INDIANAPOLIS (BP) — Church planter Tony Manning can do a lot with a church of 60.
They can mobilize to canvass the neighborhood and pray for people door-by-door. They can host a “Parents’ Night Out” to help out young families in the area and introduce them to the church.
But holding a marriage conference to help husbands and wives in the church and broken marriages outside of it would have been a tall order for Hamilton Village Church in Fishers, Ind., just outside of Indianapolis.
That’s when one of the church plant’s partners, Highview Baptist Church from Louisville, Ky., pitched in to help.
“We sent young couples from our church on a family mission trip to help Tony put together a marriage conference,” Corey Abney, a teaching pastor at Highview who taught the seminar, recounted. “We want to be there to help the church planters with whom we partner in any way they need. This was just one example of that.”
Last summer’s marriage conference was the third mission trip by Highview members to help the church plant. Both trips involved entire families, engaging dads, moms and kids at the same time. Through the trips, Highview provided much-needed manpower for evangelistic ministry projects to help Hamilton Village disciple its members and reach its community.
That’s just been one part of the comprehensive partnership that Highview has provided to Hamilton Village. The church regularly prays and financially supports the ministry as well.
It’s that kind of partnership the Send North America: Indianapolis coalition hopes to multiply among other church planters in the years to come. The coalition — consisting of local Southern Baptists, state convention partners and representatives of out-of-state churches — wants to connect church planters with strong, established churches that can help them through prayer, mission teams and resources. Send North America: Indianapolis officially launched Dec. 5.
Send North America is the North American Mission Board’s strategy for assisting and mobilizing Southern Baptist churches and individuals in hands-on church planting.
Those partnerships are desperately needed in the Indianapolis area. In recent years Fishers, the suburban Indianapolis community where Hamilton Village Church is located, has become a graveyard for evangelistic church plants of all denominations. Just four years ago, all 12 elementary schools in the city had a church plant in them. Now only a few remain. Most died because of the community’s high cost of living and difficult evangelistic soil. Manning estimates that less than 15 percent of the community attends church on a typical weekend.
That’s why partners are critical, said Manning, who is also a NAMB missionary. He compares the tough-to-reach Fishers community to running a marathon.
“If you’ve ever run in a marathon, there are water stations every so many miles,” Manning said. “They are there to help you get refreshed, get a burst of energy, get cooled down. That’s how we think of partnerships. Partnerships are important because they help encourage and sustain us as we keep moving in the way God is leading so this community will have a Gospel presence.”
Highview is among four Southern Baptist churches — including Northside Baptist Church in Indianapolis — that have taken on the two-year-old church plant as a partner. It’s been a win-win situation for families at Highview and the church plant, said Andy Crouch, who has been on family mission trips to help church planters four of the last five years. Although he doesn’t always see the long-term impact of the trips on the church plant or the community, the impact they make on the families who participate is obvious.
“You can see the difference that God is making in our kids’ lives through these trips,” said Crouch, who organized the marriage conference mission trip. “You can see it in the questions they’re asking and the boldness they’ve shown in sharing their faith with their friends.”
And at Hamilton Village Church, the influence also has been real. Of the seven local families who participated in last summer’s marriage conference, two came from outside of the church. The conference allowed families inside the church a much-needed opportunity for support and recharging and it yielded evangelistic fruit as well, with one of the new families having become regular attenders at the church.
While Manning and Abney focused on helping the adults through biblical marriage principles for communication, finances and intimacy, the rest of the team — 41 people of all ages — used Vacation Bible School material to teach the kids. On the Saturday afternoon of the conference, they gave the participating couples a night out by themselves to talk about what they were learning. While the parents were out working on their marriages, Highview members set up a “block party” atmosphere for the kids, complete with outdoor water games and food.
“Our commitment is not just to go on a week-long trip, share our faith and see people converted without a place for them to grow and be discipled,” Abney said. “We believe that where major concentrations of lostness exist, we need to plant churches where people who are being reached can grow and be discipled.”
Tobin Perry is a writer for the North American Mission Board. Churches that want to partner with church plants through Send North America: Indianapolis can visit namb.net/indianapolis and click on the “mobilize me” button.
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