During the 16 years I served as a local church pastor, the Associational Missionary (AM) was a great friend and help to me. The pastor fellowship on the associational level was invaluable to me.
One of the foundational elements of our cooperative missions strategy is the local association. They are the bedrock organization for the majority of our churches, since most ABSC churches are smaller membership with bi-vocational or dual-career pastors. Their value and importance to us as a convention of churches can never, and must never, be minimized.
In the same tradition as local churches, state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), local associations are completely autonomous and independent. They are stand-alone organizations and are not overseen, supervised, or governed by any state convention or the SBC.
In many regions of the state, the local associations are the closest and most accessible denominational entity to the majority of our smaller membership churches. The fact that some associations have or are considering merging, and that some have moved to a committee of pastors for leadership, does not diminish their important role.
The AM (in some places titled Director of Missions or Missions Strategist) who serves the local association is among the most important leaders in the SBC. They are the face of the association, and the first contact for many churches.
Arkansas Baptists are blessed with a talented group of AMs to minister to their respective associations. These men love, serve, and champion the churches that affiliate with their association. In Arkansas, these men are shepherds, friends, supporters, and encouragers to the pastors and staff.
From the ABSC standpoint, the AMs are viewed as vital ministry partners and ministry connections to our churches. We love, serve and celebrate the role and importance of associations and AMs.
As a pastor of a smaller membership church, I was deeply indebted to my AM for his impact and influence on my ministry.
Please join me in honoring and celebrating the blessings of God that are provided through Arkansas’s local associations and AMs. Next week, AMs from all across the state will gather at Camp Paron for a time of fellowship and training as part of an annual retreat. Join me in praying for this meeting and this important group.