Building to connect populace

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The South is known for being the &8216;Bible Belt&8217; of the country, which usually means you can&8217;t drive one mile down the road without seeing a church. But in a county that is growing faster than any other, could there be a need for more?

Shelby Baptist Association&8217;s Associational Missionary Dr. Hugh M. Richardson Jr. said as new people move in, it is difficult for them to find a church they feel at home in or one that is similar to the style they were used to.

&8220;We are trying to start different kinds of churches. Some intend to be traditional. Some are trying to be more contemporary in their approach, and some are leaning a little more post modern,&8221; Richardson said &8220;We&8217;re seeking to be biblical and to help people come into a right relationship with the Lord through churches. The best way to evangelize is through planning new churches.&8221;

The organization has even hired a church plant strategist whose job is to plan where new churches need to be and how they are to come about.

The Alabama Southern Baptist Convention did a study that shows 63 percent of the county&8217;s population does not belong to a church. This apparently makes Shelby County the most &8220;un-churched&8221; county in the state. What does it mean to be &8220;un-churched?&8221;

It means a large percent of the population is unconnected with a church home.

The North American Mission Board, which is part of the Southern Baptist Association, suggested there is a need for a ratio of one church for every 2,000 people in a given area. The SBA currently includes 69 churches throughout the county.

Many of the group&8217;s churches have built new buildings, doubled seating capacity or gone to three services on Sunday&8217;s to keep up with membership that some list in the thousands. Others are still smaller churches with just 50-100 members.

The organization did a probe in September of last year to look at areas in the county they thought lacked a church.

&8220;We had groups come out and we rode around the community and said look at areas where there is new construction, look for areas where there is not a church, and we identified about 30 places that we think need a church now,&8221; Richardson said.

He said Chelsea, Helena and Montevallo are areas the group is currently looking at for possible church plant sites. He said if the association wants to keep up with the ratio of one church to every 2,000 people, it would need to begin 42 new churches in the next 13 years.

Richardson said there are currently six new churches trying to get off the ground.

If you are interested in new church plants in your area, contact:

Shelby Baptist Association

205 Walton Street

P.O. Box 888

Columbiana, AL 35051

Office 205.669.7858

Fax 205.669.0514