With over 30 years of ministry experience behind him and now leading a 156-year-old church, Raynarldo Henderson is well versed in past history. But if you want to get him excited, ask him about the future. When he talks about the Washington Street Community Development Center, or Tool Time Tuesdays, or the Back to Basics focus at Washington Street Baptist Church, that’s when his eyes light up and his voice rises.
Brother Henderson started his ministry career at age 16, preaching at the Faith Tabernacle Church and other churches in the Chicago area. After completing a degree in Radio and TV at Judson College in Illinois, he went on to the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, earning a Master’s of Divinity in Theology and Pastoral Care.
After pastoring other churches and working as a church planter for the Southern Baptist Convention, Brother Henderson came to the landmark Paducah church in 1992, and he has seen many changes in the past 18 years.
“Change is difficult. Many of the challenges have been to get the generations to work together in meaningful ministry,” Henderson explained.
Two of the programs the church has implemented focus on getting the different generations to interact. One of these programs, Tool Time Tuesdays, has adults tutoring and mentoring students at the church with a computer lab that Paducah Bank helped set up.
After the homework session, the church hosts a spiritual training time: Teamkids (Kids in Discipleship) for the younger ones and Teen Scene for the 13- to 17-year-olds. The church has also started the Washington Street Community Development Corporation.
They secured a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, and through this corporation they conduct a myriad of programs to benefit members of the community. Brother Henderson explains, “We do a lot of physical activity together, parents and kids, and we’ve cooked healthy meals, teaching healthier cooking habits.” The corporation focuses on providing educational opportunities, lucrative employment, health and physical wellness, and affordable housing. “For instance, Lowes held an informational session here, and the human resources officer talked to participants about the hiring needs of the company and helped job-seekers with resumes.”
The changes the church has experienced also affect the worship services. “We try to accommodate all the generations in our worship.” Washington Street provides a diversity of music, singing gospel songs, contemporary pieces, and congregational selections. On the third service of the month, they give the service completely over to the youth: “They can sing, they can dance; they can do what they want.”
The church also makes it a point to teach a classic hymn every month – words, composer, and background story. This is part of the emphasis on the Back to Basics. “We are no longer assuming anything: we explain everything we do now because we can’t assume people know the basics of salvation or what a song means, or why we do something or what this Christian life is all about. It’s not about getting to heaven; that’s the fringe benefit. Between here and there, it’s about a relationship with Christ.”
With the diversity of worship styles, the intergenerational involvement, and the willingness to change, Washington Street Baptist and Raynarldo Henderson appear to have many more years ahead of Christian vibrancy and community service.