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.

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.

Hungary Missions Photo Gallery Opening & Awards Night

2018 Hungary Missions Photo
Opening & Awards Night

A Gallery Opening and Awards Ceremony will be held at the CBA Office in Fairview at 7pm on Tuesday, January 15.
This special gallery exhibit will include featured photographs from the CBA Media Team, and will bring special recognition to the winners of the First Annual CBA Church Network Hungary Missions Amateur Photo Contest.
You are encouraged to attend this memorable event, and invite family members, friends, and church members to see photographs and hear participants share highlights from our mission trip to Hungary. We will also share some basic information about mission opportunities to Hungary in 2019 and beyond. Admission is free.
Gallery Opening & Awards Ceremony
Tuesday, January 15
CBA Church Network
970 S. Hwy 5, Fairview, TX 75069
These photos touched my heart. You can see the love and compassion of Jesus Christ through His witnesses in Hungary as you see these images. ” – Contest Judge

Storms of Fear – CBA Ministry in Puerto Rico

Storms of Fear – CBA Ministry in Puerto Rico
By Marc Ira Hooks

A resident of Coamo shares her fears about another storm hitting the island.

Fear followed by panic gripped residents of the hurricane-battered island of Puerto Rico this week as the first named storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season swept through Monday. The remnants of Hurricane Beryl, downgraded to a tropical storm before it made landfall on the southeast side of Puerto Rico, brought heavy rains and flash floods. The island is still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Maria last year.

“People went into panic mode Thursday and Friday,” said Princeton, Texas, resident Rafael Gutierrez, a native Puerto Rican  attending a family reunion this week on the west side of the island. “Hurricane Maria left a lot more than the physical damage. People here are emotionally scarred.” Before this week’s storm, more than 10,000 homes were still without power as a result of Maria which tore through the island last September. Officials at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority are now estimating the number of powerless homes is closer to 13,000. Some parts of the island are still without running water.

“What I saw over the weekend is a clear example of the fear and anxiety the people of Puerto Rico are living with,” Gutierrez said. “Since Maria, their lives have changed completely.”

Overlooking the city of Coamo, Puerto Rico. More than nine months after Hurricane Maria, many of the homes are still covered with blue tarps instead of roofs. Many of these houses are uninhabitable.



In May, Gutierrez joined officials from the Collin Baptist Association (CBA) Church Network on a tour of the island. In cooperation with the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board’s SEND Relief program, CBA has partnered with Rahm Baptist Church in Coamo to assist the pastor and the church as they minister to their community.

“When we went to bed, it was Sept. 19, 2017,” pastor Louis A. Rodriguez Molina recalls. “When we woke up on Sept. 20, it was like being back in the 1950s.” The city is located in the south-central region of Puerto Rico, and normally has a population of around 40,000, though many of the city’s residents have since left the island in the hopes of restarting their lives in mainland United States.

Standing on a tower overlooking Coamo, tears welled up in the pastor’s eyes as he inspected the city where he helped plant the church he now shepherds. “There is so much hurt and need in this place,” he said, pointing to the landscape of homes dotted with blue tarps where roofs should be. “But it is not just the physical needs. These people are hurting spiritually and need Jesus.”


In an area of Coamo known as Rio Chiquita (Little River), Rodolfo Colon and his family waited out the storm Monday night hunkered together in a dome-shaped nylon camping tent inside their makeshift home – blue tarps lashed to a hastily constructed frame of lumber. . The family has been living this way, with all their worldly possessions gathered together under the temporary covering, since Hurricane Maria tore the roof off their house. Colon spends weekends and every available opportunity working single-handedly to repair his home. However, his job at a roadside rotisserie chicken stand provides little time, and even less income, for Colon to expedite the repairs.


On the other side of Coamo atop a mountain peak, gusting winds force weather-beaten blue tarps to flap against what is left of Francisco “Tito” Morales’ home. The single father and his small children moved into the newly built house just before the storms. Today, baskets of children’s toys and various tools scatter the floors and counters of the wallless house. A calendar left hanging on the wall marks the date of Hurricane Irma, the first and lesser of hurricanes to strike Puerto Rico last year. Morales now lives with his mother while trying to repair his home. However, progress has been stalled due to finances. Though the house was without electricity for weeks, Morales received a bill from the power company charging him thousands of dollars for electricity he never received. And though the house is currently uninhabitable, the bank still expects payment on the mortgage every month making it nearly impossible for Morales to make headway on repairs.


Back at the church, members regularly distribute canned goods, toiletries, and other supplies to people like Morales and Colon. Pastor Rodriguez explained the name of the church, Rham, is not a Spanish word. Rather, it is from Hebrew and means compassion. Rodriguez believes his church building was spared from Hurricane Maria and the storm this week in order to bring compassion to the people of Coamo.

“People are angry. But they are not angry with God,” pastor Rodriguez said. “Coming through these storms has made them angry with government and agencies, but they are receptive to God. The government will always disappoint the people. But God will not disappoint. He is still there.”


Pastor Louis Rosenthal prays with a church member during a recent visit to Coamo, Puerto Rico.

Louis Rosenthal, Moderator for the Collin Baptist Association and pastor of The McKinney First Baptist Church said seeing the physical and spiritual condition of Puerto Rico firsthand has made a deeper impact than any other during his 12 years of ministry. “No mission need has stirred my heart to serve, pray, give and encourage others to serve, pray, and give like what I have experienced in Puerto Rico,” said Rosenthal. “We are well aware that we cannot help every church, but our desire is to help as many as we can to help bring about hope and share the transformational power of the Gospel.”

In response to further requests from the church in Coamo, Rosenthal is spearheading an effort for CBA churches to provide both physical and spiritual ministry opportunities. Trips to Puerto Rico are being organized for later this year, and donations can be made through the CBA Church Network’s Puerto Rico Hurricane Disaster Fund – Collin Loves Coamo – at http://bit.ly/collinlovescoamo. For more information, call the CBA Church Network at 972-529-5222 or send an email to tellmemore@cbachurchnetwork.org.

Please click on the video below to hear a special message from Pastor Louis Rosenthal.

Story and photos by Marc Ira Hooks, CBA Church Network Associate Director of Missions and Director of Communication.

EDITOR’S NOTE: An expanded version of this story, plus other features from Puerto Rico will be highlighted in the next edition of The Encourager Magazine.