|The Baptist association has been an important part of our history as Southern Baptists. It has been described as “the oldest cooperative unit in Baptist life tracing its existence back over 300 years.” Therefore, because of its long history, one could assume that the association must be effective in networking and helping churches in missions and ministry. But longevity of an organization doesn’t guarantee its relevance and value. |
I have participated in associations that were effective and viewed as important by member churches. However, I’ve also seen associations where the focus had subtly shifted from serving and assisting churches to maintaining the associational staff and budget. So, what determines the effectiveness of an association? While the answer to this question is in some part determined by the context of the association and its member churches, there are some basic principles that can be applied to any association of churches.
Several years ago, Hugh Townsend (North American Mission Board) and others presented a model for a 21st Century Association known as the Four F’s: Fast, Focused, Flexible, and Friendly. It’s something that I have referred Kentucky associations to on numerous occasions. I would suggest that the leadership of every Baptist association or network of churches evaluate their effectiveness through the lens of these four F’s. Consider building the association’s structure and documents around these as well.
Fast – How long does it take your association to make a decision to spend $1,000? If a church has a need to be met, or the association has a ministry opportunity for its churches that it is made aware of, how fast can you meet it? Can you do so within hours or days, or does it take weeks and months? Effective associations are able to minister effectively in a short period of time.
Focused – Priority-based core values, mission, vision. Focus on taking the association to the churches… and when they need it. Customize what you do. Is the association’s focus on serving the churches and assisting them in advancing the Gospel, or is there a mindset that the churches are there for the association? The focus of the association should be on assisting the churches in their mission of reaching the lost and discipling the saved.
Flexible – How do you respond to immediate or emerging opportunities and needs? Is your structure flexible enough to meet church needs and conduct mission and ministry opportunities as they arise, or is it necessary to wait three or more months until the next Executive Committee or Annual Meeting to get approval? An Administrative Team or other committee/team should have the ability to adapt and readily meet the needs of the churches and the community. The structure should be simple, effective, and welcoming to new pastors and churches as well as to existing ones.
Friendly –Do the churches find the association ready and able to provide assistance and resourcing at their point of need and in a timely fashion? Is your association staff and leadership pastor/church friendly, or are they more concerned about not being inconvenienced? Is it relatively easy and simple for a pastor/church leader to contact the person needed and access the info/material that is available, or is it difficult?
Based on the Four F’s, how effective is your association? If associations aren’t effective, they will cease to exist because they are no longer of value to local churches.
by Eric Allen, Leader, Missions Mobilization Team, Kentucky Baptist Convention, June 2019.