Elizabeth Graham: ‘The Lord has equipped me to serve the local church through event planning’
Lauren Pratt | May 20, 2019
Sometimes the most effective leadership happens from behind the scenes.
This was certainly the case for Elizabeth Graham, director of events at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and owner of Yellow Brick Events (YBE). During her time at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), the Lord developed in her the skills and passion to pursue event planning as a way to serve the church.
“It’s unique when people get to do what they love, but even more than that for the Lord to gift you in that area and for you to be able to steward that gift well,” said Graham.
After graduating from the University of Tennessee, God called Graham to pursue theological training during a three-week, summer mission trip to the Philippines in 2004. In 2005, she began her Master of Divinity in biblical counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) with the hopes of eventually pursuing a Ph.D. to focus on eating disorders and body image.
However, God began to change Graham’s direction.
In 2007, she was sitting in her office when she discovered a mass on her neck. This finding necessitated thyroid surgery and the decision to take the next 14 months off of seminary. Upon going back to school, she was still recovering physically and was not able to be a full-time student. She decided to move from the M.Div. to the M.A. in biblical counseling. Through a variety of job responsibilities at SEBTS, the Lord was already developing in Graham a trajectory to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission through event planning.
“I loved events and knew that I was going to keep doing that for the seminary as long as the Lord would allow it,” said Graham.
Graham initially started working at SEBTS in 2005 in the recruiting office. In 2008, she worked as the administrative assistant to the senior vice president of business administration Ryan Hutchinson. Graham eventually became the card and travel program manager. Her responsibilities within the that office paved the way for her career in event planning, first with the ERLC and then as a business owner of YBE.
“I am under no delusion that had it not been for my years here at Southeastern that I would have the skill set to be where I am now,” said Graham.
Hutchinson, now the executive vice president for operations at SEBTS, highlighted the incredible contribution Graham made in her more than nine years on the SEBTS staff.
“It was great to see Elizabeth grow in her various roles and her hunger to learn new things,” he said, noting that after she left, three people were hired to manage the responsibilities she carried out for the school.
“Having a dedicated person for the first time to oversee events for the institution was one of those challenges she undertook. She handled that challenge with great skill and a constant desire to improve. It is great to see how she continues to build on that foundation through the excellence she shows in her role as director of events with the ERLC and even starting her own business, Yellow Brick Events.”
As the ERLC began to host more events, the organization approached Graham in 2013 to do consulting work in planning two major conferences for the organization: the ERLC National Conference and the Leadership Summit. A job that was supposed to last 10 months turned into six years. In 2014, the ERLC asked Graham to come on staff as the director of events in order to build a team and launch initiatives for the organization.
In the day-to-day grind of event planning, Graham finds herself in multiple meetings on the ERLC and YBE side, leading teams and creating content that equips the local church. She has the opportunity to speak into content and create an environment that minimizes distraction, allowing for the Bible to be taught and the Holy Spirit to do his work in the hearts of those in attendance.
“Conferences are really a support system for those that are directly equipping the local church. We’re equipping from an extension,” said Graham, who said that in her work with the ERLC, she and her team determine what issues the local church is seeking to address in the culture today and create events that speak to those tensions.
Graham not only sees how her equipping in the SEBTS workplace has been beneficial to her career but also how her theological education has given her a position of influence in event content planning.
“Without a theological framework and foundation for that, I would not be able to contribute the same way that I’m able to contribute now,” said Graham, who explained that her training at an SBC seminary and work with SBC entities for 14 years has given her a place to speak into the content of conferences and tangential components such as Bible study curricula and books.
“This time in seminary is so important for how the Lord will use you in the future no matter what vocation you’re going to be in,” said Graham.
From our local community to the outermost parts of the world, Southeastern students and alumni are reaching people with the gospel by fulfilling the Great Commission. Using the model of Acts 1:8, we want to highlight these stories of how our Southeastern family is serving in North Carolina, North America and around the world. Acts 1:8 Stories create a collective and consistent way to tell the story of Southeastern, one person at a time. From local pastors to missionaries among the unreached, God is doing a great work among students and alumni. Where are they now and where are they going? We can’t wait for you to find out!