Seven years ago I had the unique privilege to watch Mullins Association, comprised of 30 or so small churches in south central Oklahoma, become a church planting force. How did one small group of Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma plant 4 churches in 6 years in Phoenix, Arizona?
Here is what happened.
A Part-Time Hire
Our Director of Missions retired. The DOM (as they are known) is the person in Southern Baptist life who leads a group of churches that are usually in close proximity. Before making a hire to fill the newly vacant position, the search team surveyed the pastors of the churches in the Mullins Association to determine what we wanted and needed in the next leader. When the responses came in we soon learned that we were divided equally as to expectations of the director.
Wisely, the search team pushed pause. The team leader, Joe Ligon of FBC Marlow, led us through Aubrey Malphurs’ Advanced Strategic Planning. We needed to find who we were before deciding upon a leader. We united and rediscovered our purpose as a local Southern Baptist association.
We resolved that our association was not a church and therefore should not act like one. Instead, we rallied around the mission of resourcing local churches to achieve their vision for the Kingdom. We recognized in this digital age the DOM was no longer the hub Southern Baptist news and information. Filling the pulpit in the pastor’s absence—a long time role of the director of missions—was no longer needed in many churches. We discovered, in short, that the position we needed to hire was part-time. This move enabled us to do something larger for the Kingdom: plant churches.
Planting a Church
We didn’t want to plant a church because other groups were planting churches. We decided if we were to plant a church, we would plant a church in an area that needed a church. In our part of Oklahoma there were more churches than convenience stores. In two counties with a population of 50,000 people there were more than 30 SBC churches and well over 100 others. We wanted to plant a church where there was no church or where the population growth had far outpaced church growth. We wanted to plant a church that our churches could send teams to, partner with, and pray for people we would grow to know and love. We wanted to plant a church within a day’s drive so our teams wouldn’t use up four out of seven vacation days traveling. Finally, we wanted to plant a church where we were welcomed by pastors and planters already serving there.
This part-time hire enabled us to re-allocate some of the association’s funds for a church planter. We set aside $50,000 per year for five years. Several churches gave in addition to this budgeted amount. The church I pastored at the time, Velma Baptist, gave $800 per month, half to Valley Life | Tramonto and half to Valley Life | Surprise! We wanted our church planter to not worry about fundraising or whether his family would have insurance. We wanted him focused on planting the church.
Furthermore, giving to the Valley Life churches gives back. Valley Life is now a top five contributor to the Mullins budget.
Picking a Planter
We chose Brian Bowman. He pastored a small church in Mullins association, but had earlier planted a church in Oregon. We knew his character. We liked his ideas. Most importantly, we liked his vision.
Brian wanted to plant a church that planted churches, so that is exactly what he did. Within two years of Valley Life’s launch, a second church, Valley Life | Surprise, lead by Jason Vance, launched. Today, two other churches, Valley Life | Arrowhead and Valley Life | Camelback, are holding preview services. Both will launch weekly services in January 2017.
Can your association help plant a church? Yes. Absolutely you can. Does your association want to plant a church? I hope so. We plan to plant more.
If you aren’t Southern Baptist does your denomination have a church planting strategy? If you aren’t in a denomination, who are the pastors and churches around you that share a church planting vision?
This post was originally published on the LifeWay Pastors Blog.