Bobby Howard to lead revived emphasis on adult discipleship, Sunday school, missional communities

Bobby Howard has joined the South Carolina Baptist Convention staff as the new associate director for adults, joining the convention’s Generations Group with a goal of “seeing adults make disciples, growing in their faith, and investing in the lives of others.”

Howard is no stranger to South Carolina Baptists, serving from 2008 to 2017 as associate professor of Christian studies and student ministry at Charleston Southern University. Since 2012, he has served as the bivocational student pastor at Deer Park Baptist Church in North Charleston. He also has a career in nursing, serving since 2013 as a staff nurse in inpatient adolescent psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

“Because of teaching responsibilities at Charleston Southern in the areas of student ministry, counseling troubled teenagers and Christian counseling, I accepted the position at MUSC in order to maintain some hands-on experience in this field, which enhances my abilities in student and family ministry,” he said.

Howard’s experience fits well with the vision of the SCBC Generations Group under the leadership of Steve Rohrlack, team leader, Church Strengthening & Discipleship.

“The Generations Group has recognized that, just like most churches, our convention building staff was disengaged in age-graded ministries,” Rohrlack said. “Everyone had drifted into a silo. So, a few years ago, we brought all the generations into one group. Our goal is to identify the big markers in spiritual development and identify what a fully devoted follower of Jesus looks like. Then, we can back-cast to preschool to fulfill that into adulthood.

“Bringing Bobby on board in this process, working specifically with adult discipleship, helps tremendously with our process. He has the skillset to understand spiritual development and also parallel what we are doing with children and adults with parental development. We are blessed to have him join our staff.”

Howard said, “I am passionate about discipleship and the Great Commission. As part of this, we want to revisit Sunday school within our churches. A lot of people think Sunday school is not effective, but it is one of the most effective ways South Carolina Baptists have of making disciples. It’s definitely stood the test of time.”

In 2016, according to the Annual Church Profile, South Carolina Baptist churches reported Sunday school attendance of 159,347 (25.7 percent of reported total membership of 619,525).

“I’m hopeful we can invigorate Sunday school training events this summer through our Baptist associations, think about the purpose of Sunday school, but also provide support for other missional-type communities like home groups and small groups. I love to see churches use a combination of styles of missional communities, and then the convention can serve by pouring into leaders, providing training and equipping.

“I told someone recently that a Sunday school class or small group done right certainly fits the definition of a missional community that goes beyond the walls of the church to be evangelistic and make disciples,” Howard said.

Robert Grant, resource development director for the Baptist Foundation of South Carolina, served South Carolina Baptists as director of Sunday school and in adult discipleship for 19 years, 1983 to 2002.

“It’s exciting anytime we hear someone talk about Sunday school within the local church,” Grant said. “So many of our faithful South Carolina Baptists are connected in traditional Sunday school. I still believe it’s the main support to worship, and that the strength of the entire church hangs in the strength of Sunday school.

“In this culture, we also have the immersion of home groups, life groups, and small groups; they are wonderful, too, in reaching people in settings that are comfortable, on their schedules, and not so routine or bound to Sunday morning,” Grant said. “Regardless of how we make adult disciples, we must get to intentionally equipping the adult leaders. Too many churches have for too long ignored serving their small group leaders and providing education and resources. This ministry won’t just perpetually stay strong on its own. I could not be more excited that Bobby is coming on board to serve churches and South Carolina Baptist adult discipleship initiatives.”

A native of North Carolina, Howard met his wife, Kim, in high school, and this summer they celebrate 32 years of marriage. They have two daughters, McKenzie, 25, and Cameron, 20. McKenzie is a special-needs adult, and Howard plans initiatives that will assimilate adults with special needs into the life of the local church. He wants associational directors of missions to know that he can be a resource in helping create special needs ministry, especially for adults.

The Howards’ younger daughter, Cameron, is a junior at Charleston Southern, desiring to be a high school teacher. She is currently serving her second summer as a Summersalt staff member at White Oak Conference Center. Summersalt is the state convention’s summer discipleship camp for students and children.