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Church planters key to baptismal growth

“If the DNA in Southern Baptist churches is going to change or maintain its status, it’s going to be with you,” Randy Adams told church planters meeting at Moore, First March 26-27.

Adams, leader of the BGCO Church Outreach Team, speaking to the Church Planting Conference 2010, said people who are winning others to Jesus today are the people who are starting churches.

Relating the story of Explorer Ernest Shackleton, who wanted to be the first to cross the continent of Antarctica, Adams said the pioneer was a great example for church planters.

It doesn’t matter if we are in an arena or a used car sales lot, it’s what we are giving out that’s important, said George Toma during one of 17 breakout sessions at the Church Planting Conference at Moore, First March 26-27

Toma, pastor of Red River Valley Cowboy Church in Albany, said cowboy churches are relationship driven, hands-on churches.

“These people (cowboys) are real seven days a week,” he said. “They don’t want to pretend to be someone else on Sunday. We embrace them. They may do things that aren’t right, but eventually God will get to them.”

Toma explained that the King James Version of the Bible is Greek to most cowboys, so he uses Life Bible or something straightforward they can understand.

“If you preach above them, they won’t come back,” he noted.

He revealed that food is also an important part of the ministry.

“You can break down barriers with food,” he said. “When they eat, they will talk, so we always have a free meal after church services.”

Toma said most cowboys aren’t content just to sit and listen, so the church is filled with activities and events such as ranch rodeos.

“We also do servant evangelism,” he said. “We help brand cattle and give vaccinations if they need help. Showing someone who you are can out-do any words.”

However, through all the activities, food and service, Toma emphasized that the nucleus of the method is God’s Word.

“We don’t change that in any way,” he declared. “But because membership in a group is important to them, anyone who comes through the door is considered a member. As God works on them, they will understand salvation and want to be baptized.”

The bottom line, Toma said, is that the cowboy church takes out a lot of barriers that might keep this group of people out of traditional churches.

“We are very non-judgmental,” he observed. “Their history is just that. Christ used real people to spread His Gospel, and so should we.”

He said the method and message seem to be working. Last year the Oklahoma Fellowship of Cowboy Churches planted 13 new churches.

In another breakout session, Greg Penna, from the BGCO church planting team talked about marketing a new church plant, saying each church needs to develop its own unique approach for how it gets the word out.

“Think local, think relational and think core values,” he said. “First, you have to think about your target audience and start with local mediums, then realize that most people visit a new church because someone they know invited them, and finally, think about what you are trying to accomplish and don’t market through mediums that conflict with your core values.”

Penna said three A’s help to develop prospects. The first goal is to make people aware of who you are; then almost immediately people will develop an attitude and form an opinion. Your goal is to form a positive attitude.

“The last A is action,” he said. “The things that drive an individual to action vary. For some it will be their kids, for others a critical situation.”

He divulged several ideas for marketing a new church.

1. Sponsor community events that will expose people to your new work—Easter egg hunts, county fairs, Christmas toy drives, service ministries, park renovations, after school events.

2. Use community newspapers/newsletters. Research shows readership on mainline newspapers is in decline, but people are much more likely to read a small community newsletter. Advertise in a community newsletter, or if none exists, develop one.

3. Internet marketing. Google and Facebook are extremely affordable and local. Penna said one new church start recently spent just $5 a day on Facebook advertising and had nearly 300 show up to the first service.
4. Market your sermon series. Hand out business cards with the sermon series title on one side and directions, contact information on the other.

5. Sponsor school events or publications. Neighborhoods are typically supportive of their school athletic and scholastic events. A sponsorship in a yearbook or high school game program can be affordable and introduce your church to parents.

6. Market through local businesses. Some restaurants provide space for local advertising. Develop materials that can be left behind in doctors’ offices and businesses—some may be owned by members of your church family.

Penna pointed out that getting the word out takes time, so patience is of the essence.

“You also need to develop a plan and stick to it,” he said. “And remember, the first thing lay leaders like to cut from the budget is market-related expenses. Be prepared to speak positively. It’s not just about filling the place up—it’s about life transformation.”

Dana Williamson

Author: Dana Williamson

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