A Unique Mission: Connecting Faith and Work Around Atlanta

From time to time, the team at Made to Flourish likes to spotlight real-life examples of the faith, work, and economics integration we teach and promote. This week we want to introduce you to one of our City Network Leaders, Travis Vaughn. Vaughn is the executive director of Metro Atlanta Collective, a church planting network in Atlanta, Georgia. Prior to his work at Metro Atlanta Collective, he served as the director of cultural renewal for Perimeter Church.

Chris Robertson, associate director of leadership development at Made to Flourish, recently spoke with Vaughn to learn more about his story, how the Lord led him to Perimeter, and now the work he does at Collective. Below is a transcript of their conversation.

CR: Can you tell us a bit about yourself – where you are from and your family?

TV: I was born on the West Coast — Riverside, California — but didn’t grow up there. Though my family moved around a bit, Missouri is the closest thing I would call “home.” My wife, Robin, and I have now lived in the Atlanta area for as long or longer than anywhere I’ve ever lived. Robin is also from Missouri. She is from the St. Louis area, and I lived on the other side of the state in a small town about an hour and a half south of Kansas City. We met in college and just recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We have three children, one in college and two in high school. I serve as an elder at Perimeter Church (PCA) and am currently on our presbytery’s local Mission to Metro Atlanta Committee, which “exists to be a catalytic influence for church planting in and around our city.” Most recently, I served for about six years as Director of Cultural Renewal at Perimeter. In 2017, I left my post at Perimeter in order to begin serving as executive director for a church planting network in Atlanta called Metro Atlanta Collective.

CR: Describe how God led you to Perimeter and now to Metro Atlanta Collective.

TV: In 2007, a few years after I graduated from Covenant Theological Seminary, I met one of the pastors at Perimeter Church. At the time, I had a research and consulting service that worked with non-profits and (eventually) churches. Through an introduction to Chip Sweney at Perimeter through a dear mutual friend, we connected to the church. In 2008, I helped Perimeter with a one-year collaborative community research project that involved multiple churches and stakeholders in the city of Duluth, a suburb of Atlanta. Robin and I joined the church the same year Perimeter became a client. We fell in love with Perimeter’s kingdom vision and mission, and the church was a great fit. I contracted with Perimeter again in 2011, and in the fall I joined Perimeter’s staff

Metro Atlanta Collective, a 501c3 non-profit organization, is a 15-year old church planting network that has gone through a few different iterations. It was first called the New Church Network (NCN) and later called the North Georgia Church Planting Network. It exists to start and strengthen healthy church-planting churches in greater North Georgia that are advancing God’s kingdom through the power of the gospel.

While I was on staff at Perimeter, in 2012-2013 I helped Bob Cargo, pastor/director of church planting at Perimeter and others pull together the Atlanta Church Planting Alliance which became a non-profit a few years ago. While helping to pull that initiative together, I got to know many people and networks connected to church planting in and around Atlanta. One of those networks was the North Georgia Church Planting Network. In 2015-2016 I served as the training coordinator for the network as part of a five-person part-time leadership team. All of us had full-time roles elsewhere. During that time, the network changed its name to the Metro Atlanta Collective and created a full-time position of executive director. In the summer of 2017, I became executive director. I saw the potential impact this network could have, and it seemed to be a great fit with my experience and long-term interests. Plus, the network had a committed board and leadership team, and it had a great foundation thanks to the work of Tom Wood in the earlier years of the network.

CR: Part of the Collective’s mission statement is “to start and strengthen healthy church-planting churches in greater North Georgia that are advancing God’s Kingdom through the power of the gospel.” Can you tell us about the origins of the Collective and how you see it contributing to the flourishing and common good of Atlanta.

TV: The network has a unique mission. It provides training, coaching, and community for church planters and pastors. These leaders equip their congregations for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12). Such “ministry” involves all kinds of volunteer and paid service in multiple streams of cultural influence, not just “church work.” These congregations and church plants are made up of all sorts of people. People who serve in public, social, and private sectors; moms and dads, engineers and bankers, school teachers and administrators, non-profit leaders. People who work for the city of Atlanta and in surrounding municipalities. In other words, I’m talking about many people in different industries, all over the city. These people are trying to connect the gospel with their vocations, trying to apply the gospel’s implications where they live, work, and play. I think networks help serve the common good. In fact, I think it is networks of people — not individuals — that affect the community over time.

CR: We have recently come through the Christmas and Advent season that reminds us of Jesus’ birth – a major historical event that continues to give God’s people hope, then and now. It’s in this spirit of hope, we at Made to Flourish want to feature churches that are bringing hope to their neighbors, neighborhoods, and/or cities. Can you respond with some programs or initiatives that the Collective or member churches are involved with that help bring hope to your neighbors?

TV: Scott Armstrong is a pastor of City Church Eastside. Their philosophy of ministry is geared around “Neighborhood Communities” and each one (there are about a dozen) takes on different, local initiatives.  One of those, in the Cabbagetown area, is called City Camp, which works with inner city kids bereft of opportunities to play in safe environments, both in the city and (once a year) in the mountains.  Several times a month, the kids get to have camp right in the city in their facility.  The wife of one of their elders volunteered there for a season and felt so moved by the work that she resigned from her corporate position with Macy’s to work with the ministry full-time.

Additionally, every December they do a Christmas market (similar to a European kind) called City Bazaar, which is their most popular event during the year.  They work directly with immigrants and refugees from the Clarkston area and have them sell their handcrafted goods directly to our fellow urbanites.  This is a huge win — these refugees (many are Muslim) keep 100% of the price of their goods as they also develop dignity around work shortly after arriving here.  They receive the benefit of developing relationships with them and their neighbors have the opportunity to see the ministry in action by purchasing items. The motto for City Bazaar is “if you could give a gift twice at Christmas, would you do it?”  In other words, the consumer buys a Christmas gift and the refugee/immigrant receives the gift of dignity and provision for their lives. This is a great example of the faith, work, and economics integration in real life.

Learn more about Metro Atlanta Collective.

Topics: Church Cooperation, Church Mission, City Engagement, Vocation

About the Author

Chris Robertson serves as associate director of leadership development for Made to Flourish. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Chris received his bachelors of science in Bible from Cornerstone University. Most recently Chris served as project manager for Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Chris and his wife, Rebecca, live in Kansas City along with their son, Levi and daughter, Elise. Chris is passionate about helping pastors and their congregations understand the importance of all work to the advancement of God’s kingdom in this world.