WBU student hosts church planting conference as part of senior project

WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. – Seth Haile, a senior at Williams Baptist University (WBU), developed and held a church planting conference on November 10 to fulfill the requirement for his senior project.

As a senior in high school, Haile said he began to feel a call into ministry. He began to really establish and develop that calling with some guys that were discipling him around that time. It wasn’t until he arrived at Williams and began learning more about various ministries, specifically church planting, that he began to understand what his calling really was. 

“One night, Dave McClung came up with a few church planters and they had a panel and that’s what really sparked my interest,” Haile said. 

Moving towards the summer of 2019, Haile began looking for an internship to help him gain some experience and insight into what church planting really entailed. 

“One of my professors here got me connected with Dave McClung, and he helped me set something up with Oasis Church as an internship…and so that experience really confirmed a lot of things for me,” he said. 

Supervised Ministry Project is something all WBU students will have to do by the time their senior year rolls around. Seth said it’s a project they tell you about at the beginning of your freshman year because of how involved it is and how much time it’s going to take to produce. The premise of the project is for students to develop relationships with a local church in the area so they can eventually ask the church to work with them on this project.

He wasn’t entirely sure what he was going to do until his internship. While at Oasis, they were developing a pipeline to help raise up the next generation and educate them on church planting within the Oasis network. 

“This really inspired me because this was my goal with this – to really help encourage and equip the next generation of church planters.” 

So the idea began to be developed for a conference to be held at First Baptist Church of Walnut Ridge that followed the same framework of the pipeline at Oasis – but to educate college students instead. 

Due to COVID, the original idea was replaced with an alternative version. What was going to be a one-day event with a break for a meal was shifted to a two-hour event held in First Baptist’s gym. 

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Haile’s friends led a small worship session before they transitioned into the main speaker, which was Dave McClung. A quick intermission followed so they could set up the stage for a panel that included church planters from all sectors of life. Haile led the panel with questions before they opened up the panel to audience questions at the very end. 

“My goal with the panel was to get planters from not just one context,” Haile said. “So we had four different kinds of church planters – in the sense of what they were trying to accomplish and what their target community was. I think it helped paint a broader picture of what church planting can be…it’s not just one thing. My goal wasn’t to get the whole spectrum but at least part of it.” 

Because it was a project, Haile had to have some way of recording results to analyze for later. He set up an exit poll for people to quickly take that covered some basic questions like their knowledge of church planting prior to the conference, and where they thought they were now after the event. Haile said everyone seemed to indicate that they had learned something new, which was encouraging for him.  

Also on the poll, Haile said he left a contact section for those who were interested in learning more about church planting and finding more resources so he could get them connected with someone on the Church Planting Team at the ABSC. Several people responded to this section. 

“That was really my goal. I was really wanting to see people take some initiative from the conference and maybe try to engage in some of those resources and opportunities,” he said. 

Overall, he considers the project a success and is hopeful it brought a new understanding of ministry and possibilities that could happen right there in Walnut Ridge. 

“I think for a lot of people the concept of church planting is foreign to them, and so I think this kind of helped bring some of this into the community and maybe even excited some people and encouraged them.” 

Given that this was a project for Haile, and there are no current plans for something like this to happen again, he’s open to it becoming a recurring event and said he’d be happy to come help and host, even after he’s graduated. It’s something he’s passionate about.

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