Relationships Matter in Families, Churches, Seminaries, and Beyond! – Ron Grizzle

stained_glass_2221780_smOf all the life lessons I have accumulated, one stands out in recent years. It is the lesson that relationships matter! If we begin to boast about family, I will crow loudly about my life with Penny—she has endured life with this northeast Georgia hillbilly for four decades. Her love, her smile, her total understanding—she takes my breath away! The relationship we have constructed matters dearly.

And don’t get me started about our daughters and sons-in-law and our grandson! Amy and Sean and their son Aaron live way too far away from where Penny and I make our home in the big city of Flowery Branch, GA (they are in Houston), and Ashley and Justin and their puppies are in the sprawl of Cobb County, and Audrey busily writes her research materials for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. You can bet your bottom dollar that these young women and men and the relationships we have built matter enormously to me!

But I am discovering that other relationships matter, too. I am constantly surprised to see relationships springing to life in a great number of nooks and crannies of church life and seminary life and in the life of other organizations where we all share commitment. Why should I be wigged out when I witness men and women in a Sunday school class studying and learning from materials written by recent graduates of the McAfee School of Theology? Why am I sometimes awestruck by the way new ministers are connecting with the Center for Teaching Churches at McAfee and leading in meaningful ways? Isn’t this some of what we have hoped would take place in recent years? Haven’t we all prayed for the time to come when a new, fresh wave of spiritual leadership would come among us?

I have a remarkable perch from which to sit and take note of the way our relationships have developed in recent years. Sitting in the chair of the Director of the Center for Teaching Churches at McAfee, I watch with great appreciation as congregations and ministers are coming to rely on each other in ways that some of us could not have imagined happening just a few years ago. Whereas most of our churches looked to Louisville or New Orleans or Wake Forest or Fort Worth to find capable ministers to lead churches, we now frequently know churches who call McAfee for their ministers. Once one of those ministers from McAfee has been called to serve a church in Carrollton, GA, or Knoxville, TN, or Columbia, SC, or any other place, we are able to track significant leadership development and ministry development.

Some of you may know that the Center for Teaching Churches has existed since 2010. We were brought into being as the Lilly Endowment, Inc., expressed confidence in some of the offerings McAfee had made to the life of churches through an earlier grant in 2004. The leadership at Lilly applauded the great strides forward in the lives of 27 churches with whom McAfee partnered in providing ministry “residents” for two years. The current effort, the work of the Center for Teaching Churches, is the outgrowth of a second grant from Lilly.

Our work currently has connected with 30 new ministers who are serving in churches in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Missouri. While making efforts to improve our involvement with these churches, the Center for Teaching Churches would like to be engaged with another 20 churches in the next two years. As a graduate of McAfee is called to serve in a congregation, we make contact with the new minister and with his, or her, new church to determine interest in our offerings. Those offerings include each minister working alongside a ministry coach for two years, working with a Minister Support Committee in the local church, and being involved with a Peer Learning Group. The Center for Teaching Churches has a variety of curriculum materials available online to aid the new minister and the Minister Support Committee. And best of all, at least to my way of thinking, the new minister has an on-going, active relationship with McAfee!

Ah, relationship—there’s that word again! It is a constant in our lives that benefits us all. I need the blessing of family relationship. For me to be without the love and appreciation of my family is unimaginable. I cannot begin to underscore how important it is to sit with Penny and to talk, or to be with our children (and now a grandchild) and to watch a football game and eat popcorn and laugh and share our lives!

I tend to think that our churches, our seminaries, CBF of Georgia, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (Atlanta), Baptist Women in Ministry, and other like-minded folks need relationship, too. We need to be refreshed, to be encouraged, to be blessed by each other. None of us can make it very long as we try to go it alone. We need the best efforts of all.

As 2014 unfolds in your life, I hope your relationships will feed your life and your spirit. Allow the Holy Spirit to use the offerings of the Center for Teaching Churches to be a blessing for you and your church, or your organization, or for your own life! Call us at 678.547.6479 with your ideas, your thoughts, your suggestions. We look forward to building relationship, or strengthening relationship, with you.

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