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Your Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions has placed a higher priority on church planting in recent years. The Future Focus initiative approved by messengers to the 2012 annual meeting of the State Convention included a goal to see 220 healthy, intentional church starts by 2020.

The Office of Associational Missions & Church Planting has undertaken the challenge to lead this effort.

Whenever church planting is mentioned, some will say, “We don’t need any more churches in Alabama.”

At first glance, it may seem counterintuitive to think of planting churches in a state that already has 3,286 Alabama Baptist churches. However, of the 5 million people who call our state home, more than 2 million don’t attend church anywhere. Yes, in the buckle of the Bible Belt, 40 percent of people in our state do not attend any church.

We do not plant churches to transfer the already-saved members but to push back the darkness of lostness in our state and beyond — to reach the pockets of unchurched people who don’t currently attend anyone’s church.

To this end, we have initiated funding through the Cooperative Program for 47 new churches in Alabama since January 2013, and we have seen the Lord call out 12 planters to other states across North America.

The State Board of Missions seeks to provide systems and processes to provide support for the planting of healthy, intentional churches.

A recent study by LifeWay Research Director, Ed Stetzer, revealed that when church planters are assessed well, trained well and coached well, the church they’re planting experiences an 85 percent success rate through the fourth year.

In response to this study and years of combined observation, we have spent much of our time and energy creating and strengthening these systems within our state: assessment, training and coaching.

About a year ago, we put in place the third of these elements by beginning several regional Coaching Networks for Church Planters. Each network offers 12 in-person coaching network sessions of four hours, each led by an experienced and competent coach. These networks are usually started following each Alabama Church Planting Basics training.

The training church planters receive at Alabama Basics is three intense days of what we call “drinking from a fire hydrant.” Many times a planter will get out into his work only to face an issue that he remembers that we covered in the training but has difficulty applying those principles directly to his unique, real world circumstances.

The coaching network setting becomes the safe place for planters to share these challenges and receive assistance and encouragement from the coach and his fellow church planters.

Each coaching session includes a monthly training topic for everyone, individualized sharing of good news and challenges, and personalized coaching and peer learning. This combination of training, peer learning and coaching components in one environment has proven to drastically improve the planters’ ability to apply what they’re learning.

Beyond that, it has helped planters build lasting relationships with like-minded Kingdom partners that will go on far beyond their 12-month coaching commitment.

One unforeseen benefit to the coaching networks is that they have also proven to be valuable for pastors of existing churches as well. Because of this interest, we are inviting non-planting pastors to join.

While the sessions are primarily and unapologetically focused on church planting, the biblical principles taught to planters are transferable, and most have direct application for pastors of established churches as well.

The goal of each coaching network is to equip these leaders to cooperate with God to reach as many people and make as many disciples as possible for the cause of Christ.

To take advantage of this renewed emphasis on training for church planting, visit PlantAlabama.org/Events

For more information, please contact Ministry Assistant Andrea Towns at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 244, or (334) 613-2244, atowns@alsbom.org.

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