LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- Church planters have faced the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic head-on. Many of them are finding unique ways to serve not only their churches but their communities as well.
“Church plants tend to have the ability to adapt and to change very quickly. Within the first five years, a church plant often moves locations, has leadership adjustments, and operates many varying initiatives, programs, and other aspects of the church on a trial basis,” said Toby DeHay, KBC church planting and development associate.
These realities have prepared Kentucky Baptist church planters for the uncertainty caused by the crisis. “They have to quickly decide what’s essential to their mission and prioritize it over other activities. They have learned to adapt to changing regulations and realities,” according to Job Juarez, KBC church planting, and development associate.
Church planters bring more to the table than just their ability to shepherd their young flock. They’ve been at work studying their community as they try to reach it for Christ. This helps them understand the community and be able to see and address the needs of the community.
“They know their communities like no one else. If you can think of it, they are already doing it: partnering with community mental health organizations, feeding students, prayer walking in neighborhoods, setting up prayer chains for local authorities, and assisting local animal shelters. Church planters are engineered by design to touch their communities in creative ways,” Juarez said.
Christ Community Church in Shelby County is establishing a family of churches with 2 in Shelbyville and 1 in neighboring Henry County. Pastor Blake Lawyer said each church has looked for specific ways to serve their community during the pandemic.
In Henry County, they were working with a nursing home. When the facility closed to outside visitors, church members created a video of them playing and singing hymns that would be familiar to the nursing home residents. The people in the video also shared why the hymn was meaningful to them to personalize the video for the residents.
“The nursing home partnership has really been valuable to the community because it’s helped them to see ways forward to serve those who are most at risk through all of this,” said Lawyer.
In Shelby County, they focused on furthering existing ministries like expanding a food box ministry, creating an online anxiety support group, and hosting a webinar to help people who were struggling financially due to the loss of work.
“The webinar, anxiety group and the food box gave people something to share with their circles of people that expressed that the church cared about people in ways that extended beyond spiritual – that their economic, emotional and physical health is important, too,” Lawyer said.
KBC Evangelism Team leader Rob Patterson says this type of ministry is a great example of how church plants differ from established churches.
“Established churches must ask more inward-focused questions such as, ‘How do we best serve those who are already part of our church family?’ Newer churches often are nimbler in responding to unanticipated opportunities as they tend to have simpler decision-making processes,” Patterson said.
He says the credibility of the church planters grows as they help meet the needs of the community. “Finding ways to serve or come alongside public servants and community leaders during a season of crisis will strengthen community ties long term.”