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PowerPlant provides hands-on experience in church planting for youth groups

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Mission trips often spur new enthusiasm for sharing one’s faith, but it’s not often that students come home with a burning desire to be involved in starting a new church. That’s the concept behind PowerPlant, a missions experience introduced this year by the North American Mission Board.

PowerPlant borrows the model of prepackaged large-scale mission trips from World Changers. Instead of rehabilitating housing, students are involved in Vacation Bible Schools, neighborhood surveys and other essentials of getting a new church off the ground. A key difference from other mission trips is they also receive training each morning in both the theory and practice of church planting.

“The North American Board exists for church planting and evangelism, so we’ve created an initiative to teach church planting principles and evangelism skills — with the goal of seeing church planting become a part of the DNA of a younger generation,” said Jim Burton, director of volunteer mobilization for NAMB.

PowerPlant began with two pilot events this summer in Atlanta and Cornwall, Ontario. Four events are planned for next year: two in New York City, one in Cadiz, Ky., and another in Augusta, Maine.

In Atlanta, the group of about 100 students in several youth groups stayed at Rehoboth Baptist Church, but they divided up each day to work with eight church planters in the metro area. In Cornwall, a slightly larger group of students focused on one new congregation being planted by Joe and Linda Ledford, Mission Service Corps missionaries who previously led in starting several churches in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Ledford said the PowerPlant experience gave their work a much-needed boost through Backyard Bible Clubs, door-to-door surveys, servant evangelism and other events. By the end of the week they had a list of about 120 people who had expressed interest in the new church — and 20 individuals who had made professions of faith in Christ.

“It would have taken years for two people to accomplish what they did,” Ledford said, noting that he and Linda now are visiting each prospect and beginning Bible studies. The effort also has helped in raising the profile of the church in the community.

The students, meanwhile, learned that new churches historically are among the most effective ways of leading people to faith in Christ. They also learned about demographics, surveys, special events and a range of other church planting information commonly introduced in NAMB’s own “Basic Training” for church planters.

The experience is a part of NAMB’s emphasis on involving laypeople in church planting, built on the realization that reliance on seminary-trained leaders will never meet the need for new churches in North America.

“Our hope is that we’ll raise up a whole new generation of people who know something about what church planting’s all about,” said Van Kicklighter, who helped develop the program as part of NAMB’s church planting group.

“As they get to be young adults it’ll become more natural,” he said. ” … Instead of asking the question, ‘What church do I join,’ they’ll start asking the question, ‘How do I help start a new church?'”

Jonathan Wilson, who coordinates PowerPlant for NAMB, said he already is hearing from participants about how their lives have been impacted.

Chad Oglesby of McDonough, Ga., went home from the Atlanta project with a commitment to start a church for skaters.

“He’s already bought some of the ramps, and he’s in the process of trying to find a place that will help him set up kind of a skate park in Atlanta,” Wilson said. “He has a desire to reach his skater friends, because nobody else in that area is doing that right now.”

Another student who served on summer staff for the Cornwall project is working to start a new church on the campus of Mississippi State University, he said.

Wilson noted that PowerPlant is not for everyone, however. Some prior experience with volunteer missions is preferred.

“We have a lot of older students in our churches who have been involved in things like World Changes since sixth grade,” he said. “We decided some of these guys wanted an opportunity to go deeper. We welcome entire youth groups, but we want them to have at least done some other type of mission project.”
To learn more about PowerPlant, visit www.studentz.com/powerplant. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: RIDING IT OUT, SHARING SCRIPTURE, POWERPLANT & PRAYER and BACKYARD BIBLE CLUB.

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  • James Dotson