***UPDATE: The Vision Plan was approved by the church on August 17, 2016 . To read about what’s next, click here.
The old cliché says, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” That’s not only true in business, sports, and family but it can also be true in church. However, as believers, we know that there’s more to success than just human planning. The book of Proverbs says, “Man plans his ways but the Lord directs his steps.” (Prov 16:9) We have a sovereign God overseeing it all. And that’s reassuring.
Over the past year, our elders have been talking and praying about plans. We’ve discussed where our church is (in the present) and where we see God leading us (in the future). A while back, we indicated, to the church, that we believed God was leading us into the next phase of ministry. However, we were unclear on what the specifics might be – and so we planned to reach out for some guidance.
Initially, we wanted to hire a church growth consulting firm, Lifeway’s Visioneering Studios, to provide us with proposals. The church approved the necessary money to make it happen. Just before we secured Visioneering Studios, though, we discovered that the very same consulting was already available to us, by our state Baptist convention, the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV). Their consulting was area-specific, more readily available and, best of all, FREE! As a result, the elders decided to forego hiring Visioneering Studios and, instead, to receive a full analysis and evaluation from the SBCV.
Soon after, they sent two consultants who toured our facilities, talked about our needs and vision, and evaluated our ministries. Within days, they provided us with an exhaustive list of short-term and long-term recommendations.
In light of their advice and the feedback we have received from our staff, Sunday School directors and teachers, the elders are proposing the following “Forest Baptist Church Vision Plan.”
What you have, here, is not just a new Sunday School format – it is a more comprehensive proposal that addresses our future direction as a church. Some parts are concrete ideas that require immediate action. Other parts are still in the planning stages and will require much prayer.
The plan has a three-fold emphasis:
Each one is explained below. This plan will be voted on at a special, called Members’ Meeting on Wednesday, August 17 at 6:30pm. (Pay special attention to the “What You Need to Know…” boxes below.)
Add early Sunday School option and new outreach ministries.
Early Sunday School Option
Sunday School is growing at FBC. A year ago, we rearranged some of our classes to help our Preschool & Children areas. (Before we forget, the elders want to publicly thank those adult classes who have been meeting in smaller rooms to make this happen. We greatly appreciate you for doing this!)
In an effort to provide additional space for everyone but also to maintain our current times, the elders are proposing the following, new format:
New Sunday Morning Format
8:30am – Sunday School (Classes for all ages)
9:30am – Sunday School & Worship (Classes for all ages.)
11:00am – Worship (Childcare: Birth – Kindergarten.)
During the 8:30am time, we will no longer have a worship service but will have Sunday School for all ages (with various preschool & children’s classes combined, as initially needed.) The preschool, children, and adult classes will meet in the main building, while the youth and college will meet at The Underground. The early Sunday School will dismiss at 9:20am.
During the 9:30am time, we will provide Sunday School and our early worship gathering. The Sunday School classes, for Birth – College, will be exactly as they are now (with, possibly, just a change in teacher or location.) There will also be many adult classes offered. The worship service will meet in the sanctuary. This Sunday School and worship will dismiss at 10:45am.
During the 11:00am time, we will provide our later worship gathering. Childcare will be provided for birth through kindergarten. In place of Children’s Church, there will be a new, Special Needs Class available (1st – 12th grade) starting later this year. This service will dismiss when I shut up around 12:15pm (like now).
In addition to improving Sunday School options, we want to immediately develop more intentional outreach ministries so that we can fill these now-spacious classes with men and women who need to grow in Christ.
Discussions are taking place, now, about reaching our community in numerous ways. Examples of what we can do include:
- Free Bible-based ESL (English as a Second Language) classes
- Evangelism/apologetics training classes
- Building more intentional relationships with area schools
- Relaunching Hope4Forest events and servant-evangelism projects
What you need to know about GROW:
- • This part of the proposal is to adopt a new Sunday format starting Sept 4.
- • Class details (teachers, times, maps, etc.) will be mailed to you by Aug 5.
- • Sunday School promotion will NOT happen until Sunday, Sept 4.
- • If you have questions or want to serve, please contact Pastor Will.
Obtain plans for new sanctuary and office construction.
Even with a new Sunday morning format, we are aware that this is not a permanent solution to every space need that we have or will have. We currently have staff offices in closet-sized rooms and in shared-spaces. Our conference room is, itself, an old office that is inadequate.
God has blessed us with 10 acres of land – much of which sits unused. We believe that the time is coming for that to change. Our SBCV consultants have advised us that building new sanctuary space (including office and meeting spaces) while revamping existing space (for classrooms or storage) is the most affordable option for additional construction.
With that suggestion in mind, we envision constructing a new sanctuary with adjoining offices and meeting spaces as well as additional parking. This new construction would allow us to also retool some of our current, existing space. For instance, we would want to revamp our current:
- Fellowship Hall into Classes (4 large or 6 medium sized rooms)
- Kitchen into Offices/Storage Space
- Sanctuary into a spacious Fellowship Hall
- Offices/Choir Room into Kitchen
While only a few members may remember it, the transition outlined above was the original design for our current sanctuary. Of course, any future building will take time to research, design, consider, approve, fund, construct and complete. We do not want to rush into it, but we also want to be proactive in our foresight and planning.
As you can guess, building means money and money, quite often, means debt. In 2013, we celebrated being debt free as a church – and what a wonderful celebration that was! Mindful of this, the elders do not intend for us to take on a crippling debt again.
In an effort to think ahead, the elders have discussed some preliminary financial ideas to help us avoid another mammoth debt. To be clear, we are not proposing anything financially specific at this time, but we do want the congregation to be aware of what we, as leaders, have discussed regarding future finances:
- A sizeable amount from our Gen. Fund can be used to start a Building Fund.
- The congregation can then give directly to the Building Fund to grow it.
- Ideally we would have at least 1/2 of the money needed before construction.
- Additional financing, if needed, should be taken out for no more than 10 years.
Once again, this part of the “FBC Vision Plan” is not about breaking ground in 6 months nor is it about obnoxious fundraising. It is an effort to move forward in acquiring specific details so that the congregation can know what we should pray about and work towards. We will eventually need people to serve on a Building Team.
What you need to know about BUILD:
- • This part of the proposal is to authorize the elders to obtain estimates, building recommendations, financing options, etc. for future construction.
- • A detailed building report/proposal will be given by July, 2017.
- • If you have suggestions, or a desire to assist, please contact Pastor Tyler.
Start a new, area church (or revitalize an existing one).
A new format and a new building can help many of our pressing needs as a church, but nothing will help our community and the kingdom quite like planting or revitalizing a church.
This idea, of church planting, is not a new one for us. We’re currently assisting and financially supporting two church plants, Iglesia de las Americas (with Pastor Carlos Payan, a Spanish-speaking church in Lynchburg) and Beit Ilhubiz (with Pastor Ayman Lolas, an Arabic-speaking church in Northern Va.) However, our partnership with these plants has been mostly financial and from a distance.
This new proposal would be a more involved, hands-on work in our area – one that would likely allow us to give money and people to make it happen. FBC “seed” members would be trained, equipped and commissioned to leave us for this work.
Once again, the elders have discussed some preliminary ideas about a future plant or revitalization work. To be clear, we are not proposing anything specific at this time, but we do want the congregation to be aware of what we have discussed.
- Given the number of smaller, dying churches in Bedford/Lynchburg area, revitalizing seems like the more urgent need– though we want to research this.
- Our state convention, the SBCV, has already approached us about this kind of work and wants to lend their support and guidance to make it happen.
- If a new church plant is needed, we would give special consideration to an ethnic/linguistic-specific plant or specific regions/communities nearby that are lacking a healthy Baptist church.
No one would be required to “leave” to make a plant or revitalization happen. However, we suspect that there are members who love FBC but who would also love to see a new work begin (or re-begin) closer to home or in a specific community.
Prioritizing this kind of work does not sound like good church growth. Honestly, it’s not. But it is good kingdom growth – and that’s what we should primarily be working towards. We will need people to serve on a Planting Team to cast this vision.
What you need to know about PLANT:
- • This part of the proposal is to authorize the elders to investigate area needs regarding church planting and/or revitalization.
- • A detailed report/proposal will be given to the church by April, 2017.
- • If you have suggestions, or a desire to assist, please contact Pastor Joe.
I know that this is a lot to take in. (Trust me, it’s a lot to try and explain in such a brief space.) We hope you’ll take this home, read it over and join us in praying about it. Next Sunday we plan to share a bit more details from the pulpit. Remember, we plan to mail more details to all members by Wed, Aug 5 and the called Members’ Meeting to vote on this proposal will be Wed, Aug 17.
The way that God has steered our conversations, needs, path and resources over the past few months, has been remarkable. It has led us, as elders, to believe that God has truly been guiding our steps in this direction. We hope and trust that He will confirm this in, you, the church in the days ahead.