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Shelby Association plants new church in fast-growing Helenacomment (0)

March 6, 2008

By Susan Chaffin Goggins

David Bradford will tell you — there’s a lot to be excited about in Helena.

Thousands of new homes are coming up. The city limits have stretched to include even more and are now bursting at the seams.

But most importantly, he said, a new congregation was birthed there March 2.

"Celebration Church is the name God gave us for the church because there’s a lot to be excited about," said Bradford, the new church’s pastor, noting that the church is happy and up-tempo.

Though Bradford is a veteran of ministry work, he said he felt called by God specifically to plant churches while attending New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary about three years ago.

He and his wife, Donna, and three children returned to Birmingham and began Shelby Baptist Association’s Church Planter Basic Training, waiting for God’s timing and location.

"Last spring God told me it was time," Bradford said.

He said he felt God had been preparing them for this opportunity for years through his business and ministerial experience and his wife’s administrative abilities as a CPA.

Helena was the site targeted by Bradford and Shelby Association. In December 2007, Helena Intermediate School became available for meeting space, which Bradford attributed to God’s timing and provision.

"Church planters need to be a part of the community where the church is located," Bradford explained. "We live about four miles from the school."

Bob Brown, church planter strategist for Shelby Association, believes Celebration Church is strategically well placed.

"The potential for growth in this area is phenomenal since Helena is expanding with new subdivisions, a new middle school and the expansion of the town limit," he said. "Within five miles, there are 7,828 couples with children."

He added that the school provides a natural and neutral meeting place and the services will feature music and preaching aimed at the target audience.

Shelby Association Director of Missions Hugh Richardson said Shelby County — the state’s fastest-growing county — is a particularly ripe field for church planting.

"The population has grown significantly, and 63.5 percent of the population is considered unchurched," he said.

Because of this, Richardson said the association wants to be aggressive in church planting throughout the county.

"We did a probe a year and a half ago and found over 30 sites where churches or Bible studies were needed," he said.

According to Richardson, church strategists suggest that there be one church for every 2,000 in population. "Shelby County is projected to reach a population of 222,000 by 2020," he said, adding that the association would need to add 42 churches over the next 12 years to meet that recommended ratio.

Shelby Association is off to a good start in 2008 with a church plant in Montevallo that began in mid-February, Celebration Church, and a plant in the Highway 280 area that is currently in the planning stages, Richardson said.

Brown noted that Celebration Church has met four critical factors for a successful church plant — readiness, enlistment of a core group, the equipping of leaders and the decision to be a "multiplying new church start."

A core group including a full praise band, youth minister, children’s minister and preschool director have been promoting the opening of Celebration Church since their site was established.

Bradford said they wore promotion T-shirts around the community, posted signs, distributed invitation cards and advertised through local print media. He said God provided funding that more than covered their initial startup and equipment costs through personal fundraising letters.

"We’re very excited about the possibilities, both in the resources God has brought us and the new neighborhoods growing in the area surrounding the school," Bradford said.

Celebration Church will meet each Sunday at Helena Intermediate School for small groups at 9:15 a.m. and worship at 10:30 a.m. For more information, call Shelby Association at 205-669-7858.

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