During a recent online gathering of Baptist association leaders, one pastor exclaimed, “I get it! It is not about what your association can do for you, it is what you can do for your association.”
He used the prose pattern of President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech in 1961 to make a very important point about associations.
Pastors, church staff and laypersons are known to periodically ask, “What has the association done for us?” They may add the word “lately” at the end of their question.
This question may come from laypersons who serve on their church’s finance committee as they consider the budget for the next year. Pastors may mention it when trying to put together funds to support a new staff position.
Church staff could bring it up when for the second year in a row they don’t receive a salary increase or there are not enough funds to support the programs and ministries they lead.
The right question?
When the pastor used the Kennedy prose pattern, he meant that asking what our association has done for us is the wrong question.
The right question is, “What can our church do for our churches in association to help all of us be more impactful and effective in making disciples locally and globally?”
Another way to say it is, “What can my church do to help all the churches in our association increase their capacity to serve as vital and vibrant congregations making significant contributions to fulfill the Great Commission?”
This pastor implied it is not just about his church and its success. It is about all churches in association.
His statement reminds us that churches are the association. The associational director or strategist does not perform magic tricks to make churches successful.
Serving as a catalyst for missional engagement is the best associational staff role — to serve as a broker or networker of resources and relationships, to connect churches with one another for learning, inspiration and mutual support and to discover solutions addressing the opportunities and challenges churches face in their local context. These solutions are often found in sister churches within the association.
To move from churches asking what the association can do for them to what churches can do for their association requires a revolution. This was a point made later in the same online gathering.
A lead pastor said, “This is revolutionary for us. But we’re not going to announce that a revolution is starting. We’re just going to start it.”
Here are seven actions churches can take to get the revolution started for their association:
Act with humility. The expansion and deepening of the Kingdom of God is not just about your church. It is about all churches. As open doors are discovered, consider the gifts, skills and context of your sister churches in the association.
Pray fervently. Pray every week for other churches in your association. Call on your congregation to pray for them. Share the names of churches and information about their ministry and context.
Ask for prayer. Let your sister churches know specifically how they can pray for your church and the opportunities and challenges before you. It is all right to be vulnerable within the family of your association.
Participate with other churches in your association. Pick out what works for you. Perhaps it is monthly, quarterly or annual gatherings; fellowships for pastors or other staff; or training events.
Share resources. Your church may find or develop a great resource that should be shared with other churches. Do not hoard it. Tell every church about it. Many are looking for the next great idea.
Invite churches to partner with you. Are you sponsoring a new church, going on a missions trip or planning a worship or training event from which others might benefit? Ask other churches to join you, especially those who might not have the resources to engage in these on their own.
Ask your associational leader. Your director or strategist knows opportunities for learning, partnership or new missional engagements. Discover the open doors of opportunity God is providing.