After three years of planning and praying, a merger of three Kentucky Baptist associations into one has been completed, launching the North Central Baptist Network.
The Shelby, Oldham-Trimble and Henry County Associations voted in respective annual meetings this fall their approval of the merger. The new association will operate out of what was previously the Shelby Baptist Association since the other two associations did not own the properties. The Shelby County building has also made recent improvements.
“It went exceedingly well,” said Steve Gouge, the part-time associational mission strategist in the Shelby Association. “Some of us AMS have met almost three years. Basically that was a period of praying and asking the question how can our associations be the most effective going forward as we represent our Christ?”
‘Vision and direction’
The three associational mission strategists of the previous associations – Rick Lucas, Larry Orange and Gouge – provided key leadership in the cooperative change that will join together 61 Kentucky Baptist churches for an even bigger work in the future.
All three of the association leaders plan to retire in the near future. The merger would result in having one person called into a full-time position for the network.
“I think that we will have a leader who is full-time that can provide vision and cast direction of the association,” Gouge said, “It will give us an opportunity to pool our resources and do some significant things in our area. We will be more of a regional entity and have a larger voice for our Lord.”
Gouge said the Shelby Association vote was 94% in favor and the three associations combined were 91%. Much of that was because everybody had a say in what was going to happen with town hall meetings.
“In those town hall meetings, we not only wanted to explain proposal but get input from those who attended,” he said. “We did make several significant changes based on what our people told us and it did strengthen our proposal.”
‘Significant Kingdom impact’
The North Central Baptist Network will be in a similar position as the Lake Cumberland Baptist Association, which has more than 60 churches and covers more than 600 square miles.
Harry Hebert, moderator of the Shelby Association, wrote in its newsletter that approving the proposal would result in “moving forward in our Great Commission work as one network, maximizing our resources and leveraging our collective energies to have a more significant kingdom impact on our region.”
Eric Allen, team leader of Missions Mobilization for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, congratulated the three associational leaders involved in the combined effort, saying he “anticipates great things in the future from this partnership of 61 churches.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story originally appeared at Kentucky Today, the news service of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.