In recent years, church planting has been elevated to a key focus in the state of Arkansas. The Church Planting Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) aims to come alongside churches to assist with, raise up and support church planters as they work to establish new works across the state and across the country. Through leadership assessments, training, development, resources, prayer and financial support, the Church Planting Team helps churches plant between 15 to 30 new works each year.
In 2014, the Church Planting Team was established as a part of a reorganization of the ABSC. At that time, Tim Wicker was named as the Team Leader and Lead Strategist for the Church Planting Team. Wicker’s unique ministry background as a pastor and International Mission Board missionary established him as a gifted leader able to handle the variety of cultural contexts found across Arkansas. Additionally, many of Wicker’s Christian roots were found in church plants where he, his dad and two of his children were saved.
Wicker’s New Role
Wicker’s passion and drive for church planting is rooted in its evangelistic drive. “Church planting is all about evangelism, it’s about reaching new people,” he stated. This core principle is what led Wicker to his new calling and ministry assignment in Northwest Arkansas. In Wicker’s new role as the Lead Strategist in Northwest Arkansas, he will primarily focus on church planting and missions. Initially, he looks to develop relationships across the region not only to see churches plant new churches, but also to see missional strategies developed among churches, such as reaching the 76 unreached people groups in Northwest Arkansas.
Wicker’s new role also includes the management of an ABSC satellite office located in Springdale. Located on the campus of Elmdale Baptist Church, the office space allows for northwest based ABSC employees to have a workspace to utilize while providing meeting or temporary office space for other ABSC staff when in the area.
While the ABSC has had staff in Northwest Arkansas for many years, Wicker’s role is a new concept for the ABSC. Population data and trends make it clear that this region of the state will continue to play a key role in the development and growth of Arkansas. Recent data shows that over half a million people now call Northwest Arkansas home with Benton County alone containing almost 10% of the entire state’s population. The international population is rapidly expanding due to major corporations like Walmart, Tyson, and J.B. Hunt. Ten-year census data shows that from 2010 to 2020, the population of Fayetteville grew by 20%. “The world is coming to Northwest Arkansas. Because of this, Arkansas Baptists are uniquely positioned to impact the nations without even leaving the state,” Wicker said.
With Wicker’s acceptance of a new ministry assignment, the Church Planting Team needed a new team leader based in central Arkansas to oversee the work of the team and continue to support church plants in Arkansas. Following an extensive search, Vince Blubaugh was named as the new team leader.
Vince Blubaugh named Church Planting Team Leader
Blubaugh, a native of Southwest Missouri, his wife, Kandy, and two sons, Sam and Caleb, are currently relocating to central Arkansas. Most recently, Blubaugh served in Northern Virginia and the Washington DC area as a church planting strategist for the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia. Like Wicker, Blubaugh has a unique background, both in the business and ministry fields, that uniquely positions him to lead church planting efforts in Arkansas.
Growing up in a family of business leaders, Blubaugh always thought he would start and run businesses as a lifelong career. Following his service in the United States Air Force, Blubaugh worked in several businesses including his own marketing firm. Soon after, he began to respond to the call God placed on his life following his salvation experience during his senior year of high school. He knew that God was leading him and his wife to church planting. Since that time, Blubaugh has planted a church, served in support roles for five other church plants and served as a missions partner for church plants in Hawaii, China, India, Mexico, Iceland and many other states and countries. Blubaugh has also served in various ministry capacities including pastor, youth pastor, missions pastor and as Director of Communications for the Missouri Baptist Convention.
Blubaugh, has been learning about the church planting efforts in the state in an effort to assess how best for the ABSC Church Planting Team to assist churches. Three key areas Blubaugh hopes to quickly establish and affirm as priorities include a continued focus on the Arkansas Delta and church plants in that region; expanded training and development in all areas of church planting including organizational matters such as finance and business; and deepening the connections between ABSC entities and institutions with church planting efforts.
A primary component of Blubaugh’s role will also include the development of church planting partners. Blubaugh recently said, “In my initial research I’ve found the number of churches supporting church plants is high in Arkansas.” He added, “However, I believe we can do even better.”
Blubaugh began in his new role at the ABSC earlier in July and Wicker and his family will be relocating to the northwest region soon.