Churches in need of revitalization often struggle with a lack of resources. Even if they have the desire to become a healthy, life-giving church, they may lack manpower. They may lack financial resources. Or they may lack the know-how to reach a particular demographic in their community. Developing ministry partnerships may be one way to move forward.
Some ministry partnerships are simple. Two years ago, our church wanted to hold a Fall Festival for the families in our neighborhood. We had everything we needed to host an outstanding event. But we lacked people to work the activities. A younger church plant in our city helped us bless our neighbors. They ran the events. Our members got to know our neighbors.
Developing ministry partnerships is an intentional part of our vision and strategy. I am always looking for partnership possibilities. Right now, we have an incredible partnership with a church plant that meets in our chapel. They needed space. And we had space. Voila. But our partnership goes beyond sharing a building. We also do ministry together. We serve our community together.
Partnerships not only help us reach our neighbors, they also help us maximize the use of our space. Our church campus was built to hold as many as 1,500 people. If all of our active members showed up on the same day, we would only need about 10% of that space.
Not every partnership is a good partnership. One of our strategic initiatives is to work with multiple churches and ministries that are focused on ministry in northeast Birmingham where our church is located. A few months ago, we had conversations with a ministry that looked promising. They focused on meeting immediate needs. But they also provided job training. They needed space. And we had space. Thankfully, we did our due diligence and discovered several issues with previous ministry partners.
We have also had conversations with a federally funded daycare. They wanted to use our expansive preschool-children’s building. But they also wanted us to remove symbols of Christianity. A year ago we talked to a church that was getting ready to close. They wanted us to assimilate them into our fellowship. But after one exploratory meeting, both churches backed away.
One Campus | Multiple Churches – This is the model we are using at Huffman Baptist Church, where I serve. Right now, we are two churches in one location. Together for the gospel. Together for our neighborhood. But we have the space to bring on more church partners. We have talked to a church plant made up mostly of millennials. We have also talked to a Hispanic church.
One Church | Two Locations – This model is being tried by my friend, Joel Dison. Joel served the Pawnee Baptist Church in the Fultondale/Tarrant area of Metro Birmingham. After the Covid shutdown last spring, members of a neighboring church started meeting with Pawnee for several reasons.
Eventually, the pastors of both churches, along with their lay leadership, decided to come together as one church meeting in two locations. This is a variation on the old circuit-rider model of a previous generation. Joel, the music minister, and the accompanist lead worship at both locations on Sunday mornings. Sunday night services are held at one location. And Wednesday night services are held at the other. The church works together for community ministries like food distribution and Vacation Bible School.
Church Adoption – In a previous generation this would have been called mergers and acquisitions. A struggling church releases their property as well as their leadership to a more healthy church. Sometimes the healthy church operates the new campus like a multi-site venue. But often the healthy church seeks to replant an autonomous church. Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Vestavia Hills (Metro Birmingham) recently adopted the McElwain Baptist Church in eastern Birmingham. They are replanting McElwain as Hope Community Church.
Church Fostering – Like adoption, this example involves a struggling church and a healthy church. The healthy church sends resources for a specified period of time. The goal is for the struggling church to grow stronger. While the practice has been around for a long time, Dr. Sam Rainer, pastor of the West Bradenton Baptist Church in Bradenton, FL gave it the “Fostering” name. His church fostered a church in their city. Ultimately, the adopted the church as a multi-site venue.
Develop Partnership Principles
Our leadership team and church realize that we can not do the work of the Kingdom by ourselves. It takes partnerships. Our location and facilities are incredible resources given to us by God. And we are ready to leverage them for the Kingdom through partnerships with other like-minded churches, church plants, and ministries. We desire to work together for the gospel. And together for our neighborhood.
These principles are intended to establish the broad parameters for potential partnerships:
Theological Alignment – As a Southern Baptist Church, Huffman Baptist has adopted the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message as our statement of faith. While we would not require our partners to adopt the BF&M, we would expect their doctrinal statements to be in general agreement.
Ministry Alignment – We recognize that each partner church and ministry will be autonomous and maintain its own identity. But we desire to work together wherever possible to make Jesus known across the street and around the world. This may include sharing facilities, staff members, ministries, ministry and mission efforts, etc. to advance the Kingdom vision of each partner.
Financial Alignment – Our goal is to work with each partner church and ministry to establish equitable financial participation. This will require transparency and accountability as we determine together the best way to share the financial responsibilities for ministry.
Culture Alignment – Healthy families share a common culture. They enjoy healthy communication. This is especially true in a family of churches and ministries. The senior leadership of each ministry partner will meet together on a regular basis to share fellowship, ideas, insights and ministry plans.
Rob Paul is a church revitalization strategist with over three decades of experience serving established Southern Baptist churches in pastoral ministry. He has helped churches in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia to experience revival and revitalization by God’s grace and for His glory. He is currently serving as the senior pastor of Huffman Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. To find out more about Rob Paul Ministries and the work of church revitalization, visit Church Revitalization Resources.