Missional Skills: Developing Healthy Exit Strategies

The landscape of Kentucky has changed!

The nations are now our neighbors. Over a quarter of a million Kentuckians do not speak English at home, and nearly 180,000 citizens of the commonwealth are foreign born. Many of these are unreached peoples who have yet to hear the gospel.

Population growth in cities like Bowling Green, Lexington, Owensboro and Louisville has outpaced the growth of the church. In fact, we now have areas all over our state, both urban and rural, with inadequate numbers of churches to engage the lost.

Our towns and communities are seeing culture shifts, as our nation continues to transition and deal with the impacts of a global pandemic. Attendance in churches continues to fluctuate, and many churches are having to learn news ways to engage their community with the gospel.

The good news is that many of our Kentucky Baptist churches are meeting these challenges head on. They are working through the problems and looking for effective ways to see the gospel advance. The Gospel to Every Home and Acts 1:8 Mission Assessment Paradigm continue to help many churches and associations, as they reengage their communities with the gospel.

Is your church already playing a role in seeing our state reached with the gospel? Maybe you are strategizing to engage an unreached people group in your community, working in a partnership to revitalize a church, or preparing to launch a team to start a new church in a pocket of lostness. If so, it is time to start thinking about an exit strategy.

In Mark chapter 1, after John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). He calls some of his disciples, heals many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out demons. Then, in Mark 1:35-39, Jesus arises early and goes to a desolate place to pray. And when Simon and others who were searching for Jesus found him, they said, “Everyone is Looking for you.” But Jesus said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” So, Jesus went throughout all of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons (paraphrase vs. 35-39). Although Jesus healed people everywhere he went, he understood the purpose for which he had come, and it guided his path and influenced his decisions. Even though the Lord may not have shown us every step we should take to accomplish his mission, it should not stop us from developing an exit strategy.

Advancing with the end in mind
Exit strategies have long been an important component of how missionaries engage peoples, cities and regions with the gospel. Effective exit strategies help with ministry alignment and evaluation, bring clarity in communication, establish healthy boundaries, and create a trajectory and momentum toward multiplying gospel work.

Establishing biblically grounded, well thought through exit strategies is a valuable step in preparing your church for gospel advance in Kentucky.

Developing healthy exit strategies
It is one thing to have an exit strategy. It is another thing to have one that is effective. Here are a few considerations as you begin to think about developing an exit strategy to fit your context:

1. A biblical foundation: Start with a clear understanding of the mission and characteristics of a New Testament church. Then, map out clear objectives for church autonomy. A helpful question to ask is, “What biblically needs to be in place before we exit the work?” One reason churches lose strength, momentum and eventually die is that they do not have a strong biblical foundation. A great resource to consider as you think though the ecclesiological and missiological foundation in your exit strategy is 12 Characteristics of a Healthy Church by the International Mission Board (IMB).

2. A vision for sustainability: A good exit strategy must address sustainability related to areas such as finances, leadership readiness, overall cohesiveness of a body and other practical issues. A key question to ask is, “What practically needs to be in place for this new work to be autonomous and sustainable long term?” With the high failure rate of new church plants in the U.S. (some suggest as high as 70-80%), we need to make sure we don’t exit before the new work is positioned well to stand on its own.

3. A commitment to ongoing relationship: Exiting does not mean abandoning. When the Apostle Paul exited his work, he maintained contact and relationship with local churches. As you think through your exit strategy, ask the question, “What will the ongoing relationship and support look like after we leave?” Think through what ways you will continue to relationally support and encourage the church. Clear expectations regarding the ongoing relationship will go a long way in the flourishing of a new work.

Establishing biblically grounded, well thought through exit strategies is a valuable step in preparing your church for gospel advance in Kentucky. As we begin to think more like missionaries, let’s consider how we can best craft and develop effective exit plans for the work to which God has called us.

The Mission Mobilization Team exist to serve you and your church. Click: www.kybaptist.org/missions-strategies/ to connect with our team. Email either John Barnett [email protected] or Doug Williams [email protected] to discuss next steps. We look forward to serving you.

I Can Help With That!

Ron Crow, Disaster Relief Director, Kentucky Baptist Convention

Here we are in the middle of summer, and everyone is busy going here and there. Vacations are happening. Ball games are in full force. School is out, all the while preparations are being made for the return to school. Home repairs and upgrades are in full swing. Birthday parties. Celebrations. And the list goes on and on.

We all get so busy doing what we have to do. And of course, there is a list of those things we want to do. There are even those extra things we are asked to do. And before you know it, our time is gone.

But there are always needs. There is always someone who needs help. I was so encouraged a few weeks ago when one of our Kentucky disaster relief volunteers said to me, “I had planned to go fishing all week. I had nothing planned, so was looking forward to relaxing and fishing. But then there was a call to help those who had been affected by the floods in West Virginia.” And he realized that the need for those hurting was more important than the need to go fishing. What a testimony!

And the reality is, when you help someone else, you are a blessing to them, but you also receive a blessing. Above all, Christ is honored.

You don’t always have to give up a full week to “be on mission.” It might take you only a few minutes, a few hours, a full day or even more, but the Lord is just waiting on people to say, “I can help with that!”

We should live every day on mission looking for large and small opportunities to say, “I can help with that!” From a kind word or deed that brings a smile, to helping someone one with something that they simply cannot do it without help, “I can help with that!”

I’m reminded of the words of Paul to the Galatians, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9.

So, look around. Who do you see? What do you see? And can you say, “I can help with that!”




Key Missional Skill: Think Like a Missionary

How can I think like a missionary?
Missionaries live with a deep love and compassion for those who are far from God. They are burdened for those who are lost — those who are like sheep without a shepherd. They live by the words of Jesus when He said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold” (John 10:16). They are driven by the fact that there are people out there who are not yet brothers and sisters in Christ, simply because they have not been given an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. With this great burden comes three questions that are usually on the forefront of missionaries’ minds:

1. Who lives around me?
Missionaries want to discover the people who live in their city. They want to know the number of people, commonalities, diversities, languages, cultures, joys, hopes, fears and struggles.

2. Who goes to my church and the other churches around me?
Missionaries want to understand who their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are in their city or community. They want to know the number of believers, the health of the churches and the reach of their ministries. They understand that every believer and every church is called to fulfill the Great Commission, and that it is God’s design for churches to work together to reach their communities and the world for Christ.

3. Who is left?
Missionaries want to devote their time and resources to those in their community who are unbelievers and have not yet had an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. They look for “gospel gaps”, which are opportunities to use the gifts and skills God has given them to enter into the lives of unbelievers and to meet them in the midst of their brokenness. They engage people through social, service, support, sports, seasonal or study activities. The goal is to build authentic relationships with gospel intentionality.

How can I live like a missionary?
Once a missionary has asked these three questions about their community, then what would they do?

They would:

  • Be fervent in prayer.
  • Seek to enter into the lives and communities of people who are far from God and have not had opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel.
  • Be bold and frequent in the proclamation of the gospel, calling people to repent and believe.
  • Disciple those who come to faith, teaching them to obey all the commands of Christ.
  • Gather new believers together to form healthy churches, growing them up together into maturity in Christ and developing from among them those who will lead these newly formed churches.
  • Eventually partner with churches and leaders they formed to press into other communities where they gospel had not yet gone.

What would our cities look like if we saw ourselves as the ones Jesus sent to seek and save the lost in our own communities? Imagine how our culture would change if we began not only to think but also to act like missionaries in our cities, towns and neighborhoods. The Mission Mobilization team exist to serve your church as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. To discover new opportunities to make disciples and further develop an “Act 1:8” strategy that reflects the specific gifts and personality of your church, contact John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, by email: [email protected] or phone 502-654-3385. We are here to serve!

Love Thy Neighborhood

I enjoy celebrating Valentine’s Day because it presents an opportunity to show love to those I care about … and eat chocolate too!   I will always try to remember my wife, daughters, and those closest to me on Valentine’s Day.  But what about my neighborhood?   If you’re like me, I don’t associate Valentine’s Day with showing love to my neighbors, but shouldn’t I? 

Matthew 22:34-40 says “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”   Jesus was saying, don’t stop at just loving me, love those around you too.   

I have the privilege and responsibility of being a covenant member in a young church whose mission is “to love God, love people and love community.”  From the beginning, it has been our goal to show our love for God by serving our community and those in it.  

One of the many ways that we loved and served our community early on was to spend afternoons tutoring children in the local elementary school.  The elementary school we chose to serve was struggling because very few parents were involved, many of the students were new to the US and learning English as a Second language, a majority of its students were on free or reduced lunches and academically, they were only in the 14 percentile state-wide.    

Our willingness to serve and love the children opened doors of trust with the faculty who were curious as to why we cared so much.  Our tutoring helped those students who were falling behind to catch up while discovering that someone genuinely cared about them.  It provided opportunities for sharing Christ and inviting families to join our community of faith.  It encouraged the teachers and faculty who had become so discouraged in their work.

Showing God’s love to the school greatly benefitted them … and us.  That school was recognized as the greatest success story in the district.  Their growth surpassed 90% of the elementary schools in the state, earning them a special distinction as “High Progressing” school, after finishing in the 71st percentile, up from the previous 14th.  WOW, what a difference our involvement and service had made. Their principal contributed the amazing turn-around to a team effort and thanked the church’s volunteers for loving the students and showing them the love of God.    

Our service through the school allowed me to see first-hand how loving our community opened doors that would have otherwise remained closed.  I saw the smile of a child who finally understood how to complete his homework assignment. I discovered what it means to love your neighbor and most importantly, I witnessed people coming to faith in Christ because we loved God, people, AND our community.  Let me challenge you to love your neighborhood this Valentine’s Day … and eat chocolate too?    

The Joy of Giving Yourself for Others and for Christ

C. S. Lewis wrote in his book Mere Christianity, “Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.”

Volunteers with Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief give themselves away for the good of others and the sake of Christ when disasters strike. They have discovered the joy that is found in giving all that we are and have for Christ.

Listen to these testimonies about how they are giving for the sake of Christ through disaster relief:

“We volunteer to help the victims clean up after the disaster in order to speak to their heart.” (Mike Bastin – Pleasant View Baptist Church)

“God uses us, DR volunteers, at a time when hope seems gone.” (Carolyn Gray – Zion’s Cause Baptist Church)

“Disaster Relief opens up doors to people for the Gospel.” (Tom Garrity – Jeffersontown Baptist Church)

“Disaster Relief gives our volunteers a way to show victims of a disaster that God loves them.” (David Bayes – Liberty Mills Baptist Church)

“God uses the love He placed in DR workers, to help people in their time of trouble. Making the DR workers a living Bible.” (Jerry and Andy Cable – Campton Baptist Church)

 “Disaster Relief allows us to demonstrate the unconditional love of Christ to people that have found themselves overwhelmed by circumstances beyond their control. Sharing the Gospel is always much more effective after sharing God’s love.”   (Roger Whitehead – Grayson First Baptist Church)

“Disaster relief is the mirror that reveals the love of God.” (Sammy Hammons – Kirksville Baptist Church)

“Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief allows us to work through the brokenness and point those we are able to serve back to a loving God through His Son, The Lord Jesus Christ.” (Bob Brame – Hickory Grove Baptist Church)

“In the midst of disasters, most people, even those previously resistant to the Gospel, realize they are not in control of their current or future circumstances.  Disaster Relief volunteers come alongside them to help carry their burdens while sharing the Love and hope that is found in Jesus Christ.” (Keith Stinson – First Baptist Church of Richmond)

“The word Kentucky draws Attention (Famous Kentucky Fried Chicken). Kentucky Baptist DR gold shirts draws Curiosity. Curiosity draws conversations. Conversations open doors. BOOM! Opportunity to Share Jesus.” (Janice Gaines – Hamlet Baptist Church)

“In one week of DR I get to share the Gospel more than in a whole year at home with my regular routines.” (Gordon Hayworth – Fairdale First Baptist Church)

“Ian Sterling was saved at one of our Kentucky Baptist disaster responses to Bay Minette, Alabama. Ian was an American Red Cross volunteer and shared how he had observed our volunteers being the church and this drew him to Christ.” (Larry and Elaine Koch – Redemption Hill Baptist Church)

Is God calling you to give of yourself to bring help, healing, and hope when disasters strike?

Find out how you can give and get involved during times of disaster for the sake of the Gospel at www.kybaptist.org/dr .

The Cooperative Program is more than Money!

When I think of Kentucky Baptist, one word that rises to the top is generosity. Kentucky Baptist are generous people, who have a vision to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people everywhere.  I do not take for granted the compassionate prayers, the personal commitment, and the financial sacrifice that Kentucky Baptist make to support missions and ministry efforts in our state, nation, and world. As a former IMB missionary from Kentucky and member of the Missions Mobilization Team, I am thankful for the faithful generosity of Kentucky Baptist in their passionate support of missions through the Cooperative Program.

As stated on the SBC.net website, The Cooperative Program (CP) is the financial fuel for reaching every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state, and every nation. Since its inception in 1925, the CP has been the primary way Southern Baptists “do” the work of ministry together both locally and globally. Standing on the firm ground of the Great Commission, the CP is a powerful tool that has galvanized the missionary zeal of our denomination for the past 95 years.

The Cooperative Program is far more than money or a funding system for missions and ministry. It has been an effective means of bringing the gospel to those who have never heard of Jesus. In a time when the many people are skeptical of institutional structures, the theological conviction and purpose driving the CP must be elevated above and beyond the tool itself. The tool is wonderful, but the vision of reaching Kentucky and the world for Christ is greater. Missiology is not methodology; it is applied theology.

Through Cooperative Program giving, the Lord allows us not only to partner in fulfilling the Great Commission, but also to fulfill a vision that is greater than ourselves. Each church plays a vital role in discovering the lost, making disciples, and strengthening and planting churches both locally and globally. Collectively, we can accelerate not only authentic gospel impact, but also sustainable gospel witness.  Here is what the Lord has taught me, through the faithful CP giving of our Kentucky Baptist:  

  1. It is Beyond me: I obey God by giving my tithe to our local church. My tithe, combined with the tithes of fellow members, enables our church to reach our community and to live on mission.
  2. It is Beyond us: Our church partners with thousands of others across Kentucky to support missions and ministry statewide through the Cooperative Program. Together, we equipped people to welcome and share Christ with refugee families from more than 10 countries, started a Bible institute to equip International pastors across KY, and partnered with International Churches to make discipleships among unreached people.
  3. It is Beyond Kentucky: As KBC churches partner with 46,000+ Southern Baptist churches, our CP giving sends thousands of missionaries across North America to reach people for Christ and Plant urgently needed new churches. Together, we helped Send City missionaries in Chicago, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, and New York share Christ and plant churches
  4. It is Beyond the USA: Our CP giving sends thousands of missionaries around the world to share Christ and plant churches among unreached and unengaged people groups. Last year, CP giving helped over 3600 workers plant 12,368 churches and see 89,325 new believers! South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central Asia are only a few of the locations KBC churches are with IMB workers around the world!

The strength of the CP is that it allows all Southern Baptist’s churches to prioritize, elevate, and participate in the Great Commission, by partnering together to make Jesus known Here, There, and Everywhere. This is why I am thankful for Kentucky Baptist generosity, and I proud to serve KBC churches as they seek to reach Kentucky and the world for Christ. We are stronger together!

If I can help you develop, share, or equip your church on the impact of cooperative program, please contact me: John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, email: [email protected] or call: 502-654-3385

Simple Lessons for The Called

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” – General Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State

If I could break down all I have learned to share with a next generation of those called by God, I would offer these simplified lessons:

  1. Maintain integrity.  “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the perversity of the treacherous destroys them” (Proverbs 11:3).
  2. Preach the Word.  Handle the Living Word of God accurately and herald the unchanging truth of God with conviction. “Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).
  3. Offer application not just information when you preach and teach, because God desires transformation. Jesus said in Matthew 7:24, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them may be compared to a wise man who built his house upon the rock.”
  4. Be willing to engage in strategic innovation without compromising God’s unchanging message in an age where things are changing faster than anytime in human history. This is the heart of what the apostle Paul is sharing in 1 Corinthians 9: 22-23 when he proclaims, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”
  5. Help people to navigate truth in a time of instant information. Wisdom is more than an accumulation of information, and discernment is vital in this age of information overload. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 offers us incredible wisdom, “But test all things.  Hold on to what is good.”
  6. Love the flock. Being an effective leader means nothing if you do not genuinely care about those God has entrusted to you. “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God, and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness” 9! Peter 5:2).
  7. Awaken a passion in followers of Christ to study the word. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
  8. Seek to inspire the church to be filled with a deep love for our Lord that is more than an intellectual knowledge.  Jeremiah 29:13 reminds us of this truth, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”
  9. Maintain a balance in worship that keeps the Word of God elevated but does not devalue music, prayer, giving, the ordinances, and fellowship as essential elements of genuine worship. May we worship as taught in Colossians 3:16-17, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
  10. Learn to work with people and to build unity in the family of faith. “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling of which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, putting up with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Being Prepared

Hurricane Laura slammed Louisiana last Thursday as a deadly Category 4 storm. In Lake Charles, roofs were peeled off, buildings ripped apart, and lampposts scattered like twigs. This storm reminded us again that disasters come and can catch us unprepared for the devastation left behind. Being prepared increases our ability to survive and to respond effectively to help those affected.

The wisdom writer in Ecclesiastes 10:10 declared, “If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen its edge, then one must exert more strength, however the advantage of wisdom is that it brings success.”  Preparing the edge by sharpening the blade will enable the tool to be more effective, just as training helps believers to serve more effectively in response to the survivors of disasters. 

Top ten reasons to be trained in disaster relief:

  1. Training prepares us in our understanding of disasters and the needs that arise in times of disaster.
  2. Training enables us to respond in appropriate and effective ways in times of disaster.
  3. Training prepares us to understand our role as part of a disaster team.  Emergency Managers often list untrained volunteers as one of their greatest problems in times of disaster.
  4. Training enables us to sharpen our abilities, in order to be an asset not a hindrance in the response. Spontaneous volunteers typically lack familiarity with situational assessments and incident management.  Because of this, they usually end up being in the way, rather than providing meaningful help.
  5. Training helps us to understand hazards and safety concerns in disaster areas. Untrained volunteers are much more likely to be injured in disaster response as they are unaware of risk factors.
  6. Training prepares us to understand in a deeper way some of the trauma of disaster victims that we might be able to offer appropriate compassion.
  7. Training prepares the hands to be ready to serve effectively. Becoming trained enables you to respond with appropriate skills and right resources.
  8. Training prepares the head by giving us needed knowledge that prepares our readiness. Untrained volunteers are often unprepared to work long, stressful days in austere and rugged living conditions.
  9. Training and relating to a known disaster response group enables better security in disaster areas.  Untrained volunteers create atmospheres where scam artists, who seek to prey on hurting and vulnerable people, can get access into disaster settings under the guise of being a volunteer.
  10. But the greatest reason to train is that God deserves our very best in all that we do and to achieve the best requires discipline, effort, and knowledge.

Disasters will come.  Therefore, let me encourage you, be prepared to serve by being trained.  Victims deserve that, and even more importantly, God deserves that.

Upcoming Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief trainings are scheduled for:

September 12, 2020 at Calvary Baptist Church in Glasgow

January 9, 2021 at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville

February 6, 2021 at Harlan Baptist Church

March 20, 2021 at First Baptist Church of Murray

April 10, 2021 at Red House Baptist Church in Richmond

You can learn how to become connected and register for training through Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief at http://www.kybaptist.org/dr .

Standing Ready

Disasters come whether one is prepared or not, and tragically most churches fail to prepare for disaster events in their community.

As Stephen Cyros declared, “Remember, when disaster strikes, the time to prepare has passed.”

Be prepared as a church by:

  1. Encouraging the need for preparation. Church leaders can lead in providing disaster preparation information that includes safety, first-aid, needed supplies, and evacuation or shelter instructions to those in our churches. People who are prepared have increased survivability in times of disaster.
  2. Assessing the greatest and most likely disaster threats for your community.
  3. Examining the church property to determine if there are ways to minimize loss and to improve the church’s ability to withstand a disaster event.
  4. Ensuring that the membership understands evacuation or sheltering plans if a disaster occurs while the church is gathered.
  5. Devising a plan to check on church members in the aftermath of disasters. Focus a priority on the most vulnerable in your family of faith such as the elderly, those with disabilities, single mothers, and those with health issues. This could be a great ministry for deacons or other church ministry groups.
  6. Developing a ministry plan for the church in the aftermath of disasters. Often churches miss opportunities to meet real needs and to have life-changing impact with families in the aftermath of disasters because they have not planned for a disaster. Crisis events open doors for the Gospel as people are seeking help and answers. God has placed the church in communities to be His hands and voice, but we need to think about how we can best help survivors in the aftermath of a disaster.
  7. Connecting with other churches in your community and other organizations to discuss how to prepare and respond to disasters. Most County Emergency Managers would welcome churches who genuinely want to help, and who have a plan to meet vital needs. We can always do more together than any of us can do alone.
  8. Being prepared to pivot the focus of the church in the aftermath of a disaster. The day after a disaster strikes your community is probably not the time to begin a new ministry, but the church demonstrates a lack of compassion and awareness if it does not pivot from the routine and put priority focus on responding to the loss that disasters bring. In the aftermath of disasters, the church needs to show the Gospel in action.

The Scripture gives a great word for the church as we seek to prepare for times of disaster in Proverbs 27:12,

“The prudent see danger and take refuge,
    but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”

Make Sure Zoe’s Not the Last

Last fall, Rockcastle Baptist Association hosted and implemented “Give Hope”, a Christmas Backpack distribution for children in the area.  A young lady named Zoe, who was very shy and hesitant, came and selected a backpack filled with surprises to take home.  She heard the gospel shared and enjoyed the activities and events of the day.  Later that night after arriving home, she opened the backpack to discover a Bible.  Zoe had never had her own Bible and was interested and curious to explore the stories within.  Although she struggled with depression and anxiety, while reading her new Bible she experienced an overwhelming sense of trust, peace, and joy. Zoe was so excited to learn that God could love someone like her and that He died to give her life!  Full of joy, she came out of her room crying and hugging her mom.  I don’t know the individual or church that packed and prepared the backpack for Zoe, but God does, and He worked through them to reveal Himself to a young girl in need of hope.  

Not many months from now, backpacks full of clothes, toys and food items will be distributed and the gospel shared by missionaries and church planters with other children like Zoe. I anticipate the number of families needing help at Christmas this year to be even greater because of high unemployment due to COVID-19.  Business is returning slowly in the Commonwealth, but the future remains uncertain for so many who are still out of work, or only allowed to return part-time. 

The increased need for backpacks and the hope they provide is challenged by the fact that many churches are just now returning to in-person gatherings because of coronavirus restrictions.  That challenge is exacerbated because most small groups and mission organizations who normally assume the responsibility for leading the initiative are still not meeting. 

For this reason, your help is needed so that other children can experience at Christmas this year, the joy and hope that Zoe discovered.   Prayerfully consider the following:

  • Use your social media network to promote the effort and encourage others to participate in preparing and packing a backpack.
  • Some small groups and mission organization are using Zoom, MicroSoft Teams, or Google Groups to stay connected during this time.  Use these platforms to tell about the need and share how your group can get involved. 
  • Lead your family to shop for and pack a backpack, praying together for the child that will receive it.  This is a great way for children to join mom and dad in showing the love of Christ. 
  • Take a few minutes during Sunday worship, in-person, on the parking lot or online, to promote the Christmas backpacks and determine to be the church, not just go!
  • Let us know how many backpacks you plan to pack by registering online so that we can coordinate with the needs of missionaries and church planters.

The coronavirus is not the first challenge the church has confronted when meeting needs and sharing the gospel, and it most likely will not be the last.  Zoe wasn’t the first person to come to Christ because of Christmas backpacks, and my prayer is that she will not be the last.  Let’s work together through this crisis and creatively explore how we might most effectively prepare backpacks to be shared at Christmas, so that Christ will be made known, again and again and again!

For more information about Christmas backpacks, contents, packing, dates and delivery, visit:  www.kybaptist.org/backpacks.