ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Church planter support is becoming a priority at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) as Southern Baptists seek to greatly increase the number of churches planted in North America over the next 10 years.
“We need thousands more church planters,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. “We know it’s God’s role to call them. But we also know we must do a better job taking care of them once they’ve responded to the call.”
One of Ezell’s first actions after coming to NAMB in 2010 was to establish a church planter support network directed by Micah Millican, who helps establish support teams for planters in cities throughout North America.
Local church planters, church planting catalysts and NAMB city coordinators lead the city-specific support teams. NAMB encourages three events a year per city designed to deepen relationships between planters and their families and build a sense of brotherhood between planters in a city. Local planters decide what those events will be.
“Cities are not won in isolation,” Millican said. “Cities are won in community. Church planters need to be able to lock arms with other planters to effectively push back lostness in a city. They desperately need one another.”
One of the three events NAMB funds each year is specifically designed for church planter wives, and another one involves the whole family. A recent event in Boston included a family trip to the aquarium for planters and their families.
To help support and encourage church planting families, NAMB regularly sends books to all planters who have joined the network, including publications focused on leadership development, marriage and spouse enrichment and other ministry issues. Funds have been provided for date nights and to meet special financial needs in times of crisis.
Photo by John Swain
Church planter Jose Abella, center, addresses North American Mission Board trustees during a city vision tour held in conjunction with a board meeting in Miami last year. Abella is part of the Send North America Support Network and appreciates the “incredible amount of support, prayer and encouragement available as we connect with other planters and NAMB.”
Church planter Jose Abella has benefited directly from NAMB’s increased support efforts. Abella, who serves in Miami, said church planting can be a lonely ministry. With so much of a planter’s energy focused on reaching new people with the gospel, his family often has limited opportunities for relationships with fellow Christians.
That’s why the relationships his family has developed with other church planting families through the North American Mission Board’s Send North America Support Network over the past two years have been so crucial.
“That’s part of what it means to be Southern Baptist,” Abella said. “You’re not on your own. There is an incredible amount of support, prayer and encouragement available as we connect with other planters and NAMB.”
Miami is one of 32 Send North America cities where NAMB is developing local networks of church planters by establishing city-specific support teams driven by its national Send North America Support Network.
The city-specific support teams are part of a national effort by NAMB to develop a network among Southern Baptist church planters. The national network is open to all lead church planters regardless of ministry context who affirm the Baptist Faith & Message and have planted within the past five years.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. Church planters can visit namb.net/cpprofile for more information and to join the Send North America Support Network. They can contact Micah Millican at [email protected] for more information.)