Pastors and Churches Should be Committed
Moving associational ministry to the next level takes not only character, collaborative leadership, and commitment from the AMS, but commitment from the pastors. As Pastor Aaron Menikoff wrote on the Baptist 21 site,
“To put it bluntly, many church pastors have lost an interest in local, Baptist associational life. We are enamored of the state and national work while we ignore the unglamorous work of serving churches who minister in our own backyard.
Why does this matter? Because our denominational life is like a tree. The national entities are the branches spreading across the globe. The state conventions are the trunk, holding the branches in place. But the local associations are the roots. It’s at the associational level that every pastor can be involved. Like a church member who leaves it to the paid staff to do the ministry, I wonder if some pastors have left it to paid staff to do the work of the association.” [i]
The Value of the Association Should Be Highlighted
The vast majority of our churches need associations. According to Dr. Joe Wright, Executive Director of the Bivocational Small Church Leadership Network, 25% of our churches average no more than 24 people in Sunday School; 51% average no more than 49; 66% average no more than 74; and a whopping 83% average no more than 125 in average Sunday School attendance.[ii]
There is a need for the larger churches to support the association financially and otherwise to assist their sister churches who do not have as many resources and connections as the larger churches do. I believe, based on my own experience, that if AMSs effectively minister with, to, and for the smaller churches, most larger churches will be supportive of their efforts.
Associations Should Be Well-Funded
People give to vision, not need, so AMSs need to prayerfully cast vision and keep casting vision—in addition to building relationships. People may like you, but they will not fund the association just because they like you.
Have a vision and strategy worthy of churches giving 3% (which has been the benchmark for decades) of their undesignated receipts to associational missions. Then ask for it. You have not because you ask not. If a church is giving a set dollar amount instead of a percentage, encourage them to move to a percentage so the association can keep up with inflation. Giving a percentage also benefits the church because the church’s giving to the association rises and falls when the church’s tithes and offerings rise and fall.
In addition, some associations may need to merge to be well-funded. The primary reason my association merged with another one several years ago was due to the issue of funding. All received the merger well. What did we give up? My former association and a neighboring one went from being two associations with two office buildings and two state Executive Committee members to one office building and one Executive Committee member. It was well worth it. We are blessed to be a well-funded, multi-county, multicultural association (read more in the Vision Caster chapter).
Some associations may need to shift from a full-time AMS to a bivocational one to be well funded. I know of some effective bivocational AMSs. Some may need to shift from a bivocational AMS to a volunteer associational leader to be well-funded. Don’t let pride and ego keep your association from being the best it can be for God’s glory. Prayerfully consider all options, including merging with another association, selling the associational office, and, if necessary, letting the AMS work out of his home or a church building.
To the praise of His glory,
Quotable Quote: Correct your mistakes before they become your habits. James Clear, 3-2-1 Thursday, 4.17.20
[ii] Joe Wright, BSCLN presentation of 2017 figures to the Atlanta Regional Baptist Associational Network, October 16, 2019.