In two years' time, God has laid a new foundation for what has become a new church. Every record in the church has been broken over the last two years. In two years' time, the average Sunday morning church attendance has tripled to averaging right at 100. The total average annual giving has doubled. In two years' time, the church has started, completed, and paid for 49 separate projects on church grounds and the parsonage. More than 70 have been saved or rededicated their lives to the Lord. More than 60 have been baptized. More than 70 new members have joined the church, and the church roster sits well over 100.
I believe vision is divided into three main stages: foundational, transitional, and operational. Foundational vision calls for the assembling of resources together, casting vision, reaching new people, and restoring and establishing a basis by which to go forward. Transitional vision calls for change and direction to address weaknesses and needs along with becoming what God has intended. Operational vision calls for the church to live in the vision and be who they have been designed to be as they await a new vision and focus. In short, it's like building a house. A builder lays a foundation, builds a house on it, and then a family moves in. For two years, we've laid a foundation. Now we're about to start building the proverbial house, and at the end of this phase, we'll "move into" it and prepare to lay a new foundation for added growth.
While we're beyond grateful and enthusiastic about what God has done, we have no desire to continue staring at the foundation for the next several years. Foundations are poured for the purpose of putting something on them. As we've reached this place in our ministry at the church, we believe the time is now to begin that transitional building. Here are some of the highlights of the transition:
We're relaunching our youth ministry
Therefore, beginning Sunday night, April 10th, we're officially relaunching our youth ministry with the start of a brand new weekly Sunday night service at the church. While I have a lot on my plate to do as pastor of the church, I'll be taking the next several weeks and possibly months to lead this church's youth ministry as we lay a foundation for its growth. I'll be assembling a team of workers, both those who want to help in youth ministry and those who believe that God has something specific for them to do in youth ministry, for the purpose of training them to lead. We're not opposed to God sending an individual or couple to the church to lead our youth ministry, but we're going to move forward. Our kids deserve it.
The new youth ministry's name is "The Current." Week to week, we're going to be dealing with current issues, media, and the questions that are being asked by teenagers on social media and beyond. We're going to be introducing students to the love and power of Christ and encouraging them to get in the Lord's current and let Him take them places they've never been. This special youth service will be for all middle school and high school students. Doors will open at 6:30 PM each Sunday night and we'll have food and fun with ping pong, video games, air hockey, challenges, group wars, and more. At 7:30 PM, the youth service will begin with live worship, media driven messages, and impacting experiences. On Wednesday nights, our youth will be a part of small group discipleship efforts at the church and in the community.
We're going to be sending out invitations soon as we prepare to launch out. You can find the youth ministry on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/thecurrentstudentmin/) and on the church website at (http://www.bellstreetcog.org/the-current.html). We'll be adding events and plans coming soon!
We're relaunching Small Groups and Cancelling Sunday Nights
If we want souls to be saved, but don't have an effective, flexible, and intentional plan for discipling new believers and others, we'll be guilty of building a church more focused on entertainment and shallow, super-spiritual concepts rather than the true church that was started on the Day of Pentecost in Acts. The key to the early church's success is found in Acts 2 in the last several verses of the chapter beginning in verse 42. The Bible indicates that the church would gather in the temple and in one another's homes. They understood that growth requires not only the temple experience (church worship service), but it also requires true relationships, prayer, discipleship, and fellowship.
With what we believe is a Biblical mandate and example in mind, along with the realities of the changing schedules of families, especially young families with children, and with the focus of relaunching our youth ministry, we have made the decision to do away with regular Sunday night worship services. In place of a regular worship service, the church is relaunching its Small Group Discipleship on Sunday nights beginning April 10th. Each Sunday night, groups will meet in individual's homes for a time of discipleship and fellowship. We'll be offering a women's small group, a men's small group, and two open small groups for individuals and/or couples.
For those unfamiliar with small group discipleship, it's not the same as a Sunday School lesson. While there is teaching in small group discipleship, the focus is more on discussion and learning together. Discipleship is intentional and so participants are expected to do more than just come and listen. There is real spiritual growth that takes places as iron sharpens iron. Relationships are also built in these groups where people can pray one for another, talk about issues, and build friendships all of which can be difficult to do in a timed Sunday School setting and especially a corporate worship service. Some of our older members have commented that they have been going to church with each other for years and are just now getting to know each other, and are beginning to feel closer than ever before.
Jesus was the ultimate disciple maker, and He set an example of disciple making by not only gathering others together to teach them and ask questions, but He also experienced life with His disciples. They traveled. They fished. They attended weddings and parties. Discipleship is very much about gaining knowledge and wisdom, but it's also about gaining the heart and mind of Christ for His mission, His people, and for ourselves. Our women's small group will enjoy pot luck dinners together and movie nights. Our men's group may study scripture for a short time and then go shoot skeet or fish. Other groups may enjoy a night out bowling and building the kind of relationships that the Bible says we're all better for having (Ecclesiastes 4). We're starting with four groups at night, but we anticipate them growing and multiplying as we make discipleship and relationships a major focus of what our church is about going forward.
We're not against Sunday night services. For many churches they still work. For others, the attendance continues to dwindle not because people don't love God or their churches, but simply because times have changed. Schedules have changed. People are busier than they've ever been. The church can either rail against that or find a way to minister and connect with families and communities in this new state of being. We believe putting a Sunday night focus on discipleship and relationships, along with launching a special weekly youth service experience on Sunday nights for students in middle school and high school, will allow us to reach many more families with the Gospel message of Christ.
We're moving forward . . .
We're excited about the future of our church. We're finishing up phase one of the playground project at the church with our sights set on beginning phase two with the addition of our new pavilion for family picnics, overflow meal seating, and special events. We're also going to be redoing our parking lot in the coming weeks and adding special handicap parking along with visitor parking spots and even an expecting mother spot. We're fine tuning our other ministries as we continue to grow and expand our reach into the community. And we've still got in our sights a new sanctuary building.
God is doing amazing things at our church, and I'd love for you to be a part of what's taking place here. Come experience the difference. All are welcome. It doesn't matter what's in your past or even in your present situation. Come as you are. You'll be accepted as you are and loved as you are. Plug in to this new transitions and I know you'll be blessed.