual needs as well as our physical needs.

Years later, I found myself dressed in my own missionary costume – a parka, and Russian-style fur hat – sitting next to some women who had made their way through the ice, snow, and bitter winds of Siberia to draw water from the village well. I shared with them about the one who brings living water. You see, a week of VBS will not just provide experiences that change the lives of children who attend, it has the potential to change hundreds or thousands of lives around the globe.

I traveled more than 1,000 miles over Collin County roads this summer during The VBS Road Trip and managed to visit 24 of the many CBA Church Network churches who hosted VBS for their neighborhoods. Though the theme was often the same, the VBS experience from church to church was vastly different. However, the one thing each had in common is that young lives were being changed through the transforming message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

On one stop, the pastor left me abruptly minutes before our live video broadcast because a young man had just indicated he wanted to talk about how to accept Jesus as his lord and savior. On another stop, one of the children talked about how scared John the Baptist must have felt to baptize Jesus because he realized Jesus was the Son of God. And during a visit to an adult VBS (yes, that is a thing) a young man gave testimony about how Jesus appeared to him while he was in a coma, and now his life’s mission is to proclaim the Gospel.

This summer, countless girls, boys, women, and men in Collin County came face-to-face with a living witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ…and that is what VBS and the work of the CBA Church Network churches is all about, the transformational work of Jesus in the lives of our neighbors.

See you next year on The VBS Road Trip – 2020!


Cooperation – the process of working together to the same end.

Cooperation – the process of working together to the same end.

By Brian Everett
Pastor, Allen Heights Baptist Church

Brian Everett Pastor, Allen Heights Baptist Church

I fear that we are losing “cooperation” as Baptists as time marches on.  I have been that pastor that has gone to all the meetings of the state convention, national convention, associational meetings and gatherings only to leave with a feeling that there is a lack of unity and lack of cooperation with Baptist churches that desire to work together for the kingdom of God, even the churches that are just a few blocks away.

We would rather compete, than cooperate.  Because in the end, there must be a feeling that God is keeping count of the numbers instead of “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  (Matthew 25:23)  How well did you serve is the question, not how many you gathered.  In Matthew 25, Jesus teaches a strong lesson in His story, “the Parable of the Talents.”  Jesus was talking more about the slave’s attitude towards what he had been given, not all about what he accomplished with it.

Founded in 1707, the Philadelphia Baptist Association, now affiliated with the American Baptist Churches (USA), has assisted countless churches in starting, developing, growing, and extending the Gospel through a unified message and effort.  (http://www.sbclife.net/article/1533/baptist-associations-celebrating-300-years)  We are the ones who “cooperate together”, since the formation of associations, to do the work of the kingdom.  From the smaller church, who are doing everything they can to keep the few together that gather on Sunday, who need a helping hand with Vacation Bible School this summer because they have two kids in Sunday School from K-6th Grade, to the larger church who has the resources, capacity and “servant’s heart” to reach across the county to help and serve them.

To the one hundred person church, the average size Southern Baptist Church, that needs help with evangelism training that finds another church right next door to them who are willing to give of their time and resources to disciple them and even take them out in the city to show them how to share the gospel.  This is the association.  This is cooperation.  This is the kingdom work that we can do together that makes a greater impact on the communities and cities we are trying to reach.

I appreciate the efforts that churches in our association are making to help one another.  To disciple one another.  To care for each other.  Here is where we see “assisting” and “developing” take place that was the spirit of the Baptist Association over 300 years ago.  To extend the gospel to every home in our cities.  To labor side by side to see Jesus made famous.  Obeying the Great Commission that Jesus has given us.

I desperately need the fellowship and prayers of other pastors.  Pastors that are facing the same battles and struggles that I am.  I need to know that they care that I am serving right down the street from them.  I need sincerity in conversations and actions.  I need help with certain things in the church I serve.  I am not an island.  I must also be willing to invest in others.  I am willing.  I would give the needed time.  My spiritual, physical and mental health depends on it.  But the looming question is, “Are you there?” A mentor once told me, “Brian, they know you care when you’re there.”  The ministry of presence is huge.

Some of the greatest relationships with other pastors who are good friends are made in the association.  Some of the most meaningful prayer times I have had are with other pastors in the association who had the time to pray with me and I with them.  Some of the greatest mission and ministry moments I have experienced were when I was a part of churches working together for the kingdom of God.

I encourage you to reach out – to connect, collaborate and engage – with other churches in our association.  You will be amazed as to what the Holy Spirit will do, when you take a walk with Him working side by side with brothers and sisters in Christ to reach Collin County.


VBS Road Trip


There is nothing more Southern Baptist than Vacation Bible School!
Join the CBA Church Network each week throughout the summer as we bring you reports via FacebookLIVE!
What images pop into your head when you hear the words Vacation Bible School? Do you have fond memories, or are you wondering what is VBS? VBS stands for Vacation Bible School, and it is a summer church outreach focused on giving kids a fun and creative place to learn about the Bible and to build relationships with churches and other kids in the area.
If VBS has been a great experience for you as a child or adult (or both!), you are probably smiling. Some may think of VBS as “old school” or not an event for your style of ministry. You might think VBS is OK, but you feel pressure because you need an event that sets your church apart from others in your area.

What Is the Purpose of VBS?

Many people may wonder what the purpose of Vacation Bible School is and if it’s still relevant. The answer is actually very simple: the purpose of VBS is to minister children in the church, create outreach to the surrounding communities, and to create evangelism opportunities. This purpose is supported by a creative theme of Bible study, activities, worship, and even time for some tasty snacks.
If you are not sure VBS is for you, here are a few things to consider.

1. VBS is a dependable ongoing ministry.

For 95 years, LifeWay has provided trusted VBS resources to churches, reaching more than 25,000 churches and 3 million people annually.
VBS can be a short-term event with long-term results.
With a typical five-day time frame, VBS offers a chance to pull out all the stops and create an unforgettable experience. Research shows connections made during VBS result in salvations , discovery of church prospects and potential workers for other ongoing children’s programs. Also, it is not uncommon for a leader to volunteer to help for “just one week of VBS,” and feel God’s tug on his or her heart to work with kids permanently.

2. VBS creates lasting memories.

VBS is a special event that creates memories that help lock Bible truths in a child’s heart and mind for a lifetime. Birthday parties and other special events have themes that use creativity to evoke feelings of excitement. Games, food, decorations and fun all link together in a total package. VBS does the same thing. When we connect with kids through this ministry, the biblical truths that permeate all aspects of VBS also connect with their hearts and minds.

3. VBS is an opportunity to share the gospel.

VBS is an intentional evangelistic opportunity.
The biblical content built into the curriculum lays foundational truths that help kids understand who Jesus is and why they need a personal Savior. The relationships you develop with kids and their families can provide many opportunities to not only show the love of Jesus, but to share the truth of the gospel.

4. VBS is an event that you can customize.

VBS is what you make it.
Whether you provide an on-campus experience that encourages your church kids to bring their friends or an off-campus, community-centered Backyard Kids Club, the purpose of sharing the good news about Jesus is the same. Some churches are finding that it’s worth the effort to do both. After a great on-campus experience, you can take those resources to backyards and community rooms, or on mission trips.
VBS is the resource. The name you choose can be your own! You can call it VBS, Kids’ Week, Fun Zone or any event name of your choice. Kids will come to love and talk about the events that excite them, engage them, and help them know that God and the people at your church really care about them.
VBS is an opportunity to ignite the imagination of your church, involve volunteers for a specific “doable” commitment and connect with the kids in your church and community. The methods you use will create memories. The message you share will change lives.
Rhonda VanCleave is a publishing team leader at LifeWay Christian Resources. She leads children’s church at Rock Springs Baptist Church, Columbia, Tennessee where her husband is pastor. Reprinted from: https://www.lifeway.com/en/articles/vbs-right-for-your-church-kids-ministry

Knowing Our Neighbors

Who are we? Who are our neighbors? How do we engage them?

These important questions should be asked as churches strive to evaluate their mission field. Once upon a time, churches would spend hundreds of man-hours having church members canvass door-to-door and create people maps of the surrounding neighborhoods. Today, state-of-the-art technology and access to multiple national databases makes our mission field knowable. And, knowing more about who our neighbors are allows the church to customize their engagement strategies based on this knowledge.

But getting the raw data is only the first stage of using modern technology to help our churches engage the lost people who are within our reach. Interpreting that data and developing mission strategies based on those reports is an important part of the strategic mapping process. CBA’s experienced missiologists have extensive local knowledge allowing them to synthesize the data and provide individualized application for the mission strategy of your church.

How does it work?

Step one is collecting data about your congregation from your church. Most likely, you already have the information at your fingertips, it just needs to be formatted and sent to CBA. Next, our data partners generate a battery of reports based on your specific church and neighborhood data. These reports are the building blocks for creating a demographic profile of the community around your church and allow us to compare your congregation with the surrounding neighborhoods. Finally, CBA mission strategists help you use the demographic, psychographic, and religious belief information from the reports to enhance your church strategy for reaching the lost in your specific mission field.

Where does the data come from?

The primary data collection tool used is MissionInsite’s FaithConnect tool.  FaithConnect provides a holistic view of your community and organization, enhanced with premium data from Experian Mosaic USA, Epsilon TotalSource Plus, Simmons Consumer Behavior Surveys and more. Detailed, housetop data (useful for mailing and visiting lists) are available to churches. Creating a personalized Strategic Mission Field Demographic Profile for your church is one of the many benefits to being a contributing member of the CBA Church network.

What do I do now? How do I begin the process?

The CBA Church Network lives for the day when every girl, boy, woman, and man within our reach experiences a living witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Having a comprehensive study of your church as it relates to your community helps each church member know how to pray for, care for, and share the Gospel with their neighbors. And, it assists the church in its Gospel mission of engaging households, the marketplace, and the nations which comprise our mission community.

Contact Vince Smith (vince.smith@cbachurchnetwork.org) or Marc Ira Hooks (marc.hooks@cbachurchnetwork.org) to schedule an introductory consultation.

Churches can have access to online Bible study materials RightNow

Churches can have access to online Bible study materials RightNow

Scrolling through a website filled with thousands of Bible studies, Executive Pastor Jared Maier of Rheas Mill Baptist Church, clicks on a photo of Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. The study, an inspirational series of videos where Tebow shares stories from his life “to illustrate what it means to seize each day for God’s glory” is part of RightNow Media’s original, video-based, online content.

Maier regularly uses items from the library to augment their midweek small-group Bible studies. Just a few miles south, the crew at RightNow Media is busy planning a one-day livestream event which will connect people from around the nation with well-known Bible teacher Francis Chan, business tycoon Steve Green, the outspoken Christian and President of Hobby Lobby and others. This annual conference and webcast are just one of the many high-tech productions originated from their Collin County headquarters.
“Our passion is to help people live out their faith in their neighborhoods, offices, schools, homes and around the world,” said RightNow Media President Brian Mosley.
The video production company began 40 years ago as Mosley’s grandfather documented the work of missionaries for churches. Today, the company is a giant in the world of Christian multimedia, serving over 15,000 churches, ministries and Christian business owners.

Brian Mosley, CEO of McKinney-based RightNow Media.

Mosley says their niche audience is small-to-medium-sized churches because they have fewer resources than churches with large paid staffs. And, while the company has been supporting churches for years through VHS tapes, and then DVDs, the explosion of the internet and the ability to stream video content directly to an individual’s computer, tablet, or smartphone has revolutionized their business model.

“Suddenly, we are able to serve the pastors, and the small groups, and youth groups and children, and families and people at every age and stage,” said Mosley, who added that RightNow Media does not replace church workers, but supplements limited church staff and volunteers.

Mosley notes the changes in technology have significantly changed how their materials are used. “When the content was on VHS and DVD, and sent to a church, it was really for group consumption,”Mosley said. “But once that content was placed online, it’s now being used by families or individuals in their homes. Now people have access to all of this great content, which you can still use in a group setting, or for your own personal growth, or for your family’s use.”

Maier confirms this trend. Not only does he use RightNow Media for small-group studies at his church, but the app is loaded on both his phone and smart-tv so his children can access programming for children. “It’s like having Christian Netflix for your kids,” Maier said. “I don’t have to worry about what they are watching if they are watching through RightNow Media.”

CBA Executive Director Vince Smith and RightNow Media’s Phillip Bleecker discuss the partnership between CBA and RightNow in the McKinney studio prior to shooting some promotional materials about how RightNow Media can help churches and associations.

RightNow Media is partnered with the CBA Church Network and offers free accounts for CBA pastors and discounts for CBA churches. For more information, contact Phillip Bleecker at phillip@rightnow.org.

Extra Cups on a Sunday Morning

Extra Cups on a Sunday Morning

Sunday morning is a sacred time as a pastor. Most wake up early and get to their church before anyone else does.

If you’re a small church pastor like me, you’re probably turning on all the lights, adjusting the thermostats, making the coffee, making sure the bulletins are printed and in order, and reviewing your sermon one last time before the band comes in to practice. Most pastors have a routine they follow and like to stick to that routine as closely as possible.

One Sunday morning, I got a call from a pastor friend of mine. He pastors a church nearby, and he and I have become friends through the CBA Church Network. Knowing what his obligations are on Sunday mornings, the timing of his call was strange. When I answered the phone, he asked me if I had any cups for the Lord’s Supper, because they were doing it that morning and he was running short.
He came by to get the cups, and all was well with his service. In that moment, it was a simple conversation about small disposable cups, but the relationship leading up to that conversation took months to build.

Pastor, let me ask you a question: when you have a need, who can you turn to? It can be communion cups on a Sunday morning, or it may be wisdom, guidance, and prayer because of infighting in your church.

What the CBA Church Network provides us as pastors is a group of churches that are battling back the same lostness as you are and in the same area you’re in.
We have large and small churches in our network. We have new church plants and churches that have been around for more than a century in our network. We have traditional churches in historic buildings, and we have churches meeting in a shopping center in our network. We are a diverse group that has one goal, to build God’s Kingdom.

I have networked and partnered with pastors from the CBA in serving our town with a clothing and food pantry, a city-wide call to prayer after a tragedy, high school graduating senior ceremonies, as well calling to see if a certain family was attending their church in order to minister to them.

Outside of my town, I’ve partnered with CBA pastors to travel to Washington DC and to be trained at the NAMB headquarters in Georgia.The opportunities for pastors to have a brotherhood network of men serving the same God in the same area is here, all you have to do is get involved.

I’ll end with this challenge: there are pastors in your area, probably within a 10-minute drive of you, who need an encouraging call from you and who need your prayers and compassion. Networking isn’t hard, it starts with a phone call. And who knows, the relationship you start with that phone call may have extra cups for you on a Sunday.

Chase Smith serves as pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, and is currently working on his doctorate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can connect with him on Twitter @ChaseMSmith.

Keeping Kids Safe: Educating The Church About Abuse Workshop

Local response to Southern Baptist sexual abuse scandal results in workshop, new policies

By Marc Ira Hooks


New guidelines for churches and a seminar designed to prevent incidents of sexual abuse are being initiated by the CBA Church Network as Southern Baptist churches in Texas and around the country experience fallout from an expose about SBC clergy and staff members convicted of sexual abuse.


Just weeks ago, an investigation produced by the Houston Chronicle uncovered more than 700 victims of sexual misconduct perpetrated by Southern Baptists in positions of power. The examination by reporters covered a 20-year span and found more than 200 pastors, youth ministers and deacons who were convicted or took plea deals for sex crimes.


In response, Collin Baptist Association Church Network is taking steps to ensure the safety of Southern Baptist parishioners in Collin County.  “This is mission critical stuff,” said CBA Executive Director Vince Smith. “Yes, this is a black eye on us as a denomination. But our focus must always be to love people in the way that Jesus loved them. That means that we are more concerned with preserving our people than we are with our system.” Because of the denomination’s non-hierarchical structure, churches are not under the authority of Collin Baptist Association, but choose to cooperate together under the umbrella of the Network.


The Network will host Keeping Kids Safe: Educating the Church About Abuse – a half-day workshop designed to both raise awareness about sexual abuse in our churches, and to equip churches to use personnel screening services and other policies that might weed-out sexual predators before they are able to enter the church as staff or volunteers.


The workshop will focus on sexual abuse in the church awareness, prevention and protection. Church leaders will hear testimony from a woman abused by her youth pastor, and presentations from the Collin County Child Advocacy Center and The SANE Initiative. A counselor with the Baptist General Convention of Texas will also share information about MinistrySafe, a service which provides training, screening, background checks, and monitoring and oversight for churches.


“The only acceptable number of victims is zero,” said Smith, who believes the Network can be a catalyst for change at the church level. “We must engage the issue of sexual abuse with compassion and care.” In addition to the workshop, Network leaders adopted a “Statement of Principles” concerning sexual abuse recently crafted and approved by the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders.  The preamble of the SBCAL document states, “Our desire is for the churches in our respective associations to be safe havens for survivors and safe from abuse. We also call on our associational leaders and ministries to be models of compassionate care.”


Keeping Kids Safe: Educating the Church About Abuse will be held April, 25 at First Baptist Church of McKinney, 1615 W Louisiana Street, from 9 a.m. until noon. For more information, call the CBA Office at 972-529-5222 or send an email to info@cbachurchnetwork.org.

Experiencing Poverty in Collin County First-Hand


Experiencing Poverty in Collin County First-Hand
Story package By Marc Ira Hooks

Some were turned away because they did not have a valid driver’s license. Others gave the last few dollars they had for food, and while a long line formed at the pawn shop. Regardless of where they were, they shared one thing in common – poverty.

Fortunately, this was only a simulation. But for many in Collin County, the scenarios are real. In 2016, more than 60,000 Collin County residents lived below the poverty line. This is shocking for people to discover, said Bill Beamon, leader for last week’s Cost of Poverty Experience (COPE) hosted at Cottonwood Creek Church in Allen. “These are the working poor,” Beamon said. “And Collin County is full of them.” He explained that a family of three living on $30,000 each year are still considered to be in poverty. The COPE simulation is a project of Unite Greater Dallas, a para-church organization working to connect Christian leaders to each other and to resources needed to address the urgent social challenges facing the Dallas Metroplex.

Unite Dallas’ Executive Director Rebecca Walls said her heart was changed from having compassion to having empathy for those in poverty after experiencing a similar simulation eight years ago. Fueled by that experience, Walls helped create COPE. With the help of Beamon who experienced poverty first-hand before eventually working his way into bank management before he joined Unite, Walls hopes to use churches to expose their staffs and their members to the problem of poverty where they live, work, and play. “The goal is that people’s hearts will be transformed so they will want to be part of the solution,” Walls said.

Jon Bailey, Missions Pastor of First Baptist Church of Wylie came as part of a group of ministers and community leaders. “It was great to go through the experience with everyone since we do a lot of work together to reach the Wylie area,” Bailey said. “It’s extremely eye opening to see the issues that people face every day who are trying to get out of poverty. It was very clear that we need to be an advocate for those in need. Given the scope of the needs, I know that we cannot fight the battle of poverty alone.”

Keith Tyler, missions pastor for Cottonwood Creek Church prepares to simulate a child in an impoverished family during last week’s Cost of Poverty Experience (COPE) at his church.

Mission and Outreach Director for St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Frisco Mary Hendrix said over the years she has utilized many ‘poverty experience’ resources in order to teach people about poverty. “None have come as close to simulating the feeling and reality of what life in poverty is like, more than COPE,” she said. “Walking through this simulation opens my eyes to new perspectives, thoughts, feelings and ideas every time I go through it,” Hendrix said. She added that every time a person participates in a COPE simulation, it is new and different every time. “It really is a game changer; one we all need to experience,” said Hendrix.

As the host church for the COPE simulation, Keith Tyler, missions pastor for Cottonwood Creek Church said the experience “pierced my heart.”  Tyler said the simulation helped him to learn first-hand what many individuals and families living in material poverty deal with every day in his city.  “I hear statistics and stories all the time of many who struggle to live at or below the line of poverty in Collin County, but to experience material poverty through this event shed light to this issue like never before in my life,” Tyler said. “It was a wake-up call to put our faith into action and come together to love others like never before!”

If you would like to know more about how your church or organization can host a COPE simulation, contact Bill Beamon at (214) 734-6507.


2019 Hungary Mission Trip Dates Announced

2019 Hungary Mission Trip Dates Announced

CBA Church Network Churches will once again come alongside churches across Hungary for a missions/evangelism experience this summer. In partnership with the Hungarian Baptist Union, Hungarian Baptist Aid, and Hungary Missions, CBA hopes to build on the partnership started last year.

Information about the 2019 trip can be found by clicking the graphic below, or by sending an email to TellMeMore@cbachurchnetwork.org.

Hungary Photo Contest Winners Announced

Hungary Photo Contest Winners Announced

More than two dozen photos were submitted by those who participated in October’s CBA Church Network mission trip to Hungary. The groundbreaking trip saw more than 50 churches representing more than a dozen CBA churches partnering together with churches across the Hungarian Countryside.

A Photo Gallery Opening & Awards Night was held last week to celebrate the winners of the amateur photo contest. The gallery, presented at the CBA Church Network Offices in Fairview, features the contest winners alongside photographs taken by members of the CBA media team who accompanied the group on the trip.

Grand Prize honors went to Becky Lawrence of First Baptist Church of Allen for her photograph of school children praying during a special rally at one of the schools operated by Hungarian Baptist Aid, a division of the Hungarian Baptist Union. Lawrence also took home an honorable mention for another photo of Hungarian school children.

First prize went to CBA Executive Director Vince Smith for his photograph of an ordination service.

Second prize was awarded to Cynthia Williamson of Community North Baptist Church for a photo of her pastor’s wife talking with a woman following a Hungarian church service. Williamson also garnered an Honorable Mention for this photo taken during a lesson about cowboys in Texas.

Third prize went to Jennifer Duke of FBC Wylie for this group selfie taken on the streets of Budapest.

The gallery will remain on display at the CBA headquarters in Fairview until the end of March. In October of 2019, CBA Church Network churches will return to Hungary to continue the partnership started last year.

For more information about how you can be part of the 2019 trip to Hungary October 2-14, send an email to: tellmemore@cbachurchnetwork.org.