During the Church Conference that took place on February 28, 2021, members discussed three proposed schedules for Sunday morning activities at First Baptist Church. We recognize the deep hunger our members feel for the connection to community and the desire to resume a Sunday morning schedule that includes Sunday school. Each of these possible schedules carries with it ramifications that reach beyond the assembling of our congregation on Sunday mornings. Specifically, it has a significant impact on the job description of any potential new staff position.
We would like to summarize the three proposed plans and the implications of each in this letter. These are not the only options we considered, but they were three that reflected many of the values you articulated as being important to First Baptist. On March 14, we will meet again to discuss these proposed schedules and to make a selection that will establish a plan for us to move forward.
Why do we have to make a choice?
The proposed schedules cannot be separated from two specific concerns related to staffing and church values.
In order to provide Sunday school and Worship services to all, we need a schedule that allows all of our ministers to reach the individuals they are here to serve. Since 2018, we have lost 2.5 staff positions to retirement and relocation (Christian Education, Associate Pastor, Pastoral Care). These have created significant needs in the area of Discipleship, Pastoral Care, and Administration. The pandemic has also revealed areas of need as we seek to minister in a different world from the one we were in merely a year ago.
Assessed Values and Needs
It was important to the Search Committee that the process to hire additional staff be conducted within a larger context of discernment regarding the larger values and needs of our church. In November, the committee led our congregation in a discussion of identifying deeply held values that define the character of First Baptist Griffin.
Following the discussion, the committee solicited input from the congregation in the form of a survey. This survey gave members a chance to identify the values that best described First Baptist as well as some of the most pressing needs requiring attention. The committee did not want to hire someone prematurely without fully understanding the needs and desires of the church moving forward, particularly given the circumstances of the past year.
They received feedback from 159 individuals, including 79 aged 65+, 34 aged 46-65, 42 aged 30-45, and 4 aged 18-29. The top four values that surfaced from this feedback may be summarized as follows:
- Sense of family/community (76%)
- Commitment to Scripture (58%)
- Authenticity in Worship (56%)
- Missional Involvement (49%)
The church responded that the following areas were current strengths for FBC Griffin that have met needs in the past 12 months:
- Relationships/Family/Sense of Belonging
- Options offered for worship, from traditional to contemporary
- Our Leadership (ministers and deacons)
- Online Presence during this Pandemic
Likewise, the challenges that were most frequently identified in the survey can be summarized as follows:
- Building relationships as we come back together in worship, small groups, and service.
- Building our children, youth, young adult, and small group ministries (concerns related to intentional discipleship for all members).
- Doing better in-reach (pastoral care) and outreach (missions).
- Need for additional minister to relieve the burden on our current staff.
What are the proposed plans?
Taking these values, strengths, and challenges into consideration, we are proposing three options that we might pursue as a church moving into the season of our life together. Not one of these plans is perfect. Each one comes with a series of opportunities as well as a series of challenges that we will have to navigate.
Plan 1: Service, Sunday school, Service
9:00 am Celebration Service
10:05 am Sunday school
11:15 am Connexion Service
Plan 1 Opportunities:
This plan affords the congregation the opportunity to keep Sunday school classes intact. Individuals would not have to choose their service over a Sunday school or vice versa. Additionally, separating the services allows our current ministerial staff to be available to minister in both the Celebration and Connexion Services. As a result, we would be able to hire additional staff to directly address areas we discovered need our attention based on feedback from the congregation (most likely in the areas of Pastoral Care and Discipleship).
Plan 1 Challenges:
Everyone will have to make some kind of adjustment in the meeting times. Additionally, volunteers in these Services (worship teams, choir, technical team, and volunteers) would need to be in a bit earlier than they are currently meeting.
Plan 2: Service/Sunday school, Service/Sunday school
9:30 am Celebration Service and simultaneous Sunday school
11:00 am Connexion Service and simultaneous Sunday school
Plan 2 Opportunities:
This plan allows the Senior Pastor to be fully present in both Celebration and Connexion Services. Sunday school classes have greater flexibility in their meeting times. Finally, the church can hire additional staff to directly address areas of need identified by the congregation.
Plan 2 Challenges:
Under this plan, individuals must choose a service and a Sunday school time. In many cases, this choice will divide Sunday school classes where members attend different worship services. This plan also requires us to increase our volunteer base to meet the needs of youth and children. Additionally, the Youth and Children’s Ministers will be forced to choose between being present to lead in worship and being present to their age-specific ministries. (Seth and Sarah can’t be leading in worship and helping with Sunday school at the same time.) Finally, input we received from colleagues at churches that employ a similar model have warned that this may further increase the feeling of two distinct churches.
Plan 3: Sunday school, Service/Service
9:30 am Sunday school
11:00 am simultaneous Celebration Service and Connexion Service
Plan 3 Opportunities:
This plan is the schedule we followed prior to the pandemic. It featured a unified Sunday school time, and it is familiar to us. The later start time for both services (11:00) make preparation somewhat easier on musicians (warming up vocal chords, for example) and volunteers.
Plan 3 Challenges:
Should we return to this plan, we would be limited in the personnel we could hire because a significant portion of that job description would entail worship/sermon preparation and leadership. This person would likely become the primary preacher in the Celebration service, rotating with the Senior Pastor approximately once a month. This plan also returns us to the strain of moving ministers, volunteers, and deacons between services — sometimes in very impractical ways. (We have received multiple concerns from deacons and volunteers about being double scheduled for offering, greeting, prayer, or communion and families not being able to worship together as a result.) While our members have frequently affirmed the importance of providing services that speak to different styles, they have also lamented feeling as if they had to choose one over the other.
Where is the Chapel Service being factored into this plan?
Given the current precautions we are taking related to the pandemic, we cannot factor the Chapel Service into this formula just yet. Even with the possibility of the vaccine being more widely available in the near future, medical professionals are suggesting that some of these safety protocols will be in place for an unforeseen time. The Chapel can only seat a very limited number of physically distanced individuals and we do not believe that it is conducive for worship at this time. We will have to address the resumption of the Chapel Service at a time when the need for pandemic precautions has subsided.
What about our broadcasts?
Generally speaking, our broadcast services would remain unchanged. Regardless of the plan selected, we will continue to maintain our 11:00 time slot on Comcast and broadcast the Celebration service there. The online broadcasts (website, Facebook, etc.) will be adjusted to their “live” times, depending on the plan selected.
Now that you know why we have proposed differing plans for resuming Sunday school and you know the specific details of the plans, we ask that you prayerfully consider each over the next two weeks. As Steven said at the end of the meeting, we will be happy to meet with any Sunday school class, small group, or individual in the next two weeks to walk you through these plans and the thought process behind each one.
We encourage you to join us on March 14 during the Church-wide Listening Session to discuss these options with the larger congregation in attendance. There will also be an option for you to participate in this meeting online. You will be able to cast a vote for the option of your choice starting on Monday, March 15. This may be done in one of three ways.
- You may vote through the Church Community Builder (CCB) Website anytime between March 15-26. (Please note that you will need a login for that website to access the digital ballot. If you have not already set up your login for CCB, we can help you do that if you will call the church office.)
- You may call the church office and request that a paper ballot be mailed to you. All requests need to be submitted by Wednesday, March 17 to ensure that you will have time to receive the ballot and return it by Friday, March 26.
- You may call the church office and dictate your choices to Lisa, Leila, or Leigh Ann. They will complete an anonymous paper ballot on your behalf that will be transferred to the Church Clerk. Separately, they will record that you have cast your vote.
Thank you for taking the time to carefully consider these options. Our earnest hope and prayer is that the Spirit will help us move towards one heart and one mind, looking at the long-term future for what God wants to do at First Baptist Church. We all love this church and want the very best for it moving ahead.