It takes a village to plant a church. Or perhaps more accurately in this case, it takes several villages and churches, a couple of church planting network folks and a little persistence to plant a church!

This is a concept well known in the Shenandoah District, which has been planting and supporting church plants in El Salvador for the past 10 years, an effort begun under retired District Superintendent Greg Reynolds.

Involved in the effort is Pastor Corey Adkins who planted ReClaim Church in Huntington, West Virginia, and works on church multiplication through the Greenhouse multiplication network — formerly The Wesleyan Church’s (TWC) Nitrogen network. And while pastoring in the Shenandoah District, Pastor Corey also straddles district lines to lead the Kentucky-Tennessee (KY-TN) District’s multiplication efforts.

Pastor Corey discipled West Virginia pastor, Jonathan Blatt, who after serving as a Global Partners missionary to El Salvador, is back in West Virginia pastoring Faith Community Church, Charleston, and serving as Shenandoah District director of Missions. This dual role allows Pastor Jonathan’s heart and some of his time and resources, to remain with that Central American Hispanic community.

“The district’s goal originally was to gain partnership with seven or eight churches,” said Pastor Corey. “ReClaim Church agreed to support a church already being planted there. We poured into those ministries early on financially but also by doing mission trips to El Salvador. We watched it grow as we grew. And then Johnny (Blatt) moved there and was on site working with the churches. When he came back, there were 13 churches,” said Pastor Corey. “God has really blessed the work there.” Several district churches have taken trips to Central America in addition to ReClaim. “This spring we are taking a mission trip there and will do Vacation Bible School, take care of kids and youth, provide medical clinics — if we take a doctor or nurse in the group — and offer pastor training.”

To help support this work, ReClaim gives 10% of its tithes and offerings to multiplication.

According to Pastor Corey, “The landscape is ripe for multiplication. But it cannot be the way we have always done it. It has to be done culturally and not model specific. It will not have longevity in 10 to 15 years if it is model specific. It does the gospel no good if we have something grow really fast, but it cannot make it to the five- or 10-year mark. If it doesn’t even last one generation, are we following the mission God sent us out on?”

He says that is a concept he is sharing with the KY-TN District through his role there. Culture is “super important” and a model-specific approach to multiplication doesn’t work in Appalachia, which encompasses the Shenandoah and KY-TN districts.

He said this has been a struggle over the years in this region in multiplying. “You need to just release the heroes of the faith, the local church pastors, and allow them to multiply and let God do it.” That is happening now in KY-TN, which has three or four startups in the works.

TWC is comprised of several international districts. El Salvador is part of the Ibero-America Established Regional Conference created in 2016. According to Pastor Jonathan, the success of planting in areas like El Salvador is to partner with a church or church leader at the local level. In this case, it was the El Salvadoran District Superintendent Rev. Rene Melendez. “Their nationals’ plant and multiply. They find the community and say, ‘we want to start a small group’ and then our team goes to help organize it and it takes off from there.”

“Having a trusted point of contact in another country is key,” shares Pastor Jonathan. “The Ibero-America Conference has done a great job,” he says. It now sends its own missionaries and raises support and trains pastors. The first conference of this new Wesleyan Church district was held in November 2022 in Peru.

Back in the States, the KY-TN District is supporting Hispanic leaders such as Rev. Miguel and Pastor Betty Funes of Iglesia Cristiana Caminando con Jesus, Knoxille, Tennessee. The Funes are part of a group of Hispanic ministry coordinators who meet monthly to train leaders and pastors within the U.S. to plant churches. TWC’s Education and Clergy Development Division helps with FLAMA courses and other training through Spanish Ministerial Education and Formation designed to guide Hispanic pastors in the ordination path and church planting in the U.S.

A lot of the success in church planting endeavors comes down to personal relationships. The Shenandoah District brings Rev. Melendez and his wife up from El Salvador periodically to meet the church leaders who are supporting them and introduce them to new churches. “That’s another way for people here to connect to the ministry there.” Once congregations see, through social media and photos of the district’s work in an area like El Salvador, Pastor Jonathan said, and really “see the heart of the people and the struggles they have,” that is when they get connected and get on board.

Jennifer Jones is the district administrator for the South Carolina District of The Wesleyan Church.