Send Network Florida: new church planters take first steps of journey

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MIAMI— Planting a church is never the same twice and no two church plants are alike. This is part of what makes the people of God a great example of diversity and church planting a task not for the faint of heart.

Currently, 51 Florida Baptists are taking the first steps to begin their church planting journey through assessment and then training through the Send Network Florida.

Once approved to continue in the process, the church planters will support the vision laid out by Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, to plant at least 75 churches each year for the next five years as part of Challenge 2025.

To accomplish his vision, the convention, in partnership with the North American Mission Board, SBC, has developed Send Network Florida, a church planting strategy designed to come alongside the state’s church planters and sending churches to help them succeed.

“The convention can’t do this because the convention doesn’t plant churches, churches plant churches,” said James Peoples, director of Send Network Florida. “We can help church planters, and their sending church by training them, loving them, supporting them and coaching them…You don’t have to do it alone.”

In this role Peoples works in conjunction with Florida Baptist Convention regional catalysts and local association/network leaders to assist sending churches and walk with those newly sent church planters during their first five years with encouragement, training and resources.

“I love my new role as director of Send Network Florida,” said Peoples. “What a blessing it is to come alongside churches to help them develop and deploy church planting leaders from within their own congregations.

“And then as those church planters are sent out, to walk with them during those first five years to help and encourage, train and resource them as they grow and begin to make disciples with the intent to multiply and send out church planters themselves, he said.

“This unique partnership with NAMB and Florida Baptists has us working seamlessly together to serve our Florida Baptist congregations to plant more churches, everywhere for everyone, all over the state.”

Prior to this expanded role, Peoples served in a similar role for Send South Florida, which equipped church planters in the state’s three most populous counties. Tim Wolfe, NAMB’s Send City missionary for South Florida, now will partner with Peoples to focus on the church planting needs in that region.

Fundamental in the process of calling and preparing a new church planter is training and assessment. After applying for the program, potential churches planters participate in an extensive assessment survey, and once reviewed and approved, attend a church planter assessment retreat.

The 51 church planting candidates are currently involved in the assessment process throughout the remainder of 2020. While candidates usually participate in Send Network assessment retreats in person, due to COVID-19 restrictions, many of them will be held virtually during the summer and fall of 2020. Another assessment process will be offered in 2021.

Candidates will be planting congregations that primarily speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Haitian-Creole.

“In an environment of encouragement and support, experienced leaders from the context where you desire to plant will measure your church planting readiness in nine essential areas: calling, emotional and spiritual health, family dynamics, vision, leadership, communication, missional engagement, disciple-making and social skills,” said Peoples. “We’re giving that sending church a tool to work with to really coach and care for that planter they are sending out.”

Danny Slavich, Church PlanterDanny Slavich, pastor of Cross United Church in Deerfield, participated in the Send Network assessment in 2018 and found it to be surprisingly refreshing and encouraging.

“Going in we were not looking forward to it,” he said of himself and wife Laura. “But it turned out to be super helpful and we ended up having a great experience.”

Slavich said the assessment is a great balance between assessing the church planter and encouraging and strengthening him at the same time.

After receiving a ready recommendation during the assessment, the church planter candidate is prepared for the next phase of the church planter pathway, entering into the Send Network Training.

Slavich offered some advice to those who are undergoing this year’s assessment.

“Don’t dread it even though it seems like a two-day job interview,” he said. “Prepare and lean into it; trust that God is using this for your good and for his glory.”

For more information on church planting and the assessment process visit NAMB’s church planter pathway. Or contact James Peoples at jpeoples@namb.net.

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