Bethel Baptist Church, one of the oldest Baptist churches in Montana, has recently taken on a new life. The Billings church, established in 1959, became the first church in Montana to complete NAMB’s Replant process. The replant was sponsored by LifeWay Church of Billings and is pastored by Jeremy Bourne. Jeremy is the former youth pastor, then associate pastor at LifeWay.
Jeremy and his wife, Veronica, met at Yellowstone Christian College in Billings and were married in 2009. The Bournes both have an energetic passion for ministry, and in particular, Billings South Side. They not only live in the community, but volunteer whenever they can. They are both in the PTA and volunteer regularly at Orchard Elementary School.
In 2016, while serving at LifeWay, Jeremy received 3 different job offers. He was open with the pastor at Lifeway Church, Stacy Gaylord, and assured him that he would turn down job offers unless an opportunity to minister became available on the South Side. “We have always loved the South Side,” said Jeremy. “We just wanted to do ministry where there were families. There are a lot of families here.” During that time, LifeWay Church had been considering sponsoring a church plant. When the opportunity to replant Bethel became a possibility, Pastor Gaylord immediately considered Jeremy for the task. Planning the replant began in April, 2017, and, with the Bournes and 5 other families from LifeWay, became a reality in January, 2018.
Since the replant, Bethel Baptist has once again become a vibrant church in the community. In the past year, they have held VBS, a pool party with baptisms, a block party, and a Trunk or Treat. They were able to reach 91 kids just with VBS and 185 kids with Trunk or Treat. There is also a youth group held on Wednesday evenings. Because of the success of the youth group, the Bournes plan to move all the children’s classes to Wednesday evenings beginning in March. They are looking for opportunities to connect in a quality way with the adults during this time. Jeremy and Veronica’s goal is to reach more of the families in the area and let the neighborhood know that they truly care about them.
The Billings South Side is more racially and economically diverse than most areas of Billings. Because of this, there are many unique challenges to pastoring a church in this area, such as a higher rate of alcohol abuse and broken families. The Bournes, who adopted Jeremy’s nephew after being foster parents for him for several years, are now in situations where they are counseling parents who are trying to get their children back. Veronica says, “To be on the parents’ side has been interesting.”
Because balancing ministry life and personal life can be taxing on a family (they have four children), Jeremy and Veronica meet with a counsellor once a month for marriage maintenance counselling. “That has kept us grounded and focused on each other,” said Veronica. They also strive to keep their children involved in the ministry and make sure they feel like they are a part of it.
Bethel Baptist Church has certainly been blessed through this transition. Along with prayers for continued spiritual impact on the community, Jeremy and Veronica ask for prayers for financial provision to make the many updates and repairs needed on their older building. Please be in prayer not only for the Bournes, but for the Bethel congregation, and the surrounding community.