DOMs sharpen focus
in troubled economy
By Susan Mires
NIXA—If your church is strapped for cash, the association may be able to help.
Baptist Associations across Missouri have a renewed focus to make life easier for churches.
“The role of the association is not to do ministry but to resource the church to do the Great Commission,” said Jim Wells, director of missions for Tri-County Baptist Association.
In the current economy, that task becomes even more critical. Associations are looking at ways they can assist churches to make them more efficient.
“We’re doing everything we can to trim our costs, to free ministry dollars to help the local church,” Wells said.
Tri-County, composed of 65 churches in Southwest Missouri, is working with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to reshape its focus. In interviews with pastors, the association identified three core areas of need: outreach, church strengthening and leadership development.
“Everything we bring to the table will be to help with those areas,” Wells said. “We’re saying to the church, ‘What is your need and how can we bring the resources to bear to meet those needs?’”
Instead of holding meetings that members have to drive to, the association is working one-on-one with pastors and churches to mentor in those specific areas.
The St. Joseph Baptist Association helps churches pool resources. Sharing items such as video projectors and games for block parties enables churches to spend less money and have access to more supplies, said Clyde Elder, director of missions.
“That’s the whole idea of cooperation,” Elder said. “If we can help churches fulfill the Great Commission, then we’ve done our job.”
The St. Joseph association takes the lead in the effort during Vacation Bible School season and tries to get churches to coordinate their schedules so material can be passed around the region week to week.
“We’ve become the clearing house for Bible school material,” he said.
The work of associations may become even more critical, given fuel prices and the soft economy.
“Four-dollar gasoline makes a big difference,” Elder said. “We’re going to have to find ways to have more meetings via the Internet.”
Wells believes the realigning of association work holds great promise. In Tri-County, 65 percent of pastors are bi-vocational, so they can benefit tremendously from support from other churches. He also hopes larger churches see a role in assisting smaller churches by sharing materials and even volunteering together.
“Missouri can be a trailblazer in working together and seeing the need, regardless of the size of the church,” Wells said. “The whole focus is on the local church. That’s where the ministry ought to center.”