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Twenty years ago, I took a church planting course in seminary, and since that time I’ve longed for the day we would plant a daughter church. We ventured into this territory slowly and deliberately.  

In 2015 we launched a Spanish congregation, which was thrilling, but safe. They chose to meet at the same time our English congregation met, sharing our facility, kid’s programs, and nursery with us.  

Then in 2021, we received a legacy financial gift, a significant portion of which was earmarked for planting another church in our city. Over two years we led our church through a vision-casting process, helping them to understand why we should multiply our church by sending some of our best members out to start something new.  

My associate pastor of eight years offered to lead the new church. Two of our elders joined the team, as well as an amazing couple who had been involved in planting a church previously. Then several of our musically gifted members jumped in, and most of our Awana staff. Several were dear friends to me. Suddenly, the pain of childbirth began to set in.  

We launched the new church in October 2023, sending 75 people from our church, and nearly $100,000 in start-up funds. 

Launch day was filled with excitement, likely more so for those who were part of the new church than for those who chose to remain. That Sunday there were about 100 people who met together in a rented facility in the center of our city.  

In our auditorium, there was a large gap where those folks used to sit. We smiled and celebrated that day, but it was bitter-sweet.  

Fortunately, it only took two Sundays for the gap to start to fill in, somewhat due to our regulars learning to spread out and fill in the empty seats in our auditorium. Some Sundays we still see those gaps, but more often than not we do a good job of filling out our auditorium nicely.  

Easter Sunday we were packed.  

And several Sundays since then we’ve felt quite full.  

God is giving back. 

Six months before the new church launched, it looked as if we were going to face some ministry changes due to the church plant. Our worship team was going to feel the loss of some of our best and brightest. Our children’s ministry was also going to take a significant hit, likely leaving us to scale back on some of our programs.  

One of our ministry axioms is “No leader, no ministry.” Another is “The right people in the right places for the right reasons.” That means that when it comes to ministry leadership, just any warm body won’t do. For a ministry to function well, it must have a called and qualified leader to oversee it. Without one, that ministry cannot continue. That meant that several children’s programs, including our Awana Clubs, were facing closure. As that reality set in, I heard the weeping and gnashing of teeth.  

We headed into summer break uncertain of what the fall would hold for us. Our part-time Worship Director approached me about handing some of his normal duties with the worship team off to others so that he could assist me in providing oversight to our ministry directors in the fall, an area that my assistant pastor had previously led. That was a good move in several ways: our ministry directors would have two new leaders to shepherd them, and our worship team members were stepping up in leadership.  

Then something unexpected happened: Danica offered to step into the Awana director’s role. Danica is a dear young mom in our church, reserved but very capable. Two years ago, she took my Leadership Class, a 24-week training program designed to raise leaders in the church. From October through May, we meet weekly, where we work on accountability in spiritual disciplines, read good books together, and walk through leadership lessons that I teach. Danica was a rock star in class: amazingly bright and a hard worker. She hadn’t been serving in Awana before this but was otherwise a perfect candidate. Our former Awana director agreed to mentor her throughout the year and be present with her on club nights.  

We announced in church that summer that we had a new Awana ministry director.  

The weeping and gnashing were replaced with rejoicing.  

After that, two new club leaders stepped forward. Our whole Awana program was on track to launch as usual in September. Hallelujah. 

The first three months after planting a daughter church were marked with a cautious spirit. I think everyone wondered if we would be okay, or if we had somehow pulled the plug and were watching the water drain from our spiritual tub.  

What we found is that God was still at work amongst us.  

In January we gathered a wide circle of leaders in our church family for a Saturday morning Leadership Summit. There we asked the question, “Who are we now?”  

Our goal was to discern with our leaders what we were going to do and be in the days ahead. That data was sifted through in March at our church staff retreat, and from there, we have identified our plan for the next year.  

We are also budgeting for next year, which was an impossible task last year as no one knew how planting a daughter church would affect our finances. By faith, God is already providing much of the income lost when we sent out part of our flock in the fall. I hope that a year from now we will be back to our pre-plant attendance and offering averages.  

The old saying “you can’t outgive God” is certainly true. We are finding that out in our church this year. “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38 (NIV) 

Dr. Tim Baker has been the pastor at Bethany Baptist Church, Salem, Oregon since 1994. He is married to Marcy since 1988, father of four boys, a fisherman on most Mondays, and a graduate of Corban University, Multnomah Biblical Seminary, and Western Seminary. In addition to pastoring, he serves as a chaplain with the Boy Scouts of America.

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