A Mission to Fulfill

Report from the Forward Vision Team

December 1, 2001

 

 

 

This is the Ministry Plan Report required by the motion to relocate. It is slightly redacted. You can download the report in MS Word by right-clicking your mouse and selecting SAVE TARGET AS.
A Mission to Fulfill (52 kb)



Introduction

As part of the decision to relocate, the church voted on August 26, 2001 to establish a Forward Vision Team.  The team was directed to produce a ministry plan by December 1.  The Forward Vision Team will then secure architectural services and begin work on a Master Site Plan for new facilities.  The Master Site Plan is to be developed with the Ministry Plan in mind, as ministry, of course, will be the purpose of the building.  The Forward Vision Team has been working on relocation along with the Ministry Plan, but the only the Ministry Plan is included in this report.

 

Since September 24, the Forward Vision Team has held 13 meetings, averaging more than two hours each.   Our second meeting included reports from the Church Program and Building Plans sub-committee of the previous Building Committee, as required by the relocation motion.  At that time, we received input from the Sunday School Director and Upward Basketball Commissioner.  Glenn Akins was retained to aid in developing a ministry plan.  With his help, we distributed questionnaires to the church.  We utilized the Celebrate Your Church materials from the State Convention, particularly its evaluation instruments.   We have looked at the summaries from discussion times in which the pastor drew input from church members on consecutive weeks in the mid-week services.  We received reports from the Evangelism Ministry Team, the Prayer Ministry Team, and the Teaching Ministry Leadership Team.  These teams evaluated their areas of the church’s work.  In addition, team members have read books and listened to tapes.  All of this information and input has greatly aided the Forward Vision Team in formulating this ministry plan.

 

This report will summarize strengths, weaknesses, limitations, and opportunities of First Baptist based upon the information received and reviewed by the Forward Vision Team.  In these, we are seeking to describe our unique niche to advance the work of the Kingdom in our community.  Recommendations are included at the end of this report.

 

 

Strengths to Celebrate and… to Build On

 

Numerical growth

Attendance in Sunday Morning Bible Study has increased 55% since 1995, from 154 to 239 people.   In the 2000 and 2001 church year reports, the increase was just over 12% each year.  In 1999 we had 286 people in Sunday School on high attendance day, in 2000 we had 343, and on October 28 of this year, we had 409. 

 

Numerical growth has been experienced on Sunday and Wednesday nights as well. This has resulted from changes in these worship opportunities. Five years ago, on Wednesdays we had Senior Singers and a 5:30 Prayer Meeting. People who worked in Montgomery were unable to attend midweek services. Now there are opportunities for children and youth, there is a second prayer service, and a supper that feeds sixty to seventy people per week.

 

Sunday Morning Bible Study

Sunday Morning Bible Study is a key component in our church’s ministry. It gives structure for providing every age group with outreach and ministry.  Several units have moved to ongoing “shepherd teachers” instead of rotating teachers; this has helped strengthen ministry and continuity in several classes.  We have, in the last few years, created new units.  Since new units grow faster than existing units, this has helped us to grow.  Co-ed classes have helped promote growth by attracting those who prefer to attend with their spouses.  

 

Spirit of excitement

Morale is high at First Baptist right now.  People believe in what the church stands for and that the church is advancing.

 

Loving fellowship, caring for one another

The reason most commonly given for joining by new members was, “The atmosphere and members of the church.”  Our members have a record of caring for one another in times of need such as sickness and death.  The work of the Comfort Ministry Team and of the Homebound Ministry Team are two examples.  An example on a happier note is seen in the young adult Sunday School classes taking meals to member families with newborns.

 

Unity and Stability

First Baptist has a history of getting along.  It is a happy environment, free of the tension that comes with division.  When ministers are called, a lengthy tenure is expected.  The vote to relocate revealed the ability of our church family to discuss delicate subjects and yet retain our unity.  There was a sense of “closing ranks” even before the vote tally was complete. 

 

Emphasis on Children and Youth

New members listed the children and youth programs as one of their top three reasons for visiting and then joining First Baptist. 

 

Spiritual Growth

There is a sense that spiritual growth is taking place among our members.  The numerous home prayer groups and Bible studies are evidence of this.  The vote to relocate demonstrated that the church is willing to consider appropriate strategies for advancing our mission; this was a significant step of faith.

 

Clear Mission Statement

Our mission statement can be recited by memory by a substantial majority of our members.  It was cited by the State Board of Missions office as one of four examples of a purpose statement in the May 21, 2001 Church Policies training conference.  It isn’t something we just say; we mean it.

 

Leadership role in the community

We are a vital part of the community and the community is an important part of our identity.  One example is our church’s participation in the community Relay for Life.  An example going the other direction is Upward Basketball, which we promote as a community ministry sponsored by First Baptist Church.  Tallassee is a good place to live and to rear a family.  This can lead to growth of the community and, thereby further growth of the church.

 

 

 

Weaknesses to Address

 

Meaningful Church Membership

We are not here merely to add members, but to make disciples.  Thus, church membership should mean something more than attending church services.  Members must become more involved in fulfilling the Great Commission and must be made more aware of what church membership means.

 

Conversion Growth

There are three ways in which a church grows: Biological growth is when church members have children.  Transfer growth is when people move their membership from another church to ours.  Conversion growth is when lost and unchurched people come to faith in Jesus Christ and come into the church.  We have had outstanding growth these past several years in the first two categories, but have been weak in conversion growth.

 

Philosophy of Leadership

As we were working through one of the evaluation questionnaires, one question concerned our feelings toward our church’s philosophy of leadership.  We decided that though we might have an unofficial philosophy, we do not have an articulated philosophy of leadership.  This touches on several areas: worker training, deacon training, the role of deacons, and what it is that we value in our church leaders, generally.

 

Exclusion/Inclusion

Sometimes, we are a little more clannish than we realize. This seems to be an unintended result of people growing up together and knowing each other.   This is probably no more true of us than any other town our size.  One respondent to the new member questionnaire described it this way, “When people who are not in the loop [i.e. people who moved here from somewhere else] mention a prayer request, they are not commented on, but if a Tallassee native mentions someone they know, people ask questions about what hospital and how they are doing.”  As more people move into Tallassee from other places, this will become more and more important to address.

 

Missions Support

Many of our members have used the phrase, missions-minded, to describe our church.  First Baptist has a good record in supporting the Cooperative Program.  We support the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions and the Annie Armstrong Offering for Missions in North America.  We have had groups go on mission trips the last two summers.  However, the enthusiasm in the church for Relay for Life far surpassed that for the Annie Armstrong Offering.  When information about international missions is distributed in a bulletin insert, a good number of the inserts are tossed aside (by adults) only to clutter a table; it would seem that a missions minded church would be more interested in learning about world evangelization.  Few of us could tell of a Southern Baptist missionary for whom we are praying by name.  Missions support means more than attending a meeting.

 

 

 

Opportunities to Pursue

 

Ministry Teams and Every Member Ministry

Our research has shown us that, in the past, we as a church had been weaker than we should have been in Every Member Ministry (that is, involving every member possible in some form of service to Christ through the church).   With Ministry and Service Teams now being formed in the church, we have an opportunity to mobilize all our membership for more effective Christian service.  The teams that have been formed to this point have shown great enthusiasm.  The key to long-term results will be our membership keeping this enthusiasm and generating more, so that all of our members will work at this approach.

 

During the interim period, without a youth minister and a music minister, church members have “stepped up to the plate” and taken initiative to keep things going.  This has been a significant step forward in every member ministry.

 

Home Bible Studies and Prayer Groups

There are numerous such groups in which many of our members are involved.  We should enhance the communication we have with these groups to make our prayer and evangelism more effective. 

 


Young Families with Children

 

Folks like us make a church like ours…

And a church like ours attracts folks like us

 

We can use this principle to reach more people.  This is not to say that we would exclude anyone, but that our best opportunities for growth are in “playing to our strength”.  Our strength, right now, is in reaching young families with children.

 

Families we have been reaching are predominantly twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings, who are married with children.  They were attracted to First Baptist because of the preschool and childrens activities.  They knew someone who was attending here and visited because of them. They liked the co-ed Sunday School class. The multiple worship service times was a selling point for them.

 

In Sunday School, the two groups where the new members are concentrated are in the Young Married Department and in the Pairs and Spares.  Among the new member questionnaire respondents there is a gap between those 43 and 59.  It was decided that this was because we reach who we are; there has been something of a gap in those age groups in our Sunday School for some time.

 

 

 

Limitations to be Acknowledged

 

First Baptist is not reflective of the overall population in the Tallassee area

Approximately 79% of our member families earn over $34,000 per year; 60% earn over $50,000.  66% of our members have attended at least some college.  This does not reflect (to the same degree) the community at large.  Even now, there are plenty of people whom we will find to be reachable.  And it is our conclusion that more people of backgrounds similar to ours are on the way.  The growth in western Elmore County and in eastern Autuaga County has been composed of such people. We must take all of this into account as we plan.

 

Our infrastructure will have to be expanded to support future growth

Church infrastructure includes professional ministerial staff, paid support staff, volunteer workers, the number of units, and supplies – as well as space.  Growth will require all of these.



A Strategy to Reach the Tallassee Area

 

 

Evangelism on two tracks

We need to think about evangelism on two tracks:  (1) reaching people like ourselves and (2) finding ways to impact our community with the gospel to reach people unlike ourselves. 

 

Lifestyle evangelism

We have tried the FAITH evangelism program and do not believe that confrontational approaches will work in our church.  We have had success with members bringing their friends into the church.   A lifestyle evangelism approach is indicated.  The Team Task Directive of the Evangelism Ministry Team spells out an approach to winning the lost that we feel will work for us, and which we affirm.

 

To effectively reach people in our community who are from somewhat different backgrounds than most First Baptist members, Evangelism and Benevolence must work hand in hand.  Events and programs will have to be designed with this strategy in mind.

 


Strategy Statement

In light of the above findings, the Forward Vision Team has developed and recommends the following “Strategy Statement”:

 

We will provide positive experiences to expose Tallassee area families to the Gospel, give them opportunities to explore the Christian message, to receive God’s grace, and to become devoted disciples.

 

Positive Experiences

Most people have a “How I got burned at church” story.  Many unbelievers need an experience that exposes them to the gospel in a positive way.  Imagine a lost person taking part in a fishing tournament and then hearing a world-class fisherman telling some of the secrets of the sport and giving his testimony.

 

Exploring the Christian Message

Some people want to “kick the tires” and get an idea of what being a Christian is about and what it would be like.  They want to think it over.  The church should offer classes and programs to aid those facing such a decision.

 

Six Point Strategy to Reach the Greater Tallassee Area:

 

o       Family oriented programming

o       Intentional lifestyle evangelism

o       Satellite ministries

o       Non-threatening small groups

o       Planting new congregations

o       Quality facilities used as a base of operations


What we mean by the terms above:

 

Greater Tallassee Area

We need to be thinking in terms of a larger geographical area and prepare to become more of a regional church.  A twenty-minute drive time is realistic, even if not an absolute for all directions.

 

Family Oriented Programming

Activities for preschoolers, children, and youth, as well as senior adults have contributed to our church’s growth and should be expanded.

 

Intentional Lifestyle Evangelism

Lifestyle evangelism means more than just living a good life and hoping that lost people will ask “Why”.  It involves a conscious choice to build relational bridges to people who don’t know Jesus and who aren’t in church, making friends, and then crossing the bridges by sharing Christ in winsome ways.

 

Satellite Ministries

These ministries are anything we do out of the building and off campus.  Upward Basketball is one such ministry already in place.  The Forward Vision Team felt strongly that there is a need in our community for Biblical family counseling.   A Crisis Pregnancy Center and evangelistic home Bible studies are other examples. 

 

Non-threatening Small Groups

We must provide opportunities for people to see what Christians look like in action, without being pressured or embarrassed.   Again, evangelistic home Bible studies connect here.  Also, we need to regularly create new units in Sunday Morning Bible Study to reach new people.

 

Planting New Congregations

New congregations can reach new people groups who may not feel comfortable coming to us.  We will find someone they will feel comfortable with and go to them.

 

Quality Facilities as a Base of Operations

Even when we have adequate facilities, most of our ministry as a church will take place off campus.  The church scattered does the work of ministry.  However, quality facilities will enable us to do a better job of equipping God’s people and attracting others of like faith to join in the labor with us.

 

 


Recommendations

 

Evangelistic Strategy

The Forward Vision Team recommends that the church adopt the evangelism strategy statement and strategy (on pages 6-7) and that we affirm that the unchurched and unbelievers in our area are our “primary client.”  While dependence upon the work of the Holy Spirit is acknowledged, we should strive to have our number of Baptisms in a range equal to at least ten percent of our average Sunday School attendance each year.  This will require deliberate planning and broad membership participation.  We recommend that the church seek ways to increase baptisms consistent with this goal.

 

            Worship

There has been some discussion about moving to one Sunday morning worship service, instead of two.  The Forward Vision Team recommends at this time that the church retain two services since they have greatly contributed to the growth in Sunday Morning Bible Study and have been a contributing factor in families deciding to join First Baptist.  We recognize that the early service has become, by far, the favorite.  This has perhaps somewhat dampened the spirit in the 10:45 service.  We recommend that the church seek ways to strengthen the second morning service. 

 

The possibility of making one of our two morning worship services contemporary in style has also been brought up; in fact, more than once.  We recommend that we fine tune at least one of the services to make it (or them) a little more expressive in style, but that they both remain blended services.  As one person put it in one of the prayer meeting discussions, “More praise choruses, but not all PowerPoint.”

 

Some have asked for “a more conscious focusing on God” in our worship.  This is unrelated to style and addresses more of the spirit and tone of the service.  We recommend that the new minister of music work together with the pastor to find ways to help us do that.

 

More member involvement in the worship services through such things as testimonies and fifth Sunday night music has been mentioned.  We recommend that the pastor and new minister of music implement these types of things as the Lord leads.

 

New Member Information Class

We recommend that a Church Membership Information Class be provided and new/potential members be expected to attend, although the class is recommended to all members.  The new member information class should be held during Sunday School and include such areas as:

 

o       Basic Christian beliefs

o       Those beliefs we hold to as Baptists

o       How one becomes a Christian

o       The basics of Christian living

o       Information about First Baptist Church and how we operate

o       Information about our denominational cooperation.

o       Additionally, those who attend could be provided an opportunity to join the church and to volunteer to serve in some aspect of the church’s ministry. 

A Follow-Through Team, discussed below, should make a recommendation by the end of 2002 as to whether a New Member Information Class should become a requirement for membership.

 

            Training

We recommend that training be provided to facilitate more effective ministry by members.  This is not to say that no such training has been provided in the past, but that such training is an ongoing concern.  The Teaching Ministry Leadership Team should co-labor with the various other ministry teams to provide training in such areas as:

 

o       Worker training

o       Teacher training

o       Bible study methods

o       Deacon/new deacon training

o       Basic Christian doctrine and Baptist distinctives

o       Personal evangelism

o       Spiritual Gifts

o       Family & marriage enrichment

o       Stewardship of material possessions

o       Stewardship of life (time, talents, spiritual gifts, the gospel, money)

 

It should be stressed that church members should accept such training as a responsibility.  In the past, many church members have ignored training opportunities.  The every member ministry training on LifeLift Sunday was more than adequately promoted, but the attendance was embarrassing.  Only to the degree that our members are willing to avail themselves of training opportunities will we truly have every member ministry.

 

Staffing

The Forward Vision Team recommends that the personnel committee meet with appropriate leadership from the State Board of Missions and develop a plan to expand the ministerial and support staff to facilitate future growth.   This would be like a master site plan, as it would have phases and we would go to each new phase as growth occurred.  We further recommend that the Personnel Committee give careful consideration to a Minister of Preschool and Children in this plan.

 

Infrastructure

We recommend that we lay plans to provide staff, space, units and programming for 400-450 people in Sunday Morning Bible Study right now.  After that, we should begin to prepare for even more. 

 

Lighthouses of Prayer

We recommend that we pursue having a home “Lighthouse of Prayer” in every neighborhood in Tallassee to pray for the needs of the families who live there and for the salvation of the unconverted.

 

Guest Response Team

We recommend that a Ministry Team be formed immediately to process information from guests who visit our worship services and to see that their visit is acknowledged and responded to promptly.

 

Medical Missions Trip

We recommend that the Missions Support Ministry Team give consideration to a Medical Missions Trip to give our members in the healthcare professions an opportunity to use their training in trans-cultural ministry.

 

Follow-Through Team

We recommend that a Follow-Through Team be formed to see that the above recommendations are acted upon and that adjustments are made to the recommended strategies, as needed. 

 

We recommend that this team be composed of the leaders (or someone whom they may appoint) from the Evangelism Ministry Team, the Teaching Ministry Leadership Team, the Missions Support Leadership Team, the Prayer Ministry Team, the Stewardship Committee, and the Deacons. The Stewardship Committee shall be represented because of the need to budget for ministry.  This will place those who will implement the Ministry Plan in charge of setting the Goals and Objectives that they themselves will carry out.  It will free the Forward Vision Team to focus on building needs. 

 

We recommend that this team begin to function on January 1, 2002 and report every church conference throughout the year.  They shall be responsible to produce Action Plans with goals and objectives by May 5.

 

 

As We Move to Work on the Master Site Plan…

 

We have secured a topographical map of the new property.  We have selected the architecture department of Lifeway to develop the Master Site Plan.  They are scheduled for an on-site visit April 15-16; however it is possible that date could be moved to some time in March.  By February 28, we will announce the architectural firm for the construction plans. 

 

We have toured the facilities of the Taylor Road Baptist Church and of the First Baptist Church of Prattville.  We will tour the facilities of more churches at the first of the year.   On January 18, the entire Forward Team will be attending the Church Building Training conference sponsored by the State Board of Missions. 

 

The Forward Vision Team has been charged by the deacons on behalf of the church to provide quality facilities.  We will both want and seek the congregation’s input concerning building needs.  We would like to stress that ministry should not be sacrificed in order to build.  The facilities exist only as a tool for ministry and new buildings will not be needed if there is not the ministry to fill them up.   Expanded ministry, as well as space, will be required for us to move to the next level.