Georgia church engages new community through church planting, creates ripple effect of generosity


Church planting was part of NewBranch Community Church’s vision from the beginning, says Teaching Pastor Ken Rucker. The question for this Georgia church, which began gathering in 2008, had always been, “When’s the right time to plant?”

“We came to a point after the pandemic where we entertained the idea of expanding our facility. We were looking at investing over $1 million to net about 75 extra seats,” Ken shares.

“When we got those numbers back, we felt like that was poor stewardship to invest in facilities for that kind of net gain,” he explains. “That’s what led us to say, ‘Let’s go ahead and plant.’ Now that’s a whole lot better investment in the kingdom than us investing in brick and mortar and enlarging our facility.”

Tyler Recker, then one of the lay elders at NewBranch, helped make the decision to move from being a supporting church to a sending church.

“Is the best next move making this place bigger,” he had to ask himself, “or is it better to put a local church in a context where people can live on mission in their own community?”

What Tyler didn’t expect was for the NewBranch elders to appoint him to lead the new church plant. But many conversations with members and church business meetings later, NewBranch Community Church sent 30 percent of their congregation, including four elders, along with Tyler to plant Antioch Church in Jackson County, Ga., one of the ten fastest-growing counties in the country.

“It was hard, but we also knew it was what the Lord was calling us to do, so it felt right,” Ken shares. “One of the most encouraging parts of this was that we saw folks who were on the periphery of NewBranch — maybe felt like they weren’t needed because we had all the spots filled — step up to serve and fill the need.”

Because of the support they received from both their Sending Church and Send Network, Antioch Church was eager to walk in the footsteps of generosity. So when Tyler shared with the church plant that gifts to the Annie Armstrong Offering support other church plants, the congregation responded by giving 40% over their initial goal — putting the fledgling church in the 90th percentile of all SBC churches’ giving to the designated offering.

For NewBranch Community Church and Antioch Church, giving and sending sacrificially isn’t just about numbers — it’s about people. After all, embracing a spirit of giving through planting in a community 10 miles north of NewBranch led Antioch Church to reach people like Ming and Isabella Gao.

Ming and Isabella — who moved to the U.S. from China — were looking for a way to spend a Saturday afternoon with their kids in their new neighborhood when they found a flyer on their front door, inviting them to a community picnic hosted by a new church in their neighborhood.

When the Gaos arrived at Antioch Church’s front lawn, it wasn’t long before their kids joined in the outdoor activities, and Ming and Isabella got lost in conversation with a church member — a conversation about God, sin and something called the gospel.

In the days that followed, Ming and Isabella couldn’t stop asking questions (“What is sin?”), and members and friends of Antioch Church couldn’t stop sharing until Ming and Isabella came to know Christ.

“There’s no freedom [in China], so we had no friends or relatives talking to us about God,” Ming later shared as he and Isabella were baptized at Antioch. “This is completely new. A lot of words and phrases we hadn’t heard or understood before.”

But what really grabbed their attention that day at the church plant’s picnic were three aspects of God’s character: merciful, gracious, slow to anger.

Now as baptized believers who have personally experienced God’s mercy, grace and patience, Ming and Isabella are helping plan Antioch Church’s second community picnic.

“It was completely worth it,” Tyler says of the decision to plant. “If NewBranch had opted to build instead of plant, we wouldn’t have been doing the community outreach that God used to save the Gaos.”

And because of a spirit of generosity in sending and giving, the churches’ gospel reach is multiplied beyond Ming and Isabella.

“Now, we have a church here focused on this community, and NewBranch is still there focused on that one,” Tyler adds. “My prayer is that’s just the beginning of how the Lord uses us both.”

To learn more about how your church can take the next step in church planting and receive resources for every step of the way, visit