King Solomon’s words ring true: “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, HCSB). These sage words are commonly applied today in the activity of networking. Webster defines networking as “the cultivation of productive relationships” and includes “the exchanging information and services.” Ed Stetzer noted in his doctoral dissertation that the long-term viability rate of church plants is strengthened when certain realities were present. Stetzer’s study proved that church planters who participated in peer networking with other church planters led church plants that were ultimately healthier.
…a time for networking among planters from various cultures.
The SBC of Virginia has been providing peer-to-peer networking opportunities for SBCV church planters for close to 15 years through what we call Church Planter Networks (CPNs). It is one way we assist our churches in their church planting— in helping the planters and plants to be healthy and more productive in making disciples and planting new churches.
In recent years, we have offered more frequent CPNs on a smaller, more intimate scale in each geographical region. Simultaneously, we have begun offering our statewide CPNs less frequently but on a grander scale and in a central location for planters from every region to attend.
Starting in August 2014, we reduced our state-level networks to two times per year and moved them to a two-day weekend format. These changes have allowed us to reach and include the increasing number of bi-vocational church planters, as well as the planters’ wives. We’ve held these Church Planter Network weekenders at locations such as the Newport News Marriott at City Center, the Stonewall Jackson Hotel in Staunton, the DoubleTree in Charlottesville, and the Hilton Richmond Hotel and Spa in Short Pump. These enriching weekend experiences for church planting couples are made possible by the generous gifts of our churches to the Cooperative Program—an investment that has made a qualitative difference in church planters’ families and a quantitative difference in the making of disciples.
The networking and information shared at CPNs center around biblical exposition and exhortation, best church planting practices as gleaned from the testimonies of experienced planters, and topics related to personal and family enrichment. At times, the men and women stay together for combined sessions, but more often are divided into separate groups that speak more specifically to topics relative to their personal enrichment and ministry roles.
These CPN weekenders have also provided a time for networking among planters from various cultures. Each CPN offered in the last two years has included breakouts and teaching specifically for either Hispanic planters, Deaf planters, or both. These culture specific tracks allow for much needed networking and fellowship among these planters, who are often spread throughout the Commonwealth and DC.
On behalf of every SBCV church planter and your SBCV Church Planting Team, thank you, churches of the SBCV, for investing so richly in those obeying the Father’s call to plant the Gospel across Virginia and Washington, DC.
James Taylor Jr.
Church Planter, The Village Church of Portsmouth
“The CPN has helped me grow as a pastor as far as leading and it has also allowed me to learn how to be a better family man while pastoring. I honestly have been learning how to balance loving my family and congregation properly with guidance.”
Church Planter, New Life Baptist Church, Fort Defiance
“There are so many unknowns in church planting—so many details that vary from plant to plant. As a planter, I walk away [from CPN] encouraged by the wisdom and support of those who have gone before me. I know that I am not alone in reaching the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Church Planting Multiplier, Grace Fellowship Baptist Church, Haysi
“The CPN helps me as a pastor because it’s sitting down with fellow laborers and encouraging each other. It refreshes me to go get back in the fight, knowing my fellow brothers are doing the same thing all across Virginia and the world.”
Church Planter, Northwood Fellowship, Saltville
“At times, I feel alone in the ministry God has placed before me, but with the SBCV and CPN weekenders, I can see I’m never alone and that many have walked the path I am struggling down now.”
Church Planter, Harvest Fellowship Church, Gretna
“[CPNs provide] hope and assurance that we are not alone in this but thought of and supported!”
Church Planter, Rising Church, Leesburg
“The time of fellowship around the tables, the seminars, [and] the content are always very timely, and [CPNs are] an incredible time of equipping and encouraging. It’s been a great opportunity for my wife and me to get away together. In the midst of church planting, so much of it falls on our shoulders together as husband and wife, so to be able to have that time to rest and reflect on what’s going on in church planting and be filled up to continue on in the journey—but to do that together—is a huge blessing for us. …It’s great to get to connect with other brothers and sisters in Christ who are on similar journeys. There are different stories, but to know that we get to spend time with other brothers and sisters who are walking that same walk and encourage one another—it’s great to get to network and journey together.”