Districts fund-raising efforts aid pastors planting churches
(March 17, 2002)
Pastor James R. Brown began holding church services in September 2000
at Harbor Assembly of God in Egg Harbor Township west of Atlantic City,
N.J. As happens with most new churches, Brown and his wife, Kathy, had
to do almost everything themselves at first, including lead worship,
print bulletins and distribute fliers about the new congregation, which
meets in a Comfort Inn conference room.
Jennifer and Kathy Brown have been attending Harbor Assembly of
God since the church plants beginning.
However, unlike many ministers who begin preaching after graduating
from Bible school and serving a youth pastor stint, Brown also had time
to learn the community because he had financial support from the New
Jersey District of the Assemblies of God. The New Jersey District committed
to paying Browns salary for the first 18 months, housing costs
for two years and medical insurance for three years. In addition, the
district financed the rent costs for the new church. The support has
kept Brown from having to become bivocational. Without the districts
funds to support him, his wife and 3-year-old daughter, Jennifer, Brown
figures he also would have had to work as a hotel desk clerk as he did
during his years at Valley Forge Christian College in Pennsylvania.
"Because I didnt have to work outside the church plant, I could
focus all my time and energy on recruiting, praying and organizing,"
says Brown, 29. "This freed me up so I could spend my day meeting people
in the community that I couldnt have otherwise."
Today, the church has a core group of 20 attendees and solid lay leaders
in place. The congregation is now responsible for Browns salary.
"Im glad we didnt have to worry about food and rent," Brown
says. "Its been a secure feeling to start this way."
By faith, Harbor Assembly of God became the first of a projected 30
church plants in a five-year span to be financed primarily by the New
Jersey District. Through the "If Not Now WHEN?" capital stewardship
campaign, kicked off in 2001, many individuals and 105 district churches
committed $3.7 million exclusively for planting new churches. The national
Fellowship also pledged $20,000 to the campaign. In a five-year period,
the district expects to invest at least $120,000 in each of the 30 church
plants. In addition to Egg Harbor Township, new A/G congregations have
started in Paramus, Collingswood and, this month, Piscataway.
The district had set a goal of $3 million, but response to the campaign
has been overwhelming because existing pastors and church members see
the wisdom of such a strategy.
"A lot of new works fail due to the struggle to come up with the necessary
finances," District Superintendent Carl J. Colletti says. "So we determined
what the realistic costs would be to subsidize salary, housing, insurance
and facility rental and determined to invest that amount in each new
church plant. This way the pastor isnt bivocational, isnt
overwhelmed financially and can focus on ministry matters. Church planters
arent going to get rich, but they can now make a livable wage."
Paul Drost, director of church planting for the Fellowship, says he
is encouraged by the New Jersey capital stewardship campaign, the first
attempted by an Assemblies of God district. "Its not only effective,
it shows a real intentionality to the importance of church planting,"
Drost says. "How we spend our time and money shows what our values are."