After Christmas of course is New Year's Day. It symbolizes a fresh start and a new chapter. In reality, New Year's Day is just the previous year's tomorrow. No switch gets flipped in our lives, but symbolically we get a fresh year to pack in memories, experiences, and plans. Maybe that's why I love New Year's so much. I'm a planner, and I'm always looking for the next adventure. In terms of ministry, I really look forward to the new year each year because it is a time for new plans, renewed vision, and renewed focus. It's a time to consecrate ourselves afresh and anew in our relationship with Christ and others.
Last night, we had our end of the year Planners Board meeting for the church. Our Planners Board is made up of the ministry leaders in our church. I learned about a "Planners Board" from working with Rev. Jesse Ogden while doing staff ministry. He said he felt that most ministries ended up planning on top of each other, but when they sat down together at a table, ministry could be combined, encouraged, and end up more successful. I've found that to be true, and when I started pastoring a little over eight years ago, I was quick to implement the concept.
We have great plans for 2016 for our church. God has blessed us so much in two years. We've seen records broken and the new records established be broken as well. We've transitioned in so many ways in our services, worship, ministries, building, vision, and more. Transition is never easy. It's tough. It unfortunately leads to saying goodbye sometimes, but also allows for a bunch of new "hello's" as well. In that process, the church has seen a great increase in attendance to averaging right at 100 for Sunday morning worship and having close to 150 on roster with close to 100 of those coming from new families. More than 60 souls have been saved and baptized in two years. Discipleship is working as many of those saved have grown to the point that they're teaching, assisting, volunteering, or even leading. The future is extremely bright, and God undoubtedly has more as we continue to seek, pursue, reach, and be sensitive to His leading and guiding.
It's in the midst of celebration however, that we must stay grounded and remind ourselves that transition is rarely quick. Until a foundation is entirely poured and completely solid, the next phase of growth cannot take place. To build too quickly upon a shaky foundation can jeopardize the whole situation. And so we recognize that having come so far, there is so much more to learn, do, accomplish, and transition through. For everything we feel we've learned to do right, we recognize more that needs to be better. That's part of a healthy process, and one that I'm proud to be on with this great church and the great friends and ministry partners that the Lord has surrounded me with. On Sunday night, January 10th, I'll be sharing our 2016 budget and calendar with the church, but I'd like to go ahead and preview a few events and plans this morning for you. It's going to be a fantastic year. I believe you'll understand why we believe so after reading some of the preliminary plans we already have in place for some of our ministries already!
God has really blessed us in our worship transition, and it's still ongoing. We've been blessed by the contributions of several individuals that have made things special. We've been able to broadcast services, stream videos, project media, replace and upgrade sound equipment, and create an announcement and service overflow in the expanded foyer. Musically, we've been blessed by individuals giving of themselves to serve in playing and singing. We've had a few Worship Night experiences where we've come together to sing the whole service and each one has been powerful. Going into 2016, we're going to take some elements of those Worship Night services and begin incorporating them into our Sunday morning services. We're looking for more musicians and singers with plans to develop a small ensemble group. We'll continue streaming our services live where you can watch them at the Media page of our church website (www.bellstreetcog.org). We'll also continue having Worship Night services throughout the year. I appreciate my wife for stepping in and really taking our worship department to another level. I look forward to the opportunity in 2016 to continue "coming out of the bullpen" on a more frequent basis to help and assist.
Desiree Drawdy has done an exceptional job in her first year of doing kids ministry. Actually, it's not even been a full year yet, but the results have been fantastic. Kids church attendance has doubled, and the kids are growing spiritually and in their knowledge of the Word. Shaun & Patricia Hawkins have also done a tremendous job of leading our Mini-Kids Church each Sunday morning where the kids are growing and learning each week. And I know, because my daughter is in there! Desiree and her team have worked extremely hard this year to put on some awesome events from VBS to a Kids Krusade, from fun day trips to parties. The Christmas parade float this year was great again and the Christmas play this weekend is sure to be wonderful! Desiree has not only taught the kids and engineered some great events; she's also built relationships with them. When children miss a Sunday, many times they've found a card in the mail or got a phone call letting them know that they are loved and missed. Going into next year, many of the same great activities are coming back: VBS, Kids Krusade, Fun Days, the city's Downtown Trick or Treat Event, Parade, and Play. Added for next year is a trip to the Smokey Mountains for Church of God Kidfest, an Easter Egg-stravaganza, a partnership with the church on a second Family & Friend Day we're calling Backpack Sunday, and a Trunk or Treat Family Night. In addition, Fuzion Kids Ministry is launching a drama team for kids and will begin practicing on Sunday mornings. Once a quarter, the kids ministry will lead a Sunday night service giving our kids a chance to minister and share their talents with our congregation and their families. I'm also proud to be partnering with Desiree and Fuzion Kids on our Sunday morning experience. Beginning with my sermon series in January ("The Bases of Life") and continuing throughout the year, Desiree and I will be speaking over the same scriptures and points in the sanctuary and in kids church. In our ongoing mission to minister to the whole family and promote prayer, discipleship, and growth in all ares of the family, I'll be providing a kid-friendly outline of each sermon to Desiree so the kids in kids church will be learning the same thing that I'll be preaching in the sanctuary each Sunday. This will allow parents and kids to discuss the Bible together and learn and grow together as a family. Next year is going to be great in Fuzion Kids!
The youth ministry saw several highs this year. There were great trips to Amelia Island and the Forward Conference at Free Chapel. Probably one of the highlights for the year however was the first ever "Ignition" Youth Revival. Over a period of four days, Jacob Jackson and his team put together powerful services filled with fun, worship, Word, and altar experiences. For a first time event, "Ignition" went off without any major hiccups and saw an average of 110 for the four night event. Bands from all over the area came such as The Gathering from Baxley, "11th Hour Revival" from Waycross, and acclaimed bands, "The Morning Watch" and "Julian Drive" who both have had radio hits and have toured extensively. Over 20 souls were saved during the revival, and it was a great first step in a continuing plan of ministry. The youth ministry has experienced it's own set of transition as the church has transitioned. In that transition, learning takes place. And in Jacob Jackson's first full year of doing youth ministry in a new focus, he has taken big steps in getting the ministry moving forward. While Jacob has certainly seen examples of results in his first year, results don't always define success in an individual. I'm grateful that not only have their been results, but Jacob has displayed a desire to learn and grow along with a willingness to be taught and challenge himself to do new things. Moving into 2016, the youth ministry's big focus will be on building relationships and leading teens to know the love of Christ. The headlining trip for the youth ministry next year will be a return visit to Forward Conference at Free Chapel. The "Ignition" revival will also be making another come back. In addition, plans are being explored on putting together a school assembly to tag team with the youth revival next year. The youth ministry will also be launching a drama team, and will be working towards building a new worship team in 2016. It's going to be a great year!
Our Discipleship Department has been incredible this year. Josh Buchanan has been a major blessing to the church, and has given of himself time and again to lead others in growing in their relationship with Christ. Josh understands my vision and has been a tremendous partner in helping those who come in our church and get saved, find a path to learning more about Christ and growing in their faith. With his leadership, the church was able to transition into a full blown Small Group program this year. We've had groups that have met on Sunday mornings along with groups that have met during the week. With no slight to our Sunday morning groups, we've seen amazing growth in our weekday groups. The Women's Small Group combined ladies of all ages to learn and grow together throughout the year. We were proud to know that this group was also able to reach out into our community and include a few ladies from outside the church as well. We had a Couples Small Group that led married couples through understanding one another and growing in their relationship. We saw elective groups that met throughout the year that time after time produced new leaders in the church, and more importantly, measurable growth in becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. One recent group has spawned a group of prayer walkers who get together on Saturdays and Sundays to walk around the church and also into our community and pray. With Josh's help, we were able to launch our assimilation program called, "Connect Track," where individuals new to the church, newly saved, or those wanting to grow more in the basics of Christianity, learn over a four week period how to connect with God, His plan for their lives, the church, and others. In addition, the Discipleship Department has assisted in the church-wide fast, the iSow Giving campaign, and the upcoming Tools Conference. Going into 2016, we're excited about our Discipleship Fair taking place after the church business meeting on January 10th. We're also excited to announce more small groups being offered next year on Sunday mornings and during the week. I know 2016 will be another great year in Discipleship at Bell Street Church of God, and I'm very thankful for the leadership and sacrifice of Josh Buchanan.
What a year it's been for Women's Ministries. The ministry hosted four baby showers and a bridal shower along with several church events and dinners. With each baby born, the ladies rallied together to provide food for three days after the families arrived home. There were also several times during the year that the ladies came together to bless members of the church who had lost loved ones. The Women's Ministries also worked to put on great events throughout the year with conferences, the Mother's Day Tea, and several fun day outings where the pictures speak thousands of words. As part of the church transition, the Women's Ministries began working in its first full year of new structure and leadership. My wife put together a board of ladies that helped oversee several critical areas of the church. Through the Women's Ministries, the church was able to have an amazing Nursery throughout the year. In addition, the Women's Ministries adopted the Girls Clubs on Wednesday night and have worked hand in hand creating the Prayer Mother/Daughter program in the church and helping to host several events for those girls and ladies. Heading into 2016, the Women's Ministries will again continue their sponsorship of the Nursery and the Girls Clubs, and will certainly be ready to host and provide help for whatever life events, both good and bad, may come in the new year. In addition, the Women's Ministries will sponsor two conferences in 2016, and will work heavily at expanding its ministry arm into outreach and missions. The Women's Ministries will be working on several outreach/mission projects throughout 2016 with one major one being a partnership with the Church of God's children's home. Another program that is in the works is a "Mom's Club" program where mothers of young children can come together to let the kids play while the moms enjoy one another's company and support. I'm very thankful for my wife who does such a tremendous job in leading the ladies of our church, and I also appreciate the ladies who work with her on the leadership team to make these events a successful reality!
In 2016, our church's Men's Ministry will be relaunched. We believe it is extremely important for godly men to rise up in the church to lead their families in spiritual growth and care. We've got a great vision to see men of God become all that God has destined them to be and to serve the Lord with all they have. Going into next year, I'll be initially working with Jacob Jackson to relaunch the ministry. We'll be putting together a men's leadership board which will help oversee several areas of the church such as our Boys Clubs on Wednesday nights, our church programs in building and maintenance, outreach, sports, and more. We'll be sponsoring conferences, activities, and of course cook outs during the year. We're also going to be relaunching an old initiative with a new spin where we'll be going into our community to help reach out and restore families who need work done, but can't afford to do it and/or can't do it themselves. We'll be developing a mission team to assist those in our community and church who can't assist themselves. We'll be developing Prayer Fathers and Sons so that our young boys can know that there are men over them in the Lord who are praying for them and care for them regardless of what may be a good or bad home life situation. We are extremely excited for what we believe this ministry will do for our church and our mission to minister to the whole family. I look forward to sharing more about this soon!
If you're looking for a growing church whose focus is on ministering to the whole family; if you're looking for a church that preaches both grace and truth; if you're looking for a church to be accepted in and to grow in, your search ends here. Come experience the difference and grow with us in 2016!