Autonomous church model works in Sweet Springs - Word&Way

Autonomous church model works in Sweet Springs

SWEET SPRINGS — Some churches use the congregation's brand or name recognition to launch a new worship site. But First Baptist Church, Sweet Springs, believed more people possibly would respond to a new, autonomous work without the Baptist brand attached.

Robert "Slim" Thomas (left), Kevin Ownby and Kyle Duffey lead worship at the I-70 Cowboy Church in Sweet Springs. (I-70 Cowboy Church photo)

First Baptist's church counsel began I-70 Cowboy Church with the goal of creating an autonomous congregation, partly because their experience was limited.

"That's why we didn't do a multisite," Pastor David Goode explained. "But we realized there was a group of people who hadn't related to our church."

Feeling God's direction for three years, David's brother, Tommy, approached First Baptist leaders last year about beginning a more casual worship experience. "But we wanted it to be more community based rather than denominationally based," David Goode said. "Our concern was that if we labeled it Baptist, some people might not come."

"We are not totally 'cowboy' but follow the 'spirit' of the cowboy church style and try as much as possible to build on that identity," Tommy Goode said.

As the church planter, Tommy launched the endeavor with a publicity campaign, rather than with a core group from First Baptist. He did a simple marketing analysis and drew from his previous experiences at the Missouri Baptist Convention and the Baptist General Convention of Texas to develop a strategy for the new church.

First Baptist provided funds for the mission endeavor's first year and the new work received a grant from Churchnet. First Baptist also added a rider to its insurance policy to cover the new congregation that meets monthly at the Sweet Springs American Legion hall and provides accountability. Now the new work is able to cover its insurance and utility costs.

Autonomy is the next step for the church that attracts people from Sweet Springs, Concordia, Alma, Blackburn, Marshall and Lexington. David Goode believes three things must happen first. The I-70 Cowboy Church needs to solidify worship leaders. Currently, it relies on volunteers but no one has stepped up as the consistent leader. The new work must provide discipleship through small groups, as Bible studies or affinity groups, and it needs to offer more worship times.

"But it's growing and finding its own niche," David Goode said.