Some Baptist associations are considering formal partnerships with other associations, and some are wondering if such an arrangement could work for them. (Read more about the partnership between Birmingham Metro Baptist Association and Bessemer Baptist Association in this article.)
Financial need is often a driving force behind these kinds of arrangements, but many factors must be considered, said Rick Barnhart, director of the office of associational missions and church planting for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
- Proximity and size
Practically, does working together make sense? For instance, if you’re considering a partnership like Birmingham and Bessemer associations, does distance make sharing an office helpful? Or if you’re considering merging associations with only one lead role, is the geographical area or number of churches too big for him to maintain relationships with all the churches in a way that’s beneficial for everyone?
Does your association’s philosophy and theological preferences match up with the association or associations you’re considering partnering with?
Are your churches rural and the other association’s churches in an urban area? It might still work, but you’ll want to think through whether or not it will meet everyone’s needs.
Don’t plan to wait until an associational missionary retires to make this kind of change, Barnhart said. Whether a partnership or a merger, both (or all) associational missionaries should be involved in building the strategies and involving the churches.
- Good communication
Once you decide to give it a try, make certain you communicate well with your churches about what’s happening. For instance, if what is happening is a missions partnership, not a merger, be sure everyone is on the same page and understands the process and expected outcome.
Consulting can help. Barnhart said his office can help you think through the benefits and challenges your specific associations might face. For more information, call him at 334-613-2220.
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