Church Growth Dinners Feed the Funding Pool for Church Planting
In early 2000, church leaders from Brethren in Christ churches across North America gathered to discuss the ministry priorities of the denomination. This summit resulted in IMPACT 2010, a ministry vision plan for the Brethren in Christ Church in North America that includes a number of very ambitious goals, including growing the denomination to 325 healthy congregations working in partnership to impact the world for Jesus Christ by the year 2010.
But setting goals is one thing, and paying for our plans is quite another. To transform plans on paper into healthy church plants, the Brethren in Christ Church has stepped beyond the usual giving “box” of Cooperative Ministries with church growth dinners in several of the regional conferences.
As Director of Congregational Relations Rebekah Basinger explains, the church growth dinners are part of a coordinated funding strategy, combing gifts from individuals who attend the church growth dinners with the congregational dollars that flow through Cooperative Ministries to regional conferences for use in starting new churches (approximately $380,000 in 2007). Together, the two funding streams add to significant support for church planting.
For example, both the Allegheny and the Atlantic Conferences held church growth dinners to celebrate the successful planting of new churches and to encourage continued support of the church planting goals set forth by IMPACT 2010. The Allegheny Conference, using the theme “Courageous Action,” saw an attendance of 90 Conference members and raised $14,000 towards church planting. The dinner was also a celebration of the five pastoral positions that had been filled within the Conference and the growth of The Vine, a church plant that opened in Hagerstown, Md., in April 2007. Conference goals for the coming year include planting another church and developing a “Second Career Summit,” which would be geared towards those in mid-life who have a strong desire to enter into vocational ministry.
The Atlantic Conference held two dinners with the theme “Building Bridges.” Financial and spiritual support was in abundance there: the 550 total attendees contributed $83,000 and over 100 people signed up to be prayer partners. The Atlantic Conference currently has five new churches that are being launched or are in the early stages of development.
“Cooperative Ministries dollars are key to our church planting efforts, but they are not our only source of funding for this vision priority,” Basinger states. “The Brethren in Christ Church in Canada and the United States has grown to 305 congregations because local congregations have birthed and supported daughter churches. We’ve seen God work as regional conferences have come together in prayer and giving around church planting. And we are grateful for a growing interest among individual donors to give in support of church planting. The Impact 2010 goals have stretched us and encouraged us to be creative in funding our plans. It’s all about collaboration.”