PEMBROKE—When it comes to the effectiveness of the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Missions Mobilization Team, Pastor Jimmy Stewart sees concrete proof at Salem Baptist Church in Pembroke.
And not just concrete. There’s wood, nails, drywall, light fixtures and more.
Thanks to a recent visit by Carpenters for Christ (CFC), Salem’s two-story, 6,400-square multi-purpose building is nearly complete.
“We were on a three-to-five year plan for our multi-purpose building,” Stewart said. “When Carpenters for Christ called, five years was reduced to six months.”
Other teams have helped the project along, too. Many of those groups connected with the Christian County congregation through Teresa Parrett, missions mobilization coordinator for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Connecting on-mission Christians to people and ministries in need is the focus of Parrett’s work, always with the goal of putting God’s people in place to share the gospel with others.
“Whatever skill, talent or gift people have, we can most always find a project for them,” Parrett said. “If I don’t know of one right off, I can pick up the phone and normally find one.
Led by Eric Allen, the KBC Missions Mobilization Team networks with more than 110 self-funded missionaries and six volunteer regional consultants in Kentucky to meet needs and share Christ.
“Our goal is not simply to mobilize as many volunteers as we can,” Allen said. “Our goal is to challenge believers to discover and use their gifts in service so that people come to know Christ as a result of their mobilization.
“I believe there is a direct link between the maturity of a believer and their involvement in mission service,” Allen continued. “James writes in his epistle, ‘I’ll show you my faith by my works.’”
In addition to helping mission teams find projects, Parrett’s typical week includes fielding requests from churches, associations and ministries across Kentucky and sharing those requests through websites from KBC, Appalachian Regional Ministry, Mississippi River Ministry and North American Mission Board.
She also recruits self-funded missionaries to serve in Kentucky, works with NAMB to get those missionaries approved and ready to serve, and then connects with local churches and other donors to see that the missionaries have the resources they need to serve others.
Resources needed most often are Bibles, tracts, food, clothing, school supplies and building supplies, but there are many others.
After missionaries are appointed, they can count on Parrett to stay in touch with them, offering encouragement and support, and to share their ministry stories with fellow Kentucky Baptists.
The six regional consultants serve in similar ways, connecting with missionaries in their areas.
Parrett is a frequent guest speaker at church services, conferences, missions fairs, associational meetings, Women on Missions gatherings and other events. She also writes for the KBC Missions Mobilization Team’s blog, Kentucky and Beyond, www.kyandbeyond.org.
In the past year, the team connected nearly 30,000 volunteers to KBC churches and ministries. As a direct result, more than 1,350 people made decisions to follow Christ and nearly 400 people were baptized.
Allen and Parrett agree that elbow grease is a big part of mobilization, but the activity is a catalyst and not the mission itself.
“Drywall, light fixtures and insulation are not what missions mobilization is about, except that those materials make it possible for more men, women and children to encounter Christ,” Allen said.
The project at Salem Baptist Church is a perfect example.
Stewart said the facility will host Awanas, Sunday school classes, church dinners and sporting events.
“We’ve almost outgrown it before we’ve completed it, but that’s a good problem to have,” he said, noting that Sunday attendance has mushroomed from 20 to nearly 150 over the past five years as Salem Baptist increased its outreach to US Army personnel and their families stationed at nearby Fort Campbell.
The pastor estimates the 126 CFC volunteers from Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala., saved the Pembroke congregation about $150,000, the estimate for putting up walls, wiring the facility for electricity and installing light fixtures.
Much of the connecting begins online at www.kybaptist.org/go where mission opportunities are listed by location, type of project, length of project and other details.
“For a church or group that has never tried short-term missions before, the web page is a great place to start,” Parrett said.
She noted that project pages include detailed descriptions of the type of assistance needed, including equipment, materials and expertise. There is insight and suggestions on housing and meals. Photos of the ministry or job site often are included. Every posting also includes contact information so visitors to the site can find out more.
Usually there are more than 100 posts on the site, so Parrett said if a team leader has problems narrowing down the list, “they should just e-mail me or pick up the phone and call. In talking directly with a team, I can recommend projects that fit their group’s make-up.”
She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (606) 875-3079.
Stewart heard about the resource from a KBC staff member and submitted several mission opportunities. He said the response far exceeded his expectations.
In addition to the CFC crew, this summer Salem Baptist welcomed a team from Belmont Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tenn., that led a vacation Bible school; New Bethel Baptist Church in Verona led a revival and several outreach projects at Fort Campbell; and Acteens from Double Spring Baptist Church in Maben, Miss., assisted military families through free babysitting, gift bags, and making signs welcoming soldiers home from Afghanistan.
Such results are one reason Parrett finds her job so fulfilling.
“It’s exciting,” said Parrett, a veteran of nearly 14 years in missions work. “It’s wonderful to see a church go out on their first mission trip.”
Allen, who has served on the KBC staff since 2000, said he is excited to see more Kentucky Baptist churches “taking ownership” of projects and forming their own mission partnerships.
With such initiative from the churches, KBC staff can focus on matching more teams to more needs rather than devoting time to planning trips, recruiting volunteers and handling arrangements.
“More churches are realizing the need to serve, not just internationally or around the U.S. but in our state,” Allen said. “One of our primary goals is to meet all the needs that come to us. When we’re able to help groups fulfill their ministry, it’s a big win for us.”
Don Green, one of three building site coordinators for Carpenters for Christ, credits Parrett with helping them determine the best site for their annual, week-long trip.
“I would say of all the state (conventions) we’ve worked with, Kentucky and South Carolina Baptists are at the top of the list,” Green said.
Allen said Kentucky Baptists should look at missions as more than “just” helping at a sports camp, Bible school or soup kitchen.
“Our heart is for people to know Jesus,” the team leader said. “Placing people in projects is one way that happens.”
In southwestern Kentucky, such cooperation convinces Stewart that the KBC is like an extended family.
“If I had to think of a word, we’re united,” Salem Baptist’s pastor said. “I’m impressed with how closely the Kentucky Baptist network works.”
The KBC Missions Mobilization Team provides free consultations with churches and church groups seeking to start or improve their missions focus. For details, e-mail email@example.com or call (502) 489-3530 or 1-866-489-3530 (toll-free in Kentucky).
The team also provides resources and networking to Kentucky Baptists interested in crisis pregnancy ministries, literacy missions, the World Hunger Fund, and Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief.