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Creativity drives innovation in BCH's ministry

One of the most creative things I’ve ever done in ministry is start

the college outreach at Ridge Road Baptist Church in Raleigh. This was in 1970 when I was 28. I was minister for youth and college students, but we had no college students.

It started with some freshmen from NC State and from nearby all-female Meredith College. Eventually, we had more than 100 every Sunday. It was hard work—creative work. It all began from nothing.

I was able to motivate adults in the church to help, which was a key to success. The Krispy Kreme doughnuts provided each week at

a special discount of $4.80 for 10 dozen helped. I also got the address of every freshman from Meredith and NC State and wrote

them a personal note. They never forgot that.

We started a coffee house in a building adjacent to the church. We had 200 on opening night. It was a creative venture that carried a high risk that some church members would not understand what we were doing. Our continued operation of the coffee house actually came to a vote and this unique outreach ministry was overwhelmingly approved. That was a period of creativity backed with passion and an ability to get people to do what I wanted them to do. It was the first time I realized I had leadership potential.

After I left that church staff to become a pastor, I met with my students from those years annually for probably 15 straight years.

Several are in ministry careers and one is on my trustee board now and another handful are on my BCH Council of Advisors, which is a

special “think-tank” of “outside the box” ideas.

Nothing requires creativity like starting something from nothing.

When North Carolina Baptists shifted their focus for ministry among a rapidly-aging population away from residential facilities,

they asked BCH to come up with a plan—and to be responsible for whatever we created.

This was an opportunity to put a stamp on something completely new. There was no template, no model, and no precedent. This

would be pure, utter, 100-percent creativity.

We brainstormed and imagined. We came up with a name that itself exudes energy: NCBAM: North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry. Or “BAM!”

We’ve gone from nothing to providing year-round service for hundreds of frail elderly adults that enables them to stay in

their homes. Our staff is minimal, and its primary function is to organize volunteer labor across the state, with the hands-on labor

being provided by local church volunteers.

All these volunteers needed was a central clearinghouse, which we provide, and off they went to minister. What heavenly providence

when the pandemic arose last year, we had just implemented Hope Line for seniors to call when they needed to hear a friendly voice.

We’re growing and expanding. We help with conferences for the aging that other entities conduct. We’ve have three Aging Adults Innovating Ministry regional meetings and help churches establish

better senior adult ministries.

We had a mandate to meet a specific need, and “BAM!” That’s when the creative juices flow and good things arise from nothing.

The social conditions that called Baptist Children’s Home into existence in 1885 did not remain stagnant. All through the decades, we’ve developed services and created ministries, to meet

changing needs.

We began a home for teen mothers and their babies; family care for hard working moms and their children; early childhood education; family foster care homes offering foster families larger homes to meet the needs of larger groups of foster children; wilderness camping for both girls and boys; the Greater Vision

Outreach ministry to meet the needs of struggling families in our communities, a ministry to orphans in Guatemala, and most recently Christian Adoption Services (CAS).

Timing is everything. I was approached many times over the years by elderly parents with adult children who were mentally unable

to live by themselves. The parents’ greatest concern was what would happen to their children if they no longer were around to

care for them.

With much investigation and some seed money, we created a ministry for intellectually and developmentally disabled adults.

We established one by one a network of homes where these adults can live and age with caring supervision.

Mastery of the creative process is rarely an accident. When the brass ring comes around, you’ve got to grab it. What is absolutely critical is to be aware that:

• Creativity requires inspiration.

• Inspiration demands action.

• Action expresses creativity

By Michael C. Blackwell, president/CEO of Baptist Children's Homes

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