David A. and Kandy H. Bennett have launched Converge Group, a discipleship and coaching network with the goal to plant 27 churches in Columbus, Ohio’s University District Village in the next 10 years. The Bennetts, who are both ordained through the Assemblies of God Ohio Ministry Network, are completing their first term as fully appointed U.S. missionaries with Missionary Church Planters and Developers.
The plan was birthed in 2011 after David says he heard the call of the Holy Spirit to be a missionary to the University District. At the time, the Bennetts were involved in ministry at Bridge of Hope Church in Boardman, Ohio, near Youngstown. Aside from their relationship with those at the Ohio Ministry Network, the Bennetts, in their mid-50s at the time of the move, had few connections in Columbus when they embarked on their new missionary journey.
“We loved Columbus, but it’s a different ballgame to uproot our lives and leave a good ministry situation to move,” Kandy says. “It was like ripping my heart out to pack up and move from Boardman to Columbus where few really knew me.”
As part of having to adapt to new ministry roles and build relationships outside of an established church, David and Kandy, who met at Evangel University, knew that they would need to learn about the culture and needs represented in the secular university environment. Some 54 institutions of higher learning exist in the Central Ohio region, many of which are in the Columbus metro area.
The Bennetts received subscription access to online demographic data on the Columbus metro area through a gift from Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge (BGMC).
The Bennetts used data from Mission Insite to pinpoint neighborhoods with high numbers of residents who have earned master’s and doctoral degrees. In addition to helping the Bennetts focus their efforts, the data also revealed how widespread the university community’s influence reaches. As David and Kandy continued researching, the number of locations they identified as in need of a church grew from eight to 27.
“The Church has largely withdrawn from these circles and from ministering to those influenced almost exclusively by humanist ideologies,” David says. “They are a people who rarely find their way into our churches or any of our lives unless we attend one of their classes or work with them in some sphere in life.”
The Bennetts’ strategy includes working with a team of missionary associates and bivocational church planters, all of whom are actively involved in ministry while receiving training geared toward deploying them to launch additional congregations.
In the past 18 months, three churches have launched; two are meeting in conjunction with coffee shops started for Bible study and community building. The team also invites those they meet to twice-monthly social gatherings.
“It’s a huge undertaking to start 27 new church startups in one area over a 10-year period,” David says. “But we think it can be done as the Spirit leads and empowers.”
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