Southeastern Hosts Its Fourth Annual Associational Mission Strategist Conference

AMS Meeting
BY CHAD BURCHETT   08/12/2022

On August 9-10, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) hosted its fourth Annual Mission Strategist (AMS) Conference for ministry leaders, pastors, and associational leaders from fourteen states.

“I honestly believe many of our biggest obstacles in North American missions today find their best answers at the local association,” shared Keelan Cook, Instructor of Missiology and George Liele Director of the Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies at SEBTS. “I am convinced our local Baptist associations are one of the most strategic layers of ministry in our convention.” 

Our local Baptist associations are one of the most strategic layers of ministry in our convention.

During the conference on August 9-10, speakers reminded associational leaders that they are uniquely positioned to equip, mobilize, and network local churches, enabling fruitful partnerships for regional ministry. Associational leaders not only support healthy multiplying churches but also help to revitalize or replant declining and plateauing churches. As a trusted encouragement to local churches, the ministry of associational leaders is integral to regional efforts to fulfill the Great Commission. 

“Because of their relational investment in regional churches, associational mission strategists are respected leaders among the pastors in their associations,” commented Chris Allen, Assistant Director of Church and Convention Relations. “Their strategic position of influence makes them powerful Great Commission catalysts if they remain forward thinking. Southeastern loves sharing our Great Commission vision with these leaders as we work together to train and mobilize Baptists to serve the local church.”  

Southeastern loves sharing our Great Commission vision with these leaders as we work together to train and mobilize Baptists to serve the local church.

With the goal of equipping and resourcing associational leaders for fruitful ministry, the AMS Conference offered more than one hundred regional ministry leaders an opportunity to network, to learn best practices from other practitioners, and to explore resources for equipping and mobilizing local churches and pastors. This year’s conference added a unique practical element with panel discussions and workshops intentionally focused on applying best practices and addressing challenges in rural, suburban, and metro contexts. 

As the median age for pastors steadily increases, intentionally identifying and discipling young leaders is as important as ever, shared Scott Pace, Dean of The College at Southeastern and Associate Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Preaching at SEBTS. During his workshop entitled, “Calling out the Called: Discipling Those Called to Ministry Leadership,” Pace encouraged associational leaders to help pastors reclaim the language of calling and disciple young Christians toward ministry leadership. 

Even as young pastors come alongside experienced ministry leaders and pastors, these current leaders still often struggle with anxiety and compassion fatigue as they make daily sacrifices for local churches. “Ministry is about sacrifice, but lasting ministry is about sustainable sacrifice,” emphasized Tate Cockrell, Associate Professor of Counseling and Director of DMin and EdD Studies, during his workshop on “Shepherding Your Pastors.” Cockrell reminded attendees that associational mission strategists are uniquely positioned to help prevent pastoral burnout, enabling ministry leaders to process compassion fatigue and equipping them to move toward health. 

Ministry is about sacrifice, but lasting ministry is about sustainable sacrifice.

Other workshops included basic training on topics as practical as “Communication Strategies that Fuel Associational Missions,” helping attendees build a toolkit of resources for social media posts, email outreach, and website development. “It is important to understand communications as a ministry tool,” shared Seth Brown, Director of Convention Relations for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.  

The final plenary session of the conference, “Moving the Immovable: Leading the Church to Engage in Evangelism,” addressed the Church’s apathy toward community outreach. In the session, Cook challenged associational leaders to target the Church’s motivations rather than simply supplying churches with evangelism tools: “Moving the immovable in outreach is not primarily about tactics; it is about the heart of the Church.” 

"It is a delight to host the AMS Conference on our campus each year," shared SEBTS President Danny Akin. "These gatherings are always marked by sweet fellowship, gospel partnerships, and a deep commitment to seeing the Great Commission fulfilled. It is my delight to encourage the leaders and pastors in our local Baptist associations because they work tirelessly as senders, supporters, and strategists for Great Commission ministries across our country and around the world." 

If you are interested in partnering with Southeastern at the associational level, we would love to connect with you. Please contact Chris Allen at for more information.