2020 Vision – Part 1
In 1972, Yogi Berra and his wife, Carmen, were on their way to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. As the hours rolled on and the sites stayed unfamiliar, Yogi tried to put Carmen’s mind to rest by saying, “We’re lost; but we’re making good time.” Efficiency is a poor substitute for being lost, but it provides a good metaphor for thinking about the future of church. We can move quickly and still be going the wrong way.
We’re in the midst of a strategic planning process where we’re discerning God’s call for us for the next 3-5 years. If you’re ever lost on a trip, most people do one of three things.
- Keep driving in the same direction and hope we get there
- Refuse to ask directions
- Blame our situation on the GPS, the map, or the highway department
If we’re on a journey together as a congregation, however, it’s often hard to tell which way we’re going. Life is generally good; our church is growing; and we’re moving pretty quickly for most people. A process like this helps us to stop, assess where we are, and move together as a church body toward our mission.
In 2004, First Baptist identified a strategic plan that resulted in the strategic decisions to remain downtown and birth the ministries that we have today, including our Young Adult Ministry, the Welcome Center, and the Traditional and Contemporary Worship schedule.
The opportunities have never been greater to Love Tallahassee. With over 200 new members in the last 24 months, we have been blessed by the conversions to Christ and the additions to First Baptist. Our congregation has increased their giving to the budget 26% in the last 24 months, and new ministries and mission opportunities continue to come our way. New Life Groups have begun all across our community, and for 13 years we continue to carry out great initiatives like First Love.
We do have several challenges that are on the immediate horizon. Thirty percent of Tallahassee does not identify with any church family at all. 70% of the 80,000 college students do not believe in Jesus Christ. Many believe in God, but most do not believe in Jesus. 40% of the households with children in Leon County are parented by a single parent. 40% of children cannot pass their math and reading proficiencies. 14,000 children in the state of Florida are in some sort of foster care or out of home care. 1 out of every 3 black male children will spend a portion of their lives in prison. These are just a few of several examples that many of us could cite of the needs of the gospel.
As a church family, we also have some very clear needs on the horizon. Our population is aging, and the number of middle aged and young adults do not nearly replace the amount of 60+ adults in our congregation. Our current facilities need approximately $6 million in estimated renovations in the coming years. We do not have adequate off street parking to provide for Weekday, College students, families, and senior adults for a growing church.
Our church has a very clearly defined Mission. Our mission as a church is to be a God-centered, Bible-directed, people-focused, caring body of Baptized believers in Jesus Christ; led by the Holy Spirit in worshipping, serving, and sharing Christ, and in equipping believers to carry out the Great Commission in the community and throughout the world.
Our vision for ministry changes and adapts to the needs and passions around us. Every 5 years, we revisit the vision that God has for us for this season. Vision gives us a focus and prioritizes our budget, ministries, and planning. It gives us a chance to create a structure for our leadership that will allow us to accomplish the ministries in an effective empowering way to do what Paul said in Ephesians 4, “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.”
Right now, we are on a trajectory to do some very good things in our congregation, and God continues to bless us. We could continue the process we are on of making incremental changes and reaching those that God is bringing to us. However, as often we’ve found in most organizations, the deep, substantive impact that we can have on lives only comes with very deep prayer, discernment, unity, and time. We also realize with the age and demographics of our congregation, we are facing an aging population with relatively fewer middle aged and younger adults behind to carry the torch that is being passed from one generation to the next. By asking together what kind of church we want to be now (during times of blessing), we’ll be prepared to make any shifts necessary to adjust our plans to God’s direction for us.
During times of substantive change in my life, I’ve always appreciated an outside trusted source. Usually whatever he or she says to me is what I needed to hear at the right time and is usually validated by the people that I love and care for. Whether retreat, revivals, or even premarital counseling, a non family and church member helps me sort through the things that I would normally have overlooked.
Our church has sought the professional help of consultants for Together we Build, Here for Life, and the Pastor Search. Our consultant throughout this process has been Dr. James Furr, President of the Houston Graduate School of Theology in Houston, Texas. He is co-author of the Jossey-Bass book and workbook Leading Congregational Change.
With his help, and the input of over 250 members, staff, the Strategic Planning Committee, and deacons, we’ve proposed five outcomes that we would like to see by 2020.
- Faithful Disciples
- Strong Homes
- Connected Church
- Transformed City
- Servant Leaders
No GPS can fix bad information or overcome distraction. If you enter the information wrongly into the program, or you become so distracted while driving, even good directions can’t help you navigate bad behavior. Take a few moments, stop the car of your life, and thank God for First Baptist. The next few years promise to build upon the great work of those who have gone before us. My hope is that we’ll be found faithful.