Pastors of churches in need of revitalization often experience burnout and need support, said Mark Clifton, senior director of church replanting with the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
Clifton explained that as pastors face challenges in ministry, their need for training and community – a group of other pastors to ask questions to and share struggles with – grows.
With these realities in mind, Clifton approached Brian Croft, pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and founder of Practical Shepherding, Inc., to craft a 40-week curriculum designed to equip pastors and help them persevere in ministry through developing close relationships with brothers in the faith.
The “Replant Cohort,” developed in partnership with NAMB, was made possible by Cooperative Program funds and is free to all pastors. Enrolled pastors’ only expense is a few books needed for the curriculum.
There have been two cohorts thus far, with the second one almost complete as of this month. Registration for the next 40-week cohort, which begins in January 2021, is currently open.
Croft said the Cohort is primarily geared toward pastors in the midst of church revitalization and replanting. The group meets weekly online via Zoom. The sessions include lectures from Croft and a detailed question-and-answer time where pastors can submit questions and engage directly with Croft on his answers.
NAMB President Kevin Ezell stressed the necessity of the program.
“Pastoring has become increasingly complex in this season dominated by the pandemic and economic uncertainty,” Ezell said. “The burdens placed on a pastor’s shoulders have become so incredibly heavy, and that’s especially true for those who are leading a church through the replanting or revitalization process. I am praying that this cohort will bless dozens of pastors and encourage them in navigating this season.”
The 40-week Cohort is the first level of the program created by Croft and Sean Corser, director of operations for Practical Shepherding. The second level takes those pastors who complete the 40-week training and divides them into groups of around 20 by region, to encourage close friendships among group members as they continue in their church revitalization process.
Clifton explained that many pastors in these contexts find years three and four in the church to be the hardest and when they most want to “tap out.” The driving force behind the Cohort’s levels 1 and 2 is encouraging pastors to preach, pray, love and stay, Clifton said.
“God really does empower through relationships among Christians,” Clifton said. “We are much more powerful when we’re in good relationship with each other, than when we’re out there doing it on our own.”
Consistent investment in pastors leads to long-term gospel impact, Croft said, adding that by catering the training to pastors in a specific and often difficult context, results in an overarching impact for Christ.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled about what’s happening,” Croft said. “If you invest in the pastors, you affect everyone in the church. We have over 500 pastors, 43 different states and 19 different countries where the pastors are involved in this. The reach is quite incredible. … This is practical ministry curriculum, and for us to be able to do it in the cohort has been really fun and enjoyable.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tess Schoonhoven is a staff writer for Baptist Press.)