Thursday, June 01, 2006

Students Planting Churches?

Our Future Depends On It!
Some church health statisticians claim that we are closing the doors on approximately 4,000 churches a year in North America. And our Southern Baptist Convention is no exception.

SBC Statistics, from the 2005 Annual Church Profile report, showed a net gain of 234 churches in the SBC last year. But, according to the NAMB 2005 Annual Ministry Report, there were 1,795 new church plants and affiliates in the same year. Let's do the math. 1,561 Southern Baptist churches (at least) died in 2004-2005. Even in the middle of our "Everyone Can!" push for more baptisms, our total number of baptisms fell by 16,097 from the previous year.

I am convinced that we are just a few years of funerals away from seeing a dramatic increase in church deaths, and a decrease in our convention overall. We must get busy planting new churches. Our life as a denomination depends on it.

That's where our students / youth come in. We cannot afford to wait until our kids reach college, or beyond, before we expose them to the realm of Church Planting. We must train them as youth, equip them for Evangelism and Church Planting, and unleash them upon the continent of North America as a Church Planting army. We are in a spiritual war, my friends. We need more feet on the field.

The 2004 Annual Church Profile showed that we had 8,206,440 people enrolled in Sunday School / Small Groups in SBC churches. Of that number, 1,073,961 ... an incredible 13 % ... were between the ages of 12 and 17. Let's be generous (way too generous) and say that 50,000 were mobilized to do missions last year. That still leaves over a million students waiting to be mobilized. That is an army waiting to be unleashed! And, by the way, we have to stop letting them hide behond their paint brushes and hammers on the plethora of construction projects that we are operating across this continent. Missions must be more than feeling a warm fuzzy over a nice paint job or a straight line on a new roof. We have to get past being satisfied with good works. Sooner or later, someone has to step up, open up, and tell people about Jesus Christ. We need to teach these kids how to do evangelism. We need to put them on the mission field and challenge them to do it. If we teach them, and if we challenge them, they will do it. They will share Jesus with boldness ... with reckless abandon. I've seen it. They are bold beyond our wildest adult measures.

But we must also teach them about Church Planting. We need to help them understand some new definitions of what a church can be. Youth Pastors, that is going to be up to you ... because most of the members and leaders in our churches are clueless about Church Planting, the reasoning behind it, or the even need for it. Most of those who know of it, tragically, tend to line up in opposition to it. It's threatening to them. It encroaches upon pastoral pride and imaginary parrish territories. It is a reminder of the cycle of church death that so many of them are caught up in.

There is a bold new ministry to help Youth Pastors expose their students to Church Planting, train them in its practice, and release them to take part in church planting ... right now ... while they're still in school. The ministry is growing. A Youth Church Planting Network is forming. Be on the cutting edge of this eternity-changing movement. Check out Mission M Possible. The "M" stands for something important ... "M" aking Disciples and "M"obilizing Church Planters. Your Youth Ministry will never be the same again. You might even find God calling you out of your Youth Ministry comfort zone to step out and plant a church.


Blogger Kiki Cherry said...

I was excited to find your website. I think you are really on to something here.

We have the same philosophy with our college ministry. Our goal is to raise up students who can go anywhere in the world and plant a church.

God is still unveiling all the details of how He wants this done.

But we also have a strong emphasis on mentoring, and on missional small groups. The small groups are modeled after the IMB's Church Planting Movement strategy.

From the very birth of a new group, the focus is on reproduction and multiplication. One of our goals is to ensure that every student who comes through our campus has an opportunity to hear the gospel at least once. But not to be "assaulted" with it, but rather hear it through meaningful relationships with Christian peers. We share this vision with some other groups like Intervarsity and Christian Student Fellowship, and so we are all working together to see it accomplished on our campus.

So far our missional small groups are working well. It's totally just been God leading and directing, and it's a very fluid way to do ministry. Scary sometimes, too.

But when I was reading your website, I was thinking that what you are doing could be a real asset to our ministry as well.

One thing we need is strong Christian students who are willing to intentionally plant themselves into a school like ours in order to be leaders in these small groups. (Of course, they would also have to be strong academically to be accepted into CMU. The admission standards here are exceptionally high.)

We have had students the past two years who have come to our campus for this purpose. And they have been amazingly effective.

Is there a way you could incorporate some kind of networking partnership into this--where we could get some of these trained students to come to our school and intentionally plug into our campus ministry?

It would give us extra time and momentum to have students who already understand these concepts before coming to college.

6:52 AM  
Blogger Geoff Baggett said...

Sounds like a plan, Kiki. We are actively seeking strategic partnerships. Part of our vision is that some of our called-out students will make their college choices missional, church-planting ones. We'll add CMU to our partnership list.


7:04 PM  
Blogger Roger Ferrell said...

My friend, Mike Hyde, did just what you are talking about. I was planting a church in Maine and Mike came as a semester missionary to help us. One semester turned into two, and then Mike transferred from The U of Oklahoma to the University of Southern Maine. He went back a year later, married his girlfriend and brought her back to serve! They were a tremendous help to us and now he is in seminary at Southeastern studying, you guessed it, church planting! She is getting her doctorate in English and they want to plant a church in a college town in New England. So this does happen. But I would love to encourage it even more.

10:31 PM  

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