ALPHARETTA, Ga. – The North American Missions Board introduced a new missions group – PowerPlant – to involve a younger generation of Christians in the great commission. Initialized this summer in Atlanta and Cornwall, Ontario, PowerPlant borrows the model of prepackaged large-scaled missions trips from World Changers to train volunteers in both the theory and practice of church planting.
"The North American Board exists for church planting and evangelism, so we've created an initiative to teach church planting principles and evangelism skills -- with the goal of seeing church planting become a part of the DNA of a younger generation," said Jim Burton, director of volunteer mobilization for NAMB.
In Atlanta, about 100 students in several youth groups volunteered for Vacation Bible Schools, neighborhood surveys and other ministries. The groups divided up each day to work with eight church planters in the metro area for hands on training. In Cornwall, a slightly larger group of students focused on one new congregation being planted by Joe and Linda Ledford, Mission Service Corps missionaries who previously led in starting several churches in Prince Edward Island, Canada.
Ledford said the PowerPlant experience gave their work a much-needed boost through Backyard Bible Clubs, door-to-door surveys, servant evangelism and other events. By the end of the week they had a list of about 120 people who had expressed interest in the new church -- and 20 individuals who had made professions of faith in Christ.
"It would have taken years for two people to accomplish what they did," Ledford said, noting that he and Linda now are visiting each prospect and beginning Bible studies. The effort also has helped in raising the profile of the church in the community.
The students, meanwhile, learned that new churches historically are among the most effective ways of leading people to faith in Christ. They also learned about demographics, surveys, special events and a range of other church planting information commonly introduced in NAMB's own "Basic Training" for church planters.
According to Ledford, the PowerPlant was a part of NAMB’s emphasis on involving laypeople in church planting.
"Our hope is that we'll raise up a whole new generation of people who know something about what church planting's all about," said Van Kicklighter, who helped develop the program as part of NAMB's church planting group.
"As they get to be young adults it'll become more natural," he said. " ... Instead of asking the question, 'What church do I join,' they'll start asking the question, 'How do I help start a new church?'"
Jonathan Wilson, who coordinates PowerPlant for NAMB, said he already is hearing from participants about how their lives have been impacted.
Chad Oglesby of McDonough, Ga., went home from the Atlanta project with a commitment to start a church for skaters.
"He's already bought some of the ramps, and he's in the process of trying to find a place that will help him set up kind of a skate park in Atlanta," Wilson said. "He has a desire to reach his skater friends, because nobody else in that area is doing that right now."
Another student who served on summer staff for the Cornwall project is working to start a new church on the campus of Mississippi State University, he said.
"We have a lot of older students in our churches who have been involved in things like World Changes since sixth grade," he said. "We decided some of these guys wanted an opportunity to go deeper. We welcome entire youth groups, but we want them to have at least done some other type of mission project."
Four more PowerPlant events are planned for the next year: two in New York City, one in Cadiz, Ky., and another in Augusta, Maine.