From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is full of references about gardening, soil, plants, and planting; as Christians, then, it’s only natural that we often use the planting metaphor to discuss new goals, initiatives, or endeavors, particularly when it involves the formation of new faith communities. As churches go through the stages of making and reaching yearly goals of any kind, however, the imagery is just as apt.
Choose the right plot
Pastor Doug Meacham from Grace Chapel in Westerville, Ohio, says one of his church’s goals for 2016 is to grow their youth department, and to do so they decided the best place to dig a little deeper is in their own backyard.
“We know that young people are the lifeblood of a church, and we acknowledge that reaching this group will be a challenge,” he says. “We plan to use radio and social media to focus on developing that age group in the surrounding neighborhoods as well as providing help to organizations and support groups that cater to that age group.”
In just a few weeks, Rev. Travis Garner officially puts out the welcome mat to The Village, a church planted by Brentwood United Methodist Church which is located in Brentwood, Tennessee, a town that shares its borders with Nashville. The process of getting to this point, however, started more than a year ago. Once the church gave the project a green light—and lots of prayer—choosing the right neighborhood was the first step in terms of logistics.
“The area that includes Lenox Village, a mixed-use development in Nashville, and the town of Nolensville, which is just a few miles to the south, has grown tremendously in the past ten years,” says Garner. “There are about sixty-thousand people without a church home within a ten-minute drive of our target area, which makes it a perfect location for us.”
Fertilize the soil (Build relationships)
Even before an initial, temporary bricks-and-mortar location for The Village was secured, Garner cultivated relationships with the people who live in the Lenox Village and Nolensville neighborhoods.
“We are doing everything we can to plant and build relationships with people in our community,” explains Garner. “We’re building partnerships with the local schools, asking community leaders what the needs of the community are, and working with others to meet them. We want to be the kind of church that would be missed in the community if we didn’t exist.”
Care for the plant (Love your neighbor)
Garner says that the overall purpose for planting The Village is evangelism. “We want to reach as many new people as we can with the love of Jesus,” he says.
“Our goal is to lay a foundation of a church not just for people who feel like they are ‘church people.’ We want to plant a church for people who have been part of a church their entire lives and for people who’ve never stepped a foot inside a church building. For people who know a lot about God and for people who have a lot of questions about God. For people who have stepped away from church, who are hoping for something new in a church, or who are thinking about coming back to church.”
Caring for others is something First Baptist Church in Mustang, Oklahoma, does in a big way, and their plans are to do it even bigger. The church currently partners with ten global mission organizations and member Scott Bumgarner, who has served on several mission trip teams, says the church plans to branch out even more in 2016.
“Our plans are to partner with an additional five missions next year,” he says. “We provide financial support as well as ‘boots on the ground’ assistance to help missionaries in places as far away as South Africa and Nicaragua as well as within the U.S.”
Trusting the Master Gardner (Patience)
What novice gardener hasn’t checked the soil daily, anxiously looking for the first sign of a green sprout? Those with a more seasoned green thumb know it’s all a matter of trust and patience. Whether it’s expanding an existing ministry within the church, adding external mission opportunities, or planting an entirely new church, the same rules apply. Perhaps Travis Garner, who is not new to the role of a pastor, expresses it best; breaking into a smile, he says: “Our goals for 2016? We just want to survive!”
What will you and your church planting in 2016? Tell us in the comments section below!
Judy Bumgarner is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tennessee. She also works at Brentwood United Methodist Church in the church’s Caring Ministry.