There are many ways the association can assist you as a pastor as well as your congregation. Here are eight things I will briefly mention
- Fellowship. A setting is provided whereby people of like faith and beliefs can come together for a time of sharing and fellowship. It is in these times that burdens can be unloaded and joys magnified with people in whom you have confidence.
- Training. Church program specialists will be brought to the association to train pastors and lay people. This will usually be a short-term training event interpreting the most recent concepts. Many associations in cooperation with the state convention and other partners provide longer term training.
- Friendships Formed. Lifelong friendships will be formed between pastors. The association facilitates these relationships that in some cases last a lifetime. A pastor can find a “Band of Brothers” where he can seek counsel concerning matters he needs help in. In like fashion they will begin to call on the pastor. This is a place where you can build lasting friendships and brotherhood in the Kingdom.
- Emotional and Spiritual Support. A pastor can find support both emotionally and spiritually through the friendships that are formed. Your brothers will weep with you and rejoice with you. They will encourage you in times of discouragement. Many times, these friends will be the right person at the right time led by God to say the right thing in the right spirit to help a pastor keep going in the ministry. The association fosters this support. It is always good to have someone near who understands and cares.
- Choosing a Staff Member. The Director of Missions can personally recommend a person that would fit well into your staff. Since he is very familiar with you and your church culture, he is a great resource for recommendations. The Lord uses this means to bring a pastor or support staff and a church together. While this system of resume sharing and recommendation is not perfect, it is our system, and the Lord uses it.
- Doctrinal Integrity One of the most important functions of the association is to maintain doctrinal and Biblical integrity in the churches. The association is probably the only organization that can effectively deal with doctrinal differences within the churches of the association. The association will discuss the differences, declare doctrinal positions and insist upon the churches having a like belief and order for the church to continue to be a member of the association.
- Interpretation of the work of the State Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention. Since the association is the closest organization unit to the local church, it follows that it can easily accomplish this task. The association can describe the bigness of the task of the church and explain how the denomination working together is attempting to accomplish this task.
- Financial Cooperation. The Great Commission was not given to large or wealthy churches only. The mandate to take the Gospel locally all the way to the ends of the earth can be accomplished together. The work of the association is a strategic plan to go to the area that is served as well as the entire world. No matter the size of the church, that can best be accomplished through financial and physical cooperation.
These and many other things can be realized by any pastor who is willing to become involved in the work of the local association.
Monty Hale is the Director of Missions for Washington-Osage Baptist Association and can be reached at email@example.com.