Ron Black has spent more time preaching (since he was 15), administering (serving as executive director for his denomination), and bicycling (he and wife Sandy are Gold Wing enthusiasts) than he has planning meetings, so his membership in RCMA is important.
“Meeting planning is its own world. I wasn't aware of that until I got into RCMA. RCMA has really helped me and positioned me to work more intelligently,” he says.
As the executive director of General Association of General Baptists, Black's primary responsibilities are to the ministries of the church, including denominational business, missions, congregations, and pastoral ministries. He also oversees the institutional branch of the church: its four-year university in Oakland City, Ind.; Stinson Press; and church nursing homes, among other functions.
Based in Poplar Bluff, Mo., the General Baptists consists of about 800 churches scattered mostly in the Midwest; the association has about 66,000 people on its U.S. membership rolls.
Black convenes a national convention once a year, and about 1,000 church delegates attend. The convention is held at different sites, but tends to stay in the Mississippi and Ohio River valley area. He also consults on meetings for the Stinson Institute — the denomination's pastoral ministries, which meet three times a year — and with the women's and men's conferences.
While the national convention is not a large conference, Black has seen growth. Local associations used to host these events, but more attendees made that cumbersome, so the denomination office plans the events now. Locations are typically larger hotels — a “one-roof” setting that allows for rooms and meetings, he says.
For the sake of convenience and cost, several meetings generally overlap. July events start with the women's conference on Monday and Tuesday. The national meeting picks up around noon Tuesday and lasts until Wednesday night, and then the Stinson Institute comes in for Thursday and Friday.
Before Black became executive director in 1997, he was stewardship director and assisted in meeting planning. In about 1997 or 1998, he began attending RCMA along with a member of the women's ministries.
“Particularly for me in the beginning, it opened up a whole new consideration,” Black says of his RCMA membership. Among the valuable information he picks up are trends in security and the latest inlanguage.
But there are other reasons he values RCMA.
“The meetings are fun, for one thing. I appreciate, in addition to meeting people, that there are things for personal growth — positive thinking, humor, things you need in life. I'm glad for those,” Black says.
He has also attended RCMA's Behind-the-Scenes experiences.
“That's brought appreciation for the people behind the scenes who make it work,” he says.
Ministry and meeting planning have shared purposes, Black has seen. “Primarily you're working with people. I certainly believe that we are all made in the image of God and that we deserve love and respect and to be treated fairly,” he says. Because RCMA is made up of religious people, “It is its own segment of a larger market. The meetings we hold are somewhat different.
“One of the things I have found through networking is contact with groups similar to ours,” he says. “We've exchanged [information on] promotional types of materials. We were printing a program book and then printing a minutes book. We were doing double work. One group we talked to told us how they solved that by doing a wrap-around. It saved us a lot of money.”
The meeting-planning aspect of Black's life also spilled over into another role he played — as a Poplar Bluff city council member for 13 years, including three years as mayor. During that time, the city built a new coliseum for meetings because there was “recognition from different corporations that we needed more space,” Black says.
The city still lacks hotel rooms, but Black hopes that when that situation is remedied, his denomination can meet in its home city.