Lending Strength Through Summer Partnership
The summer calendar for many of our SBC churches is filled with activities for youth and children to accompany the summer break from school. These few weeks between spring and fall create a whole host of opportunities to engage our neighbors and introduce new families to the church as we seek to make disciples in our communities. But sadly many churches will miss this seasonal opportunty for outreach because they don’t have the people or the resources they had in past year.
Recently I was meeting with an interim pastor of an aging congregation who was lamenting that his senior adult members didn’t think they could host a VBS this summer because they were too few and too older to keep up with the kids any more. Now, there were other factors behind their resistance, but the fact remains that this declining church may never have VBS again without help from another church. And I would imagine that many in these churches are mourning this fact with every summer that comes and goes without VBS or the noise of children running through their hallways.
More importantly, time is quickly passing for this church and others like it to continue to keep its doors open to the community without intentionally seeking ways to reach their community with the hope of the gospel.
Now the good news.
As we have intentionally worked with at-risk and declining churches, we have helped them see not only their current reality more clearly, but also their potential for a hopeful future. Our conversations have encouraged them to pray and be willing to do whatever it takes to reach their community, even if their community has drastically changed from what it was 40 years ago. And as churches have taken steps of faith to return to God’s mission, we are discovering an increase in churches willing to partner and assist with outreach events and strategies. Churches willing to send members to prayerwalk a community on a Sunday afternoon, enlist volunteers for a block party in another church’s neighborhood or town, and a whole host of other ideas that wouldn’t be possible without a shared vision of reaching communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Partnership Story #1: Becoming a Co-Laborer (Level 1 Partners
Summer can provide opportunities for partnership between churches with considerable distance between them and with benefits to both partnering churches. With 250 miles between their communities, First Baptist Church Dillon brought their youth mission team to the mountains of Walhalla to partner with Rocky Knoll Baptist. The team was originally preparing to travel to Guatemala, but COVID restrictions changed their destination and opened the door for a new partnership across South Carolina. As an older congregation, Rocky Knoll didn’t have the people it needed to host VBS or a summer outreach, but they were already prayerfully considering their options for summer ministry when their pastor heard their was a youth mission team looking for an opportunity to help a church in the process of being revitalized. The two churches worked together to develop a plan of hosting a morning sports camp and an evening VBS together as one team to share the gospel with kids in this small town of South Carolina. The timing was perfect as Rocky Knoll was just beginning to relaunch their mission and ministry to the community around them. And the opportunity to serve on missions afforded First Baptist, Dillon meaningful ways for youth to serve and share their faith in Jesus without the barriers of language or culture. As a result of this summer partnership, God is opening doors for Rocky Knoll Baptist to continue in ministry to families and the community that probably would not have happened without the investment from FBC Dillon’s youth team.
Co-laborers seek to:
- Pray for an at-risk church and their community
- Support an at-risk church with resources or fshort-term funding
- Serve alongside an at-risk church for a event or project
Partnership Story #2 – Becoming a Fostering Church (Level 2 Partnerships)
In a small town outside of the capital city of Columbia, Ridgeway Baptist is rebuilding mission and ministry after years of decline and limited gospel impact. Having affirmed a recommendation after a consultation process, they were poised to take their first steps of faith in a fostering partnership with First Baptist Church of Columbia.
As a means to announce their renewal, they scheduled a block party for the town with inflatables and food in hopes of meeting new neighbors and mobilizing members to serve well. As part of their partnership, FBC Columbia sent an army of volunteers to build relationships and serve alongside their brothers and sister in the faith creating a bond surely to yield a continuance of prayers and support for months to come. Their investment was simple and sacrificial as they gave up a Saturday morning to monitor inflatable slides or serve popcorn freeing up the members of Ridgeway Baptist to love and interact with their neighbors. They didn’t set a record attendance for the event, but they created momentum for the future of their new partnership and increased the hope for their future.
As a fostering church, FBC Columbia will continue to serve alongside of Ridgeway Baptist for an extended season as they work together to renovate facilities, build discipleship pathways, and mobilize members to share their faith. Leaders from both churches are working together to identify needs and lend strength in ways that help accomplish Ridgeway Baptist’s mission so that one day Ridgeway Baptist will be strong enough to foster another church in need.
Fostering partners seek to:
- Provide ongoing wisdom and counsel for decisions as mission is renewed
- Train and mobilize members to establish healthy ministries
- Provide ongoing encouragement and resourcing for a longer season than a Level 1 partner.
I am thankful for the many ways our churches are partnering together to advance the Great Commission in South Carolina and beyond. If you would like to learn more about the differing levels of partnerships, contact us directly at Hopeforchurches@scbaptist.org