Black Baptist churches look to youth for leadership

By Sharyn Jackson, The Des Moines Register |  April 20, 2014

The moment Ashton Bell told his congregation that he wanted to preach, he might as well have scored a touchdown in one of his Roosevelt High School football games...

Bell's spirited and supported entry into ministry at one of Des Moines' black Baptist churches was not singular. He is one of five young ministers, ages 18 to 27, who have been welcomed into church leadership by an older generation of pastors and congregants hoping to keep young people engaged in the religion...

The effort to retain young members in Des Moines' black Baptist churches is part of a greater movement to keep the church relevant and long-lasting.

"We have a deep concern and make a concerted effort towards attracting and retaining those that have grown up within our convention," said the Rev. Morris Tipton, spokesman for the National Baptist Convention, USA. Morris' organization, the unifying body of national Baptist churches, boasts a membership of approximately 7 million individuals, including Des Moines' young ministers.

Part of the effort to retain young people involves recognizing them as potential leaders, Tipton said.

In the past, he said, leadership in black Baptist churches was reserved for older pastors.

"The younger pastors had to sit back and wait your turn," he said. In recent years, convention leadership noticed young people defecting from the church, and feared the loss of membership could result in a loss of leverage as a socially conservative and largely Democratic group that weighs in on public policy.

In the last few years, said Tipton, an effort to give young leaders "a greater voice" has grown...Read More:  5 Ministers, 5 Stories