Plainfield, VT, sits along a stretch of road called Route 2. While small and typical for a Vermont village, it boasts of great influence for this specific area. Goddard College, the alma mater for William H. Macy and the fruition of Unitarian/Transcendentalist educational ideals has its main campus on the edge of Plainfield. Tuesday evenings in the summertime becomes a vibrant nightlife for Plainfield. You can walk through the downtown streets, crisscrossing the Winooski River to the sounds of rushing water, a guitarist playing along the rock walls that line the street and yoga participants crossing the street to enjoy the Tuesday pizza special at Positive Pie.
In 2017 Macedonia Baptist Church located on the eastern edge of Plainfield closed. When the doors were locked for the final time, it meant that for the first time on a 35-minute drive along Route 2 there is absolutely no presence of Christ. None. There are a couple of occult groups but no collective Gospel witness.
In order to start a new church in an area like Plainfield that is been unreached with the Gospel, we have to be willing to work with others. For a church our size (110-160 average attendance) and, with our resources, we need partnerships. Partnerships give us more ability to plant a new church in our region. So, the question becomes who and how do we partner with others to plant new churches in villages like Plainfield?
First, in addition to our own search we have worked closely with our NAMB Church Planting Catalyst, Lyandon Warren, to help us search for a church planter. Lyandon’s wise counsel helps us to know who will be a good fit for our church and for our community. He helps broaden our scope to those potential planters that we do not have access to and the skills sets needed for particular contexts.
Second, we depend on our partners in North Carolina. Currently we have two churches interested in creating long term partnerships for our prospective planter and his family as they arrive on the field. Those partnerships will provide funding for the planter, funding for the church and resources for the church plant, as well as mission teams for the church plant that will help broaden the immediate presence of the church plant. Our partnership with NC and other states also keeps Vermont on the forefront of North American missions. Those mission team members are future pastors, missionaries and church planters for our state. We want to build those bridges with our out-of-state partners so that we can build a future pipeline of leaders for our state.
Third, in referencing a pipeline of leaders, we as local churches have to learn to partner together for the equipping and discovery of potential planters. It’s helpful to have constant communication with other pastors for the purpose of discovering who in their sphere of influences will be a potential planter or a potential teammate. As churches we already share in the training resources that we provide for our congregations. It just makes sense that we should help each other in building community around the new church planters that come in our state. On the first Monday night of each month we meet for a local church planters network. We gather for a time that allows our planters to be accountable to others about the health of their churches, their families and themselves. This will always result in the sharing of resources and building of relationships that will assist in multiple churches having a role in planting one church.
One of the advantages of being a small church is the necessity to rely upon fellow servants. It’s out of this necessity that we find the strength of friendships and support needed so that the gospel flourishes in our unique ministry environments. The necessity of having other churches supporting you forces you to work outside of your church family context and facilitates the sharpening needed to make you an effective witness for Christ.
Chris Autry is senior pastor of Faith Community Church in Barre, VT.