Last summer, McDermitt picked up a copy of Transformational Church by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer and read it while he was on vacation at the beach.
"Reading that book just confirmed for me that our church had a responsibility to move beyond our walls and into the community," said McDermitt, pastor of Gresston Baptist Church in Eastman, Ga.
Intent on gaining ideas and strategies from leaders of the Transformational Church initiative and from other pastors, McDermitt and a deacon from his church attended the Transformational Church pastor/staff retreat sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Church leaders from as far away as Oregon and representing seven denominations traveled to LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina for the March 14-16 conference.
"We now have a vision to channel the islands of missions and ministry into one focus to accomplish the mission before us," McDermitt said.
Bruce Raley, LifeWay's director of leadership and evangelism, along with Philip Nation, director of ministry development at LifeWay, guided the retreat for the 200 participants.
"Our goal was to interpret the findings of the Transformational Church research, but even more, our aim was to assist the church leaders in putting the research into context for their own unique ministry settings," Raley said.
Bruce Nichols, pastor of Rolling Fork Baptist Church in Boston, Ky., was a step ahead of many of the participants. Nichols had led his church in taking the Transformational Church congregational assessment prior to attending the retreat. He shared with other pastors the value of the assessment to gauge the congregation's perceptions of the church's ministry.
"The assessment clearly pointed out our strengths as a congregation, but it also showed some disconnects between the leadership and congregation in some areas," Nichols said. "Because of the assessment, we are able to see where we need to make adjustments in leadership and ministry."
The retreat combined large group training with breakout affinity group sessions for pastors and ministers who work in such areas as music, education, missions, students and children. Time also was built into the retreat schedule for church staffs to spend time together in prayer, planning and discussion.
"Each evening concluded with a service that allowed the church leaders who normally give and give to receive and be spiritually refreshed," Raley said.
Tim Shrader, pastor of First Baptist Church in Litchfiled, Ill., brought four staff members with him to the retreat, including two ministry assistants.
"We are a team," Shrader said. "This retreat has provided time for all of us to be involved in deep discussions about our church and ministries."
Shrader laughed as he said, "I now see that we were transformational even before transformational was cool. We want to be an Acts 1:8 church to the core. We want to impact our community and surrounding area, but we don't want to stop there.
"As I read Transformational Church, I was convicted that we weren't a praying culture," he added. "We are now responding and beginning to actively change that culture."
Shrader said he plans to take the congregation through the Transformational Church assessment in September to gauge their progress.
"It is good, even necessary, for church leaders to get away from the daily stress of ministry to be refreshed and challenged," Raley said. "The retreat added the bonus of being with a couple of hundred like-hearted leaders to share ideas."
Compiled by the communications staff of LifeWay Christian Resources. For more information about the Transformational Church initiative, go to LifeWay.com/TC. The theme for the 2012 Transformational Church pastor/staff retreat will focus on transformational discipleship.
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net