Craig Jenkins recently accepted a position with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) as Director of Convention Advancement and News. Before coming to the ABSC, Jenkins pastored Arkansas churches for 24 years. For the last 14 years, he has served as pastor of Beech Street First Baptist Church in Texarkana. Jenkins said he had no plans or intentions of doing anything else until recently when he and his wife Melanie began to sense God leading them to make a change. It became clear to both that God was changing their assignment and moving him from the local church to a bigger-picture work with the Convention. “We were not looking for this job, but we sensed that this job came looking for us, so we embraced it with obedience,” Jenkins said.
Since announcing the move to the ABSC Executive Team, Jenkins has been asked countless times, “what do you do?” and “what does your new title mean?”. The answer to these questions, Jenkins says, can be found in the three key words of his job title: convention, advancement, and news.
The Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) is known as a family and network of Arkansas Baptist churches, agencies, and institutions around the state that have chosen to cooperate together to advance the Kingdom of Jesus. Jenkins sees his new role as an opportunity to encourage his fellow pastors and to build continued cooperation and involvement among the pastors and churches of the ABSC. His years as a pastor and as an active partner with the ABSC, give Jenkins a unique perspective as he seeks to serve the pastors in the state.
During his time as pastor, Jenkins has seen the impact of this voluntary cooperation in action. He has served in various leadership positions and on various committees and has led his churches to be heavily involved in ministry partnership with the ABSC through the years. Jenkins is quick to point out that he and the churches he served were always made to feel valued and important by those serving on the ABSC staff. “I believe, because I’ve seen it firsthand, that every pastor and every church is important in the life of the Convention” Jenkins said.
Jenkins sees advancements at the center of everything that he has been tasked with in his new role. “Clearly, we are a Convention that is all about the local churches and our partnerships working together advancing the Gospel, advancing God’s agenda and advancing God’s kingdom. Everything we do is about advancement,” Jenkins points out. Promotion of the Cooperative Program (CP) will play a big part in helping to advance Kingdom work. Connecting churches to resources such as CP Share will help to raise awareness of all the ministries provided by the churches’ faithful giving through CP.
In addition, Jenkins will also be responsible for helping to advance the work of the local church and the ABSC. He sees this as a natural step in the process of advancement as everything that is done is about Kingdom advancement. He says there is good news coming out just about every day concerning all that God is doing in the churches and in the Convention. Jenkins says these are not just great stories, but everything that happens is a part of the advancement process. “There’s kingdom advancement happening in the local churches in Arkansas and on the Convention level and that’s the news that we want to report,” Jenkins said.
“This opportunity from Dr. Tucker was very appealing to me because I really think that the communications aspect of letting people know what’s going on is vital,” Jenkins said concerning the assignment he has been given with the Arkansas Baptist News (ABN). Even though there are a lot of great things going on in the churches and at the ABSC, if no one communicates these things, then no one will know about them.
The ABN, like a lot of print journalism and journalism in general, has gone through transition. The Communications Team, working with an interim managing editor, has worked hard to create a quality on-line publication. Jenkins believes the ABN is in a great place for Arkansas Baptists in that there is a lot of quality content being produced with various electronic avenues available for people to access that information. To read daily content or to sign up to receive the bi-weekly eMagazine, go to www.arkansasbaptist.org. The ABN is made available because of the gifts given through the Cooperative Program.
Jenkins acknowledges that the ABN has played an important part in Arkansas Baptist life for many years and wants everyone to know that the ABN has not gone away. He compares the importance of the ABN to that of a local newspaper. “The fact that we have classifieds and obituaries in the ABN prove something that I’ve known for a long time, Arkansas is like a big family. You may live in one corner of the state, but you likely know people or have family in another part of the state,” Jenkins says. “Classifieds, obits and other things that you find in the ABN help Arkansas Baptists across the state stay connected with one another.”
Jenkins says that no one should ever think that their church is too small or that their story is too insignificant. “You may be a very small church, but by reporting something that you did or something that God did in your midst, you could have a tremendous ripple effect on another church in another part of the state,” Jenkins says. So, whether you’re a smaller membership church, medium-sized or larger church, Jenkins says there’s no distinction when it comes to sharing what God is doing because we are all part of the same family and we are all on the same team.
Jenkins says that he always liked the mission statement of the print edition of the ABN which was “to inform and inspire.” He sees his current role as the editor of the ABN to help inform, inspire and involve Arkansas Baptists in kingdom work. He says that reading the news found in the ABN gives everyone a picture that we are all in this together. “The news, after all, is their news. It’s about them and what God is doing through them. My heart is really to report what God’s doing in Arkansas and not to share my opinion or my thoughts. There are plenty of forums for people to do that. I hope that by informing you about what’s happening, that that may in turn inspire you about a need or something that you could do in your community.”
Jenkins is looking forward to working with Arkansas Baptist churches and telling the stories of Kingdom work taking place in the state. “To me, it all goes back to advancement,” Jenkins reminds us. “That’s what motivated me as a pastor to get involved and serve in various ways with the ABSC. Advancement on this level, I think was a big part of why God called me to this position.”
Jenkins and his wife Melanie have been married for 28 years. They have three sons, one daughter-in-law and one soon-to-be daughter-in-law. Before joining the Executive Team, Jenkins pastored churches in Marked Tree and Warren as well as Texarkana.