How to Plant a Church in a MICROpolitan Area: Christ Church Opelousas
Louisiana has 9 METROpolitan areas and 9 MICROpolitan areas. The only difference, according to the Census Bureau is proximity to a large city.
“Micropolitan cities do not have the economic or political importance of large cities, but are nevertheless significant centers of population and production, drawing workers and shoppers from a wide local area.”
These are some of my favorite places in Louisiana – Natchitoches, Ruston, Bogalusa, Morgan City, DeRidder, Fort Polk, Bastrop, Jennings (actually not a favorite place b/c they knocked my team out of the High School baseball playoffs my Sr. year. Yea, I’m bitter. Lol!) And the largest of these is the Opelousas-Eunice Micropolitan Area. It’s also the least churched of these nine as well, with Morgan City close behind.
How do you plant a church in a Micropolitan area? Well, Christ Church Opelousas is doing great job at showing us the way. Stuart Amidon is the church planter and in their 30th month of existence they have over 80 in worship attendance and are looking at expanding their capacity and making other things happen to prepare for the next wave of growth. What’s the story? What lessons can we learn from Christ Church Opelousas?
1. Keep a Positive Outlook
Stuart has a very positive, hopeful attitude. Slow growth can be discouraging and frustrating at times for church planters in small towns. Managing expectations with faith and a smile is essential for leading a church at this level, because the people see how everything effects you personally. Positive attitude inspired by a close relationship with a sovereign God is a must for church planting wherever you are.
2. Reach out to the Downcast
Christ Church Opelousas meets in the chapel of a rehab center in Opelousas, so much of their core group were people at the bottom working their way up. Church Planting works best in the well cultivated soil of people that know they need Christ and other people. Christ Church has developed out of that soil, so life change along with grace and mercy are front and center.
3. Plan on a Bivocational Approach
Stuart serves a local school. Planting in small towns such as Opelousas may require a bivocational approach. Don’t resist it. Much good comes from being in the community and one of the community, in the workforce. Bivocational ministry also forces multiplication of leaders as the pastor is not there everyday to take care of all the work of the church. And the sooner multiplication takes place the faster the church plants capacity for growth can expand.
4. Get Involved in a Good Network
Christ Church Opelousas is part of a network of Christ Churches that work in small communities across Acadiana. Stuart also participates in our Multiply Louisiana network meetings as able. Research has shown the validity of church planting networks. In the Church Plant Survivability and Health Study realeased in 2007, by the North American Mission Board, a survey found that church plant survivability increased by 135% when a planter met with a group of church planting peers regularly. Another survey of 600 church planters revealed that first year attendance was over 50 percent greater in the churches planted by those participating in a peer network. (see my post on The Importance of a Church Planting Peer Network). I like to say, one of the best things that planting a church has done for me is drive away my independence. To plant in a small town you will need others!
I’m excited about Christ Church Opelousas. Pray for them as they continue to reach out to their community. Keep up with Christ Church Opelousas on Facebook.