By Chris Conrades
Church planting is the primary focus of the Send Indiana Network through the North American Mission Board, NAMB. “Church planting is our strategy to spread the gospel, respond to brokenness and to bring about restorative healing — spiritually, emotionally, economically and socially.” (https://www.namb.net/send-network) Since 2010, there have been over 10,000 churches planted nationally through Send Network and NAMB. In Indiana, we have twenty-nine church planters currently serving in our state and as many as thirteen prospective candidates prayerfully considering if God is leading them to plant a church here. Scott McDowell has recently moved into the position of Send City Missionary in Indianapolis, and I had the opportunity to talk with him about Indiana church planting. As we were talking about his new position and the work ahead for church planters, one message became clear; every planter in Indiana needs partners and every church in Indiana regardless of size can become a partner to a local church planter.
Church planting is challenging in many ways from raising financial support to finding a facility for meetings to building a strong leadership team. They are often moving with their families to a new community. Spiritual warfare intensifies as a new church begins to share the gospel and bring glory to God. Church planters have to balance their time and energy well, often working bi-vocationally to supplement their income and support their new church. Our SCBI churches can join them in these challenges by providing partnership and connection. Here are just a few ideas of how your church could partner with an Indiana church planter and his family.
As new church planters and their families move into your town, they will need community. Reach out and invite a church planter for coffee. Discuss the culture of your area, share insights you have learned from your years of pastoring in that specific town, and invite that planter to share his dreams for his church. Another idea would be to invite a church planting family to your house for dinner. Many church planters are uprooting and moving away from family and friends. Sharing a meal together could provide just the connection they need to continue pushing forward in their new ministry. Call church planters or email them just to pray together and encourage one another. As a pastor or church leader of an established church, your friendship could become a source of safety and encouragement in an otherwise lonely ministry.
Church planters have many needs and one of those is willing volunteers. As you get to know the church planters in your area, discuss how your church could partner with the core team. Could you provide childcare for the church planting families as they meet for leadership meetings? Could your church provide volunteers to help with a community event or outreach? Scott McDowell shared that small groups in an established church could take turns volunteering at a church plant to provide “boots on the ground” to meet needs and help support the new work God is doing. Your church might even decide to become a financial partner with a church plant or find creative ways to use resources to share in the ministries of a church plant. How can your church show up and be present in the life of a new church plant?
Invite them In
Church planters are valuable co-laborers who have much to contribute. Your pastor fellowship, association, and state convention will only benefit as you befriend them and invite them to participate in the life of our convention. Invite your church planters to join in association meetings and pastor gatherings. Introduce them to other pastors and leaders within our state convention. When there is an event such as the Wives in Ministries Retreat or the Pastor’s Family Retreat, reach out to the church planters in your area and invite them to join you at the event. Church planters will quickly move from being planters to being pastors of established churches and you can become a great partner by including them in the gatherings that happen within your association and within the state convention. One of our greatest strengths is our connection together within the SCBI!
As Scott and I were talking about his new role and his heart for church planters in Indiana, one word was repeated multiple times. Pray! Often we think of prayer as the last piece of support but truly prayer is the most important thing we can be doing for our church planters. As a former church planter’s wife, I can attest to the power of prayer and the importance of knowing people were lifting our family in prayer. Church planters are on the front lines of the spiritual battles. We need to persist in prayer for our church planters. Pray as part of your Sunday morning worship gatherings, pray in your small groups, challenge families within your church to pray in their homes. Pray for the church planter, his family, and his new church. Pray consistently and frequently.
Every type of church can partner with a church planter. Size does not matter. Proximity to the church plant does not matter. There are so many ways that your church can be creative and invest in the life of a church planter and his new church and every church can play a part. As pastors and church leaders, we can meet church planters where they are and become a partner that helps connect for kingdom advancement. If you would like to know which church planters are in your area, you can reach out to Scott McDowell at firstname.lastname@example.org
To view a snapshot of church planting in Indianapolis follow this link https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?mid=1q-aUu3H9LDc2RHOVBwDPW1kgI_O9SWA&usp=sharing