January 22, 2024
East Texas Baptist University hosted the Christian Association of Student Leaders (CASL) Conference January 18-20. The CASL Conference is a dynamic platform that nurtures the intersection of leadership and faith, empowering students to lead with purpose and make a meaningful impact on their campuses and communities.
“This weekend serves as a powerful reminder that our journey is ongoing,” Laura Coursey, Director of Student Life, said. “There is always room for further development into the individuals God has uniquely created us to be. Leaders are perpetual learners, and this event provided our student leaders and development staff with the opportunity to nurture an environment that encourages growth and the embodiment of Christ-like qualities."
At CASL, students have the opportunity to glean insights from accomplished keynote speakers and actively engage in breakout sessions. These sessions not only enrich their leadership knowledge but also create a conducive environment for networking with fellow students who share a similar commitment to faith-based leadership.
The conference fosters a sense of community as students from different campuses come together to participate in group discussions, share experiences, and pray collectively. The diverse array of speakers at CASL offers a wealth of perspectives, inspiring students to apply their faith in leadership roles and make a positive impact on their campuses. The event was supported by the Baptist General Convention of Texas and featured student leaders from institutions across the region, including ETBU, University of Mary Hardin Baylor, Hardin-Simmons University, Howard Payne University, Houston Christian University, Oklahoma Baptist University, and Dallas Baptist University.
The overarching theme of the conference was "Persevere," inspired by the scripture reference from James 1:2-4:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
The opening session on Thursday night was led by Fred "Chip" Luter, Senior Associate Pastor at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana. Pastor Luter motivated students to be ready to make a positive impact for the Lord by equipping themselves with the armor of God.
Friday morning, Dr. Kelly King, Women's Minister at Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, gave the keynote address in the general session. Throughout the day, students had the opportunity to engage with leaders through workshops and round table events. Todd Kaunitz, an ETBU alumnus and Lead Pastor at New Beginnings Baptist Church in Longview, Texas, shared valuable insights during the afternoon general session.
“Perseverance in the Kingdom life does not come by our power but by our surrender,” Kaunitz said. “Perseverance is not something that we do by rolling up our sleeves and working hard. It is something that God does in us as we die to ourselves so that He can rein in us.”
The concluding events on Saturday morning included roundtable discussions, worship, and a closing charge delivered by ETBU President Dr. J Blair Blackburn.
“As a spiritual leader, you must fan the flame of the believers God will place around you,” President Blackburn said. “He will place people in your path, so don’t walk past them; don’t walk on the other side and miss the blessing of ministering and serving. Your gifts, given and sustained by God’s grace and power, are to be used to build up the body of Christ. You are the Lord’s instrument, the torch He will use to drive out darkness in this fallen world.”
CASL distinguishes itself by being hosted by a different university each year. This rotation allows participants to travel across the region, gaining exposure to various campus leadership teams in action. By experiencing the distinct leadership styles of different universities, attendees broaden their understanding of effective leadership practices and contribute to a vibrant exchange of ideas.
After the conclusion of the charge from Dr. Blackburn, ETBU handed off the CASL Conference to the 2025 host, Dallas Baptist University.