New West Cullman DOM plans to focus on collaboration and resources

Justin Olvey has only been missions director for the West Cullman Baptist Association for a few months, but it’s been hectic.

He accepted the job in August and moved on Thanksgiving weekend. A month later, West Cullman Association churches worked with East Cullman Baptist Association churches to address immediate needs following the destructive tornadoes in Kentucky.

This is just the beginning – a “new beginning”, Olvey said – and he looks forward to future possibilities in what he sees as a “new era of collaboration” between the two associations.

“I’m excited about it,” he said. “I think the churches are excited about the future. The resources are here. There are good churches. We are about to see some great local association work here in Cullman.

Called to ministry

Called to the ministry at age 18, Olvey first served as a youth minister at East McFarland Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa. After earning a college business degree, his pastor, Doug Reeves, took Olvey aside and said the church wanted to pay for him to start seminary.

Beginner at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Extending from Birmingham, Olvey eventually moved to New Orleans to complete his education. His last pastorate was in Silas, where he served for nearly 12 years. Although he was happy there, two years ago Olvey felt free to think it might be time to move on.

“Even though I had no idea which direction I needed to go, I felt a sense of release and peace to see where the Lord was leading me,” Olvey said. “Never felt like calling away from Spring Bank [Baptist Church] or anywhere else to go pastor. I love them, and [thought] why not stay where I am? I have never considered being a small or medium-sized church any less than a pastor of a large church.

However, another missions director, Terry Long of Choctaw Baptist Association in Butler, suggested Olvey move to Cullman. Long had been asked to make a recommendation for West Cullman’s missions director and thought he might be a good fit. After the prayer, Olvey sent in his resume, and the search committee decided he was the right candidate for the position.

Define aims

Olvey has several goals for the West Cullman Association, including continuing the partnership with East Cullman.

“A lot of pastors here have been pastors in both associations,” he said. “There is quite a good camaraderie between the associations.

Randy Makemson, missions director for East Cullman, agrees and said he also looks forward to what the two associations can accomplish together.

It was Makemson’s friendship with a pastor from Williamsburg, Ky., that led to the tornado relief effort. Bringing the churches of Olvey and West Cullman to help only made sense, Makemson said.

“We are thrilled to work with Justin,” said Makemson. “Both have the philosophy that we should be good stewards of the Kingdom’s resources.”

So far, this Kingdom work has also included a partnership to repair a woman’s house. Plans to hold joint training at the Vacation Bible School are underway. The two associations will also continue to fund a campus pastor at Wallace State Community College, an effort that began about 30 years ago.

But while the collaboration will be part of his plans, Olvey is also developing a vision for West Cullman.

Provide resources

One of the objectives is to strengthen the presence of the association on social networks. Olvey said he wasn’t quite sure at this point what it would look like, but he wanted to “try to post things that are helpful, informative, thought-provoking resources…to try to get people in this loop”.

Olvey sees the association providing articles on leadership and encouragement for leaders, enriching church-to-church relationships, and providing ways for members to participate in missions opportunities — all through social media.

But he has even bigger goals.

“I want us to focus as an association on prayer and specifically on bringing our hearts together in our churches,” Olvey explained. “I have a vision of a series of prayer meetings in each of our churches – being in each church at some point with other churches joining us in prayer to pray for that church, for their ministries, their staff, their leaders and their congregation as a whole.

“The goal is to ensure that even the smallest of our churches has the opportunity to engage in the Great Commission, however it is conducted. Many small churches cannot offer their members : ‘Hey, let’s go on an international mission trip.’ But if the association offers that to all of our churches, they can.

“The same is true even locally,” Olvey said. “Many of our small churches do not have the resources to have their members set up an evangelistic campaign in Cullman County, but we as an association can work together to make this available to all of our churches.

“We are better off together. We can pool our resources and help each other, and that’s the whole point,” Olvey said.

(Carrie Brown McWhorter contributed)

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