What can an experienced preacher and church leader learn about presentations? Quite a lot, says David Graves.

“It is a different thing to preach a sermon for 20 minutes than to do a five-hour workshop,” Graves says.

He presents five-hour workshops an average of 34 times a year as he trains Sunday school leaders as part of his job for the Church of the Nazarene.

Four years ago, Graves began his work as director of Sunday School Ministries at the church's international headquarters in Kansas City, Mo.

In that post, he directs the three areas of Sunday school ministries — curriculum, discipleship, and adult ministries — all the programming and education for the denomination. His staff of 40 is a varied lot, including teachers, editors, and even programmers. “In some ways, I'm not qualified to be a member of my department,” he jokes.

An ordained minister, Graves served five churches in the Midwest. “Our churches had always shown significant growth and strong Sunday School ministries,” he says, and he had spoken at several church conventions. That led to recognition within the church, and the subsequent election by the General Board of Superintendents to his current position. “I felt it was an area I could use my talents,” he says.

He had also organized church and district events, but nothing on the scale that he would encounter in his new role.

“This whole thing of meeting planning is new to me, planning them as far in advance as we must, working with contracts. That's where RCMA is handy. The workshops are incredible, and earning a CMP — that's available to you.”

Fortunately, he hooked up with RCMA. Jack Stone, general secretary of the church, encourages his directors to join, Graves explains, and he took Stone's advice.

RCMA's benefits are threefold, Graves believes. “First, they model a good conference. What you're learning in being a participant is how a conference should flow. Second is networking with all the different people there. The people who exhibit — they're all in one place. Where else can you do that? The third benefit is education. I took in the pre-conference events, behind-the-scenes workshops — all are very informative and helpful.

“I'd like to thank DeWayne Woodring and the RCMA staff and all the impact they have on us doing our job out here,” he said.

At the annual RCMA conferences, he pays close attention to the presentations. “It's very interesting to hear professional presenters offer new ideas and insights,” he says.

In addition to the 30-plus workshops he organizes every year, Graves leads children's camps, an international laymen's conference, and conventions for senior adults and single adults.

Some of those demographic groups hold conventions several times a year around the country; others meet quadrennially. The meetings range in size from several hundred to several thousand attendees. This summer, 2,000 participants met in Indianapolis for the general Sunday School Convention, which is held every four years.

His role is to oversee the general themes of the conventions and to lead his staff, which includes several meeting planners.

He recommends that meeting planners surround themselves with “good people who are detail-oriented. Don't assume anything, walk through all the steps, make sure all the bases are covered,” he says.


David Graves

Background: Born in Nashville, Tenn., the son of a Nazarene pastor. From age 11, Graves felt the call to be a pastor.

Education: Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois, Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

Career: Pastor at churches in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Tennessee

Family: Wife, Sharon, three sons, one daughter, all grown

Hobbies: Golf, working with a college ministry at local church