Local Illinois Baptist associations and churches now have easier, faster access to the staff and resources of the Illinois Baptist State Association.
IBSA’s 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.
Consultants 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.
The new zone strategy was accelerated largely due to 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.”