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INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--It can be lonely out there. When a new church is begun, its pastor may sometimes feel isolated, especially during the initial months.
Planting new churches is a high priority for Southern Baptists, who are committed to planting record numbers of them, especially in highly populated, under-reached cities. Your small encouragements could make a huge difference to a church planter in North America.
As a member of a Southern Baptist Church, you are already involved in church planting. For example, your church's contributions through the Cooperative Program and Annie Armstrong offering helped support more than 750 new church plants just last year.
Would you go a step further and personally encourage one church planter? Here are a few tips:
-- Find one.
Be intentional about knowing and befriending a church planter and his family. If your church sponsors a new church, intentionally get to know that planting pastor. Otherwise, ask your pastor or a denominational leader to recommend a church planter you can encourage. You can meet planters face-to-face at your state or national Baptist convention. Click "mobilize me" or study the online church planter map at www.namb.net, then prayerfully select one and initiate a friendship by email.
-- Be an encourager.
Whether that new church is across town or across the country, faithfully demonstrate your personal interest and support. Study its newsletter, blog or website.
Give relational support. Let the church planter and his family know you care. Send email encouragements. Take him to lunch. Ask how things are going and how you can pray for him. Listen well to discover needs and opportunities. Offer practical advice when asked. Be available if he needs you. Brainstorm with him. Enthusiastically praise God for blessings and pray with the planter about challenges.
Give prayer support. Pray for the planter weekly at a specific time, i.e. Tuesdays at 8 a.m. Inform him of your prayer commitment. Send a note to remind him that you pray. Your personal encouragement may be the fire that reignites a church planter's joy.
-- Share your resources.
Has God gifted you with things that could be shared to help the church? Could they use your home for a Bible study? Your pool for a fellowship? Your lake home for a planning retreat or pastor getaway? Loan your tent or trailer for an event. Connect Christian friends who might offer aid, such as a banker, carpenter or accountant.
Share monetarily. Your tithe, of course, is given to your local church, but God may prompt you to give an additional monthly offering, like $20 or $200, to a church plant. Consider a one-time offering for a specific item, like a coffee pot, advertisement, or a down payment for land. Do they need Bibles, audiovisual equipment or furniture? Could you organize a garage sale to fund a church sign or musical equipment?
Encourage the planter pastor with a bookstore gift certificate or scholarship to attend a conference, Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, or seminary class. Do something for his family.
-- Share yourself.
Show your personal support by visiting the church plant's worship service occasionally. Make a special effort to attend its constitution service or groundbreaking event.
Offer your skills and talents. Can you design a website, build a wall, make outreach visits or repair a toilet? Are you a gifted musician or an experienced Vacation Bible School teacher? Can you clean, organize, paint or type? If the church is in another state, can you organize a mission trip for an outreach event, survey or building project? Could your vocation or hobby be used to help the church?
A new church needs a quality core group. If God leads, would you relocate to the church plant area to help for a few years or months? If your employment can be done from any location, could you serve as a Bible teacher or greeter or technical support person? Could you invest retirement years there? If God calls you, He'll provide a way.
As your church and denomination send new church planters, will you personally encourage just one of them?
Diana Davis is an author, speaker and wife of the North American Mission Board vice president for the Midwest region. Visit her website, www.keeponshining.com. She and her husband have helped plant several churches.