By Ellen Sechrest
CBF Manager of Global Missions Engagement
Who has been an encourager for you? When we think of the word encourager, we are often reminded of someone who was kind and provided encouragement to us when we needed it most.
During the season of Covid-19, we have had to find new ways to offer encouragement, especially from a distance. The Encourager Church ministry of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) is very much like that, too.
CBF appoints field personnel to locations where they can serve and have a long-term presence. By doing so, their work develops long-lasting relationships, deeper connections with the community, and the ability to partner with locals in the work they are doing.
The Encourager Church ministry was created to pair a local congregation with a field personnel unit to build both a partnership and to offer a reciprocal relationship of support.
So how does the Encourager Church ministry work? When CBF churches are looking to deepen their mission support, they contact me since I serve as the Manager of Global Missions Engagement in the department of Global Missions. We begin with a conversation about the church’s strengths, mission involvement, desire to expand their mission presence, levels of CBF funding, and their interest to become an Encourager Church. They then look over the information from our website at www.cbf.net/encourager-church.
After the initial conversation, I often meet with the missions committee (if there is one) or the church staff or the mission point person. We then begin to narrow the focus of what type of ministry would make for a good partnership for the church and what area of focus the congregation would be more interested in: medical, refuges, church/community development, education, immigration, poverty, food sustainability, etc. Then after a prayerful time and more conversation, the church selects the focus area, and we then discuss which field personnel fit their interest.
When the church has looked at the ministry opportunities and selects the field unit to partner with, we initiate an email conversation and schedule a video meeting. This meeting helps both the church and field personnel learn more about each other, what the desired relationship will look like, how the church can undergird the work of the field personnel, how the field personnel can help the church understand the needs of their own community, and what support the church can offer.
The church offers three financial components to this work: gifts to the on-going work of CBF (in the areas of Young Baptist, Advocacy, Diversity, Identity, Chaplaincy, Global Missions, etc.), gifts to the OGM (Offering for Global Missions, which provides presence on the field), and then the Encourager church gift (helps fund the specific ministries of the field unit
After a church has decided to become an Encourager Church, we offer a signing with a representative from the church, field personnel (in person if possible or by video), and me or another CBF staff member. We present the congregation with the Encourager Church award, which represents the covenant relationship between the church, field unit, and CBF.
Ellen Sechrest joined the CBF staff in February 2019 as Manager of Global Missions Engagement. She brought 29 years of local church experience as a youth minister and minister of missions and spiritual formation to the job. Nearly 27 of these years were spent at Boulevard Baptist Church, a CBFSC partner church in Anderson.
Encourager churches in South Carolina
Trinity Baptist Church, Seneca
First Baptist Church, Pendleton
Oakland Baptist Church, Rock Hill
Augusta Heights Baptist Church, Greenville
First Baptist Church, Aiken
Baptist Church of Beaufort
Providence Church, Charleston
The relationship these congregations have formed with our field personnel is a marvelous thing and has provided not just financial assistance for programs and ministries but also been a wonderful encouragement at a time when it was needed most.
Our field personnel have been able to be present during Covid via zoom during worship for preaching or leading prayers or giving ministry updates, meeting with children’s groups, leading Wednesday night prayer meeting, etc.
This reciprocal relationship is a great Kingdom builder and encouragement for both communities.
Who else is ready to be an Encourager Church? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.