During the coronavirus pandemic, Karen Kennemur, associate professor of children’s ministry at The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has connected digitally with preschool and children’s ministers across the nation in order to discuss ministry amidst COVID-19.
When the pandemic began, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) launched a COVID-19 resources team that included Kennemur, who also serves as children’s ministry associate for the convention. Among the resources offered are weekly Zoom meetings with different demographics, including pastors, youth leaders, and women’s ministers. Kennemur has hosted meetings for preschool and children’s ministers, as well as meetings with special-needs ministers.
Topics for the former meeting have included how to do Vacation Bible School during COVID-19, best practices for preschool/children’s ministry during the pandemic, and, more recently, how to discuss diversity, inclusion, and racism with children. Kennemur invites guest speakers to discuss these various topics, then facilitates a time of questions-and-answers with meeting participants.
The most interesting thing about these Zoom calls, Kennemur says, is that they have comprised small-, medium-, large-, and megachurch leaders, “and we all are learning from each other. It’s like we’re standing in a room with the light switch turned off, and we need each other to help us find the light switch.”
“This doesn’t always happen,” Kennemur explains, as ministers from different-sized churches each have “a different playing field.” But these Zoom meetings have been “interesting to watch,” she says, because of how “these very bright people” from different ministry contexts have exchanged ideas.
Kennemur says her role as a professor at Southwestern Seminary has aided this ministry because her former students are now deployed across the country, and due to their relationship with her, they tune in from different states in order to benefit from the presentations and discussions. The preschool/children’s ministry Zoom calls average 100 participants, while the special-needs calls average 10.
Of her role as both professor and SBTC associate, Kennemur, a two-time graduate of Southwestern Seminary, says, “It’s like I’m doing one job, because one job helps the other job.”
Through the SBTC, she says, “I get this new way of reaching churches and being with ministry leaders. Then, that makes me better when I’m talking about theory in the classroom, and theology.”
“And then,” she continues, “when I go to this part-time job at the SBTC, they want me because of all of my knowledge from the books and the seminary that I can pour into the local church.”
Her role with the SBTC also allows her to connect students to ministry opportunities and even speaking engagements at conferences, she notes, exposing students “to Southern Baptist life in a practical way.”
Kennemur says her SBTC Zoom meetings will continue even after COVID-19 restrictions have loosened in order to encourage ongoing networking among church and state convention leaders. “I knew once it started and it was so successful and I got such good feedback that it wasn’t going to stop after COVID,” she says.