Local Illinois Baptist associations and churches now have easier, faster access to the staff and resources of the Illinois Baptist State Association.
IBSA’s new zone strategy, which groups the state’s local Baptist associations into 10 regions, or zones, has each zone served by a “zone consultant” from the IBSA staff. The consultants, many of whom live within the regions they serve, will relate to association and church leaders to complement the ministry already being done by local associations rather than duplicate it, said IBSA’s Jerry Day.
“Working with associations across Illinois is complex because each one is unique,” Day said. “It’s very difficult for one person like myself to relate to all the associations effectively. [Zone strategy] shares the task of partnering with associations among several zone consultants.
“When we’re in the field, we’re in a better position to know the needs,” Day continued. “If IBSA can have the kind of conversations we need to have with local association and church leaders, we can become better partners because we have a better idea of what the needs are.”
Consultants will focus on three priorities: strategy development with associations; identifying and developing churches that can be a resource to other churches in their region in various ways; and working with directors of missions and pastors to develop leaders in the region.
Rather than adding new staff to fill the zone consultant roles, existing IBSA staff who specialize in areas like church planting, education or missions involvement are giving approximately 20 percent of their time (about one day a week) to also serve as “generalists” for the associations and churches in their zone.
The new zone strategy has been accelerated largely due to upcoming changes in funding from the North American Mission Board. While a regional approach has long been part of IBSA’s training strategy for churches and associations, the funding changes that began in 2012 require more substantial strategy adjustments, said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams.
“NAMB’s decision to require jointly-funded directors of missions to become church planting catalysts instead of remaining in the DOM role has accelerated the need for this, because there will be associations whose DOM will either be part-time or bi-vocational, or they may simply be led by a volunteer moderator,” Adams said.
“Expanding this zone strategy helps create sort of a safety net for churches whose associations may be in transition so that if they won’t have a fulltime DOM, there are still some denominational resources nearby that can help them.”
The strategy also allows IBSA to continue engaging with NAMB in its more singular focus on church planting, Adams said, as well as continuing to provide resources that strengthen local churches and associations.
“NAMB is becoming more exclusively focused on church planting,” Adams said. “We’re very interested in church planting too, but the withdrawal of their funding for more general positions in areas like associational missions and student evangelism means that the support network for existing churches also needs to be shored up. And that’s what this is really trying to do, shore up the support system for existing churches as well as continuing to start churches.”
Because consultants will ideally reside near or within their zone, two IBSA staff members are relocating from Springfield to the northern and southern ends of the state in 2012. Dale Davenport, Education and Leadership director, will relocate to the Chicago area to add the role of zone consultant for that region to his responsibilities.
At the other end of the state, Day, who led the IBSA’s Missions Team, has moved to southern Illinois and will serve as consultant for the two southernmost zones. As Day transitions to his new role, Van Kicklighter, associate executive director, Church Planting, will also assume leadership of the Missions Team.
Day, who will serve as IBSA’s “player-coach” for all the zone consultants and convene a monthly meeting for the group, said the ultimate goal is more effective partnerships with local associations and churches.
“When we’re more accessible and able to deal with people on a local level, we can participate in longer term kinds of activities that are more helpful to them.”