Published May 29, 2019
OCEANSIDE — Kids come first at the nearly five-year-old Parkside Church in Oceanside.
“We have a massive focus on the next generation,” Planter/Pastor Jim Britts told the California Southern Baptist. “This is not a church just for young families but it is a church for people who care about the next generation.”
Parkside is an example of a California Southern Baptist church plant that has become a “multiplying” congregation — one that is making inroads on lostness in the state by sending out church planters as well as starting other churches even as it is growing to about 225 in Sunday morning worship.
“It’s not about this church; it’s about the Kingdom of God,” Britts declared. “Church planters need to be more like a missionary than a pastor: engaging the city and making disciples. That’s what Jesus called us to do.
“He will build the church from the disciples. And out of the overflow of disciples, more churches are planted.”
Parkside baptized 16 people April 28, and four more made professions of faith in Christ that day.
One of the congregation’s five values is that kids from birth through age 18 come first.
“Every church in our country should have that same focus,” Britts asserted. “If we just figured that out, it would change the way we do church.
“There’s a race in today’s culture to the heart of every child, and the first one there wins,” he continued. “If we can disciple and raise up and empower kids and teens, they’re actually the best way to reach our city.”
Parkside’s five values center around time: God time, Gather time, Group time, Go time and Grow time. What starts with personal time with God, worship on Sundays, discipleship in small groups and short-term (and longer) missions involvement, leads to planting other churches.
Parkside was planted by New Song Church in Oceanside, where Hal Seed is pastor; Hope Church in Las Vegas a couple of years later became a secondary sponsor. The church that won’t reach its fifth anniversary until September is in the process of planting its fourth, fifth and sixth churches in the North County area of San Diego.
“The first one didn’t make it,” Britts said. “The second one we sent out 25 people to plant it. Then we adopted a three-month-old church plant about an hour away that we didn’t send anyone to, where I discipled that planter. Parkside Español came next; it meets on our campus.
“Later this year we’ll plant a church focused on people with addictions. And a year from now we’ll plant another church in this area.”
But, “It’s not about church planting; it’s about disciple-making,” Britts reiterated. “Church planting is just an overflow of
disciple-making. We used to pray for a church planting movement. Now we’re praying for a discipleship movement.”
Discipleship starts at Parkside with Nehemiah Kids, a midweek program for students in first through fifth grade that includes quiet time, scripture memorization and serving in a ministry. Those between sixth and twelfth grade do similar activities, age-appropriate, as part of Leaders In Training. Adults are discipled in small groups that meet throughout the week.
“It’s all about discipleship,” Britts said. “Without it, where would our kids be five years from now? Where would undiscipled Christian adults be? If we’re not making disciples, we’re missing the whole point.
“The metrics of salvations and attendance and offerings are important, but the bottom line is, are we making disciples who make disciples?”
Those who are discipled start serving in ministry, and some experience God’s call to become leaders, pastors, church planters and volunteers at church plants, Britts said.
“It’s about Kingdom expansion, not just growing our church,” he added. “We say, ‘North County, the West and the world.’”
Parkside’s major North County ministries are through the local school district, which has six elementary schools within two miles of the church.
Britts, who early in the life of Parkside attended training at Hope Church in Las Vegas, for the last two years has been part of the Hope staff that coordinates three-day intensive courses on church planting, specifically in the western United States.
“Especially in the West, people are not looking for churches,” Britts said. “Only 1 percent of the churches are growing through conversions; 15 percent are growing, but through transfer growth.”
Parkside allocates 8 percent of undesignated income to missions through the Cooperative Program because “we are insanely grateful for the cooperation that helped us plant Parkside,” Britts said. “We want to pay it forward and to be part of this bigger mission through the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program.”
Parkside also has mission connections with church planters in Central Asia, West Africa, South Asia, and “we just delivered bunk beds to an orphanage in Mexico,” Britts said. “We sure have a heart to give outside our doors. We say you don’t give to Parkside; you give through Parkside.”
Britts, who was in youth ministry for 15 years before planting Parkside, said a calling from God is the essential first step to becoming a church planter.
“I regularly need to lean back on my calling,” Britts said. “It’s too tough to not have that. You also need people on your team who are disciples you’ve made before the church started. You need a really supportive spouse. And you need a ‘mother church’ to come alongside and to help you.”
What does Britts look for in a person expressing an interest in church planting? He has several questions of his own:
“Do they have a great prayer life? Are they really dependent on God? Do they have a heart for the lost? Do they reach people for Jesus? Are they entrepreneurial? Do they start things and raise other people up to do things? And, are they humble?
“You look at Jesus — humility and love — that’s what a church planter looks like.”