Category Archives: Northshore Baptist Associations
Sunday night two churches connected that are on the opposite sides of a couple of church growth barriers. The church that’s broken those barriers was Bedico Baptist Church. Located in a fairly remote, rural area on Hwy 22 between Ponchatoula & Madisonville, LA, the church has grown from 27 to near 400 in regular attendance in about 15 years. Last night three lay leaders from Bedico got together to share what they thought were keys to breaking growth barriers & growing a rural church beyond expectations. Here’s what they said were the keys:
- Prayer & Faith.
- Putting the needs of the unchurched ahead of our own.
- Intentional processes for developing people.
I’ll add a couple of keys from personal involvement & observations with Bedico:
- Increased Missions Involvement.
- A Culture of Yes.
Prayer & Faith
When asked what was the number one key to growth, the answer was PRAYER. Glenn Sanchez, retired school teacher who ended up serving on staff with Bedico, said the most important thing that happened was starting a prayer partner ministry that got people praying together for the spiritual needs of the church & community. He said, “When we involve God, we get what God can do, not just what we can do.”
Margaret Wedgeworth came to the church in 1970 & served as a leader during several stages of growth, talked about how many issues came up that there was no human answer for, but God provided when people prayed.
Caleb Miller, who was 10 when he came to the church & now serves as Youth Minister, also said that from a young age he saw how important prayer was to the ministry of the church.
Putting the needs of the unchurched ahead of our own
Margaret Wedgeworth said that she remembered a meeting where the former Pastor Leo Miller, said to the church, “If we’re going to reach this community, we’ve got to look past what people wear, look like, & the color of their skin.” She said she believes that was the point when Bedico began to grow. The condition of the heart & soul became more important to the church than outward appearance.
According to Sanchez, the church put a real emphasis on the unchurched. The clear mission of reaching unchurched people for Christ became a filter for decisions & event planning. Some church events were even moved off site just because unchurched people might not attend if it was at the church. Members were challenged to host home Bible Studies not inviting friends at church but unchurched neighbors, friends, & relatives. Then when they came, not feed them coffee & cookies, but steak & fried fish.
Bedico also had the goal of becoming known in the community. The church is in a fairly remote area & many people didn’t pass by so to become known they focused on community outreach. At one point the church sent out postcards to the community asking if they needed any repairs on their homes. Hundreds of members served specific needs of the community. They conducted Block Parties, Crawfish Boils at members homes & local community centers, etc. ”When we got out, people began to come in” said Sanchez.
Intentional Processes to Develop People
Margaret Wedgeworth recalled intentional efforts to connect with guest & people in need in the community through sending cards & praying for them. The church also started a New Members Class & a Meet Bedico Baptist Church Info Meeting to introduce church life & membership to those new to church. The church restructured internally from committees to ministry teams that were focused on getting everyone involved. Sanchez said, “When we were able to get people connected with a small group & a ministry team, we found they stayed with us for the long haul.”
Leaders also emphasized daily quiet times as a part of growing the church. Intentional effort was made to reach new people & then help them grow.
A few other things I’ve noted as keys to growth as I’ve been a part of Bedico’s story over the past 4 years:
- Increased Mission Involvement. In 1997 & before, the church reported on it Annual Church Profile a big zero under mission involvement. Beginning in 2002, that began to change. In 2002, 40 people participated in missions. In 2007, 68 participated in missions & in 2010, 136 participated in missions. Along with an increase in missions participation, Bedico sent out 12 people & over $60,000 to start a new church in a neighboring community.
- A Culture of Yes. I can say that I’ve experienced a “can do” spirit from the people of Bedico Baptist Church. As a congregation they see the possibilities, they’re not afraid to make sacrifices & face challenges. And over the past few years, I’ve asked some crazy questions: “Can I borrow 100 tables?” – “Can you house 100 volunteers in your SS rooms?” – “Can we park four trailers in your parking lot?” & more, but have always gotten, “Yes, we can do that!”
Today Bedico is working on breaking the 400 Growth Barrier but continue to reach unchurched people in their remote community. In a state where 82% of the churches are 125 & below, we need more breakout stories like Bedico’s if we’ll continue to push back the darkness into the next generation.
What have been keys to growth at your church? Does your church have prayer, reaching the unchurched, & intentional discipleship as part of its makeup? Growth takes intentionality.
Over the last two weeks the Northshore was blessed to play host to World Changers in Tangipahoa & St. Tammany Parish. 35 home repair projects were completed and dozens of local churches as well as youth groups from around the country, who paid their own way, partnered to make real change happen for elderly, disabled, disadvantaged families in our region. Thanks to FBC Ponchatoula and FBC Covington for hosting. Couldn’t have happened without them. They mobilized dozens of volunteers to prepare meals and make 100′s of volunteers comfortable on their campuses. Also, dozens of local churches prepared and delivered lunches for crews serving in the community. Dennis Ellzey, Youth Pastor at FBC Ponch and Abe Haley, Student Ministry Associate at FBC Covington did great jobs as Project Coordinators. Also, couldn’t have done it without Agency Reps who raised money for materials and provided coordination: the Fuller Center for Housing in Hammond led by Tamara Danel and St. Tammany Parish Governments Social Services Dept led by John Tobin. Construction coordinators were Tom Rabalais in Hammond and Adam Martin with Kent Construction’s Faith Division in Covington.
World Changers is a great partner for community revitalization and for cultivating a region for gospel penetration and church multiplication. It’s also a great way to bring Associational churches together for good in the community. I think every association should see if World Changers would be a fit for its region. Our National Staff rep in Louisiana is Bill Kisner - firstname.lastname@example.org. Get in touch and find out more about World Changers.
Next year we’re hoping to pull off four World Changers sessions on the Northshore: Spring Break at Camp Living Waters and Summer sessions in Hammond/Ponchatoula, Covington, & Slidell. I’ve been saying it would be neat if World Changers could do 75-100 home repair projects on the Northshore and then our local churches could match it with 75-100. 150-200 home repair projects on the Northshore in 2014! Let’s do it!
I like this line of thinking. Just like the human body stays healthy because of healthy systems – respiratory, nervous, digestive, skeletal, etc., a church needs healthy systems to stay healthy. Here’s an Assessment tool we’ve developed to help a church leadership team assess its systems. Get Nelson Searcy’s book on systems here.
ChurchSystemsAnalysis - PDF Download
With over 70-80% of churches plateaued and declining, church revitalization must be a major topic of conversation for church leaders and strategists. In the last two posts (Diagnosis and Refocuse & Re-Energize), I’ve shared our developing strategy with the Northshore Baptist Association.
So how do we Restructure or Re-Start?
If a church is diagnosed with needing restructuring or restarting, there are really only two next steps:
Step #1: Decision. The congregation must decide if large internal changes are possible or is it time to close the doors & allow something new to be born. All living things are born, they live, & they die. No New Testament Church still exists today. But even if a church continues it must die to its current way of thinking, so that a new vision can develop. Living things experience death as they age & mature & adapt to changing environments. Every growing church has had to die to various ideas, paradigms, and programs in order to grow. A final death that doesn’t lead to growth as the church exists may happen when we are unable to continue to adapt & grow through challenges faced.
- Can we afford the large internal changes that are needed?
- Do we have the resources, energy, & determination to dream a new dream for our community?
- From where we are, can we adapt to the changes of our current environment?
Step #2: Death. Once the decision to die has been made there are two options:
1) Adaption by Re-Structuring. Deciding to adapt/re-structure & grow means dying to the current model of ministry & mission. Scenarios for adaptation:
- Reverting to Mission Status & submitting to the authority of another congregation that can assist in dreaming a new dream.
- If resources are available, working with the local association to develop a plan to Assess, Align, & Advance the mission of the church.
2) Closure to Re-Start. Deciding to close/re-start means laying to rest the current church so that a brand new ministry can be started in its place. Scenarios for closure:
- Formally decide to close the church, giving the assets & liabilities to the local association so that a new church can be planted or ministry developed.
- Formally decide to close the church, giving the assets & liabilities to another local church with ties to the local community.
Next week I’ll share some of our local success stories and lessons learned.
When a church is stagnant or declining in size, diagnosis is that refocusing and re-energizing is needed. How do we refocus & re-energize? Three steps to revitalization: Assessment, Alignment, Advancement.
Step #1: ASSESSMENT.
- Discover needs of community and potential new ministries.
- Assess Leadership capability and needs.
- Identify Church Systems in need of restoration. Nelson Searcy of Church Leader Insights identifies Eight Systems of a Healthy Church:
- The Weekend Service System,
- The Outreach/Evangelism System,
- The Assimilation System,
- The Small Groups System,
- The Ministry Mobilization System,
- The Stewardship System,
- The Leadership Development System,
- The Strategy Planning System
- Research legal documents and history. History and legal documents need to be researched in order to identify potential threats to growth.
Step #2: ALIGNMENT.
- Recover Faith Factors. In Chapter Three of the book Comeback Churches, Ed Stetzer identifies three faith factors that are essential to church revitalization: 1) A renewed belief in Jesus Christ and the Mission of the Church, 2) A renewed attitude for servanthood, 3) Strategic Prayer Efforts.
- Discover/Recover the unique, God given Mission, Vision, Values. The revi team should participate in Church Planter Basic Training & take advantage of coaching networks & suggested reading lists to help discover a vision for the community.
- Make necessary identity changes. Name? Signs? Location? What identity changes may be necessary to birth new vision & energy in the church?
- Restore needed Church Systems for life and health. See above comment about Church Systems. What systems will need new energy & attention going forward?
Step #3: ADVANCEMENT.
- Vision Renewal Launch Service. Plan for a Vision Renewal Celebration as the church moves into a period of advancement and growth.
- Plant, water, and bring in the harvest. The church should experience some growth as systems are slowly restored and outreach, assimilation, small groups move people to Christ and spiritual maturity.
- Multiply disciples, leaders, and ministries. A new generation of leaders will begin to emerge that will carry the Church into the future.
- Partner in Acts 1:8 Missions. The Church will be capable of taking on missions endeavors beyond its Jerusalem and potentially assist other churches with revitalization/renewal.
Download the paper, Steps to Revitalization.
With over 70-80% of churches plateaued and declining, church revitalization must be a major topic of conversation for church leaders and strategists. In the next few posts, I’ll share the strategy we are working on with the Northshore Baptist Association. Everyone working on revitalization should be indebted to Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson for their great book Comeback Churches. One of my top gleanings from the book is the diagnostic tool for assessing a congregations needs:
This image gets even those most entrenched in the attitude “we’re fine the way we are” thinking about the need to change. Great tool to help churches diagnose their need for revitalization.
The next question is – How? How do we refocus? re-energize? Restructure? Restart?
In April of 2011, our Association did an exhaustive study of our region which covers from Holden to Slidell, along Interstate 12 in Southeast Louisiana. You can see the full reports here, and my comments here and here. This month, I compared our 2010 church health numbers with the 2012 stats for churches. Here’s a few big takeaways:
- Stats taken from each zip code where there is a Northshore Baptist church showed only a slight uptick of .4% in population growth (from 343,794 to 345,225).
- Baptisms continued to slide in Northshore churches, down 11% to 812. Down 25% from 1990′s all time high of 1,077. Ten Northshore Baptist churches reported zero baptisms. Seventeen more reported five or less.
- Sunday School/Bible Study attendance increased 2%. 6,786 attended a Bible Study on any given weekend which is equal to 2% of the population.
- Worship attendance increased 1% to 11,312 individuals attending a worship service in a Northshore Baptist Church on any given weekend. That still equals to only 3.3% of the population.
- Receipts increased by 10% while missions giving decreased 15%. Possibly caused by belt tightening going on due to the poor economy over the last few years. Also, the “Institutional Internalization” noted as a national trend by Dr. Randy Stone in 2011, as churches “preserve their institution rather than pursue the mission.”
Download the Statistical Summaries of the Northshore PROBE Two Years Later for yourself:
- Entire Northshore - NSBA Probe – 2012
- Tangi-Livingston Area - NSBA Probe:Tangi-Livingston – 2012
- West St. Tammany - NSBA Probe:WST – 2012
- East St. Tammany - NSBA Probe:EST – 2012
How do we move forward? In 2011, we outlined four keys and they are still true and still our focus.
A breakout church is defined by Thom Rainer in his book by that title as a church that reaches at least one person for Christ every two weeks or 26 persons per year, has a conversion ratio of 20:1 or 1 conversion for every 20 members per year, has tenured and consistent leadership, and the church makes a clear and positive impact on its community. The momentum of growing churches breaking out will help us catch up with population growth and move past a season of decline.
Healthier and Riskier Church Planting
Healthier church planting means church planting that is led by churches with a heart to multiply and reproduce themselves for the sake of kingdom expansion. So, what’s needed for healthier church planting is healthy mother churches with a heart to reproduce. As Bob Roberts says in his great book The Multiplying Church, “The future of faith in America (and anywhere in the world, for that matter) is not tied to planting more churches, but in raising up of mother congregations of every tribe, tongue, denomination, and network that are reproducing… The hope is in pregnant mother churches.”
Riskier church planting would be multiplication that targets hard to reach areas and unchurched pockets of our population. Missiologist Alan Hirsch suggests that current church models are reaching out to smaller and smaller segment of the population, with possibly as much as 60% of America untargeted by our evangelistic and outreach efforts. Our probe identified multi-housing residents as one potential segment that is underserved. Others may be those in their early 20’s with very little understanding of religion in any form. We need some church plants that go beyond planting a worship service that looks similar to others in the community, but will ask the question “Where is the church not?” and go there with the gospel. We need some church plants that have different scorecards and different expectations, but will faithfully deliver the message of Christ to unchurched people.
Partners in Revitalization
Church revitalization is needed to turn momentum around for congregations that are not effectively reaching their communities. Churches are needed who are willing to adopt or sponsor or merge with existing congregations for the glory of God. And churches are needed who are willing to admit there in need of coming under the wing of a benevolent parent church or work with a church wanting to help then in a revitalization effort.
A Discipleship Revolution
Call it revival, lay renewal, or awakening, what we need is a revolution of discipleship that will lead Northshore Christians to multiply themselves spreading the Gospel like a sneeze to their neighbors, classmates, coworkers, and beyond. In his book Church 3.0, Neil Cole observes, “we have lowered the bar of what it means to be a Christian, such that simply showing up to the weekly one-hour event with some regularity and a checkbook is all it takes.” We must refocus on making disciples who will reproduce themselves by telling others, inviting others, and discipling others.
“Don’t just invite people to a meeting, invite them into your life” – Small Group Training Notes from @RickHowerton
Great day of learning yesterday with Rick Howerton. Rick was gracious to give a day to leaders in the Greater New Orleans area. On the Northshore, we found that only about 4% of the population attends an evangelical Bible Study of any kind. Small Group leaders are needed to shepherd people to maturity in Christ.
Here’s a few big takeaways from his talks.
- A small group is four to twelve people doing the Christian life deeply together, REALLY. It’s more than just a class. They are more than just friends. They are fellow disciples.
- Churches can choose to run programs or grow people. Small groups is the best way to grow people.
- The goal of church is not to get people to stick, but to make disciples that make disciples.
- The goal of small groups is to make disciples that makes disciples. Not just to help people become good friends, but to move them to maturity in Christ.
- Don’t just invite people to a meeting, invite them into your life.
- On expectations and commitment: If you continually lower the bar, it will accomplish nothing in someones life.
- On Multiplying Groups: Start each group with the vision and expectation that it will multiply. Have an apprentice leader from the beginning that is there to multiply the group. The group that doesn’t multiply in 24 months, never will.
- When groups don’t want to multiply: Teach them that the mission of God is more important than the desires of individuals. Ask, “What if the first group of 12 would have chosen to just stay together?”
- On reproducing leaders: People don’t do what they’ve been told to do, they do what they see someone they trust doing.
- On keys to small group leadership: Stay connected with God, Confess all known sin, Be filled with the Holy Spirit on a Daily Basis, Prioritize your daily devotional life, Depend on God more than techniques.
- The best person to cast vision for small groups is the Sr. Pastor. The Sr. Pastor should be leading or attending a group.
Looking forward to learning more from Rick in the future. He blogs daily HERE. Great daily dose of solid Small Group thinking. Also, his latest book is A Different Kind of Tribe, published through NavPress.
Looking forward to having Rick Howerton from NavPress with us on the Northshore this coming Monday, April 15th. Two opportunities for free training from Rick on Monday:
- 9am-12noon @ New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Leavell Center.
- 6:30-8:30pm @ FBC Mandeville. Register Here. Childcare available for kids under four.
Invite your small group leaders.
AND his book New Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic is FREE today and tomorrow at the Kindle Store.
Get more info about Rick’s ministry at his blog.
Love what one Northshore church is doing to get their small groups On Mission For Others. FBC Mandeville is having each of their Life Groups choose a “NEAR Mission Project” to engage in together. They’ve started a blog to communicate local opportunities for mission. Check it out: http://fbcmandeville.blogspot.com/.
Imagine the possibilities for your Small Groups or Sunday School classes…