Thanks for the email. I will be glad to share any insights with you. Of course, I think the greatest thing in the life of Kennesaw First Baptist Church is that God is blessing and giving us good steady growth. It is a real joy to watch God work.
Here’s the answer to your questions:
I came to Kennesaw First Baptist Church in February of 2008. The church had gone through a very difficult time of disunity and decline. The church had declined from running 700-800 in worship in 2000 and the mid 500-600’s in Sunday School to the low 300’s in worship and around 300 in Sunday School. The former staff had be very splintered, many left the church, morale was very low and ultimately most of the staff resigned. The general feeling was that the church was a sinking ship. The church was discouraged from an 18 month period of being without a Pastor and operating on part-time and interim staff.
Currently the church had turned around and in three years is now averaging 550 in worship and around 500 in Sunday School. The spirit is strong, the church is unified, and exciting. We are very engaged in the community. We are an evangelistic church. God is blessing. We also are in process of planning to build in the next few years. We have gone to two Sunday School’s successfully and recently had a great Capital Stewardship campaign. I feel that we are now officially a turn around church” with a bright future ahead of us.
There are many victories but I would say that several things that come to mind would have to be now having ushers seat people because of lack of space. Our congregation is very excited when they have to get up and make room for others to sit down. For several years they watched attendance dwindle. While they continued with more than one worship service, the number of empty chairs caused deep discouragement to those present. Every week when areas are blocked off for late comers and then when people are asked to move in I see the delight in the people’s eyes. Deep down I know that their hope has returned and with it has come a confidence that the church can and is making a difference.
I believe that another victory is the number of people who want to be “on mission.” Our number of mission trips have tripled in the last year and the church has now adopted a people group in Africa. Also, it is normal to have 100+ volunteers that help with community outreach events. A new culture has been created. There is a deep love for our community and for those who don’t know Christ world-wide. Also, our church has become diverse. Before the vast majority of the people in our congregation were NorthAmerican Caucasian— now there are people in the congregation from many countries around the world. Most recently it seems that God is bringing many who were born in Haiti.
3. Failures and Learnings
When we first went to two Sunday Schools we made some assumptions that required us to back up and change. Some of the changes related to service times and others related to service style. We learned that service times are important to our younger families. Whether we liked it or not, earlier times for younger families simply did not work . Furthermore, we had to carefully consider the importance of two types of worship styles. Our attempts at blending did not work. While we did not think that our church would respond to slight changes in worship styles we were desperately wrong. When we recognized that it did not work, we made the adjustment and admitted that it did not work. The church responded well. Admitting that something does not work helped us with leadership instead of making people doubt our leadership. They seemed to appreciate the fact that we were honest and transparent. As someone once said, “If the horse is dead dismount.” We did, got on a new horse, and the growth has continued ever since.
4. Pastor’s learning
I have learned that there is no place for pride in ministry. While this seems to be a simple and Biblical concept, application can be challenging. I have learned that people are motivated by humility and love. When these two are put together something powerful happens. Furthermore, I have learned that it is truly impossible to lead without a vision. When God called me here I truly had a vision. The challenges of having a vision has been exciting and frightening all at the same time. Often we feel responsible for carrying out the vision, yet the reality is—we must lead and rely on God to accomplish that which He has revealed to us. When a real vision is in a Pastor’s heart, it must be repeated often. Also, it is important to be patient and be willing to stay as long as it takes for God’s vision to be accomplished. People are consistently listening, praying, and responding to the vision your communicate. It is interesting to hear people start using your language and lingo to share with others what your church is about. Sheep definitely repeat the shepherd. Many problems are solved though consistent communication of vision. Furthermore, the people know if you love them. It is very important to tell them through words and actions. Also, I personally get involved in our outreach and ministry events. I was asked early in my ministry here why I was out doing the outreach work with them. They like to be led not only by word but by example. I expect our staff to lead in the same manner. When our whole staff gets involved, the people are highly motivated to do the same.
Josh, I hope this helps. If you need to talk about any of these items please don’t hesitate to call. My cell is 678-699-6458.
Kennesaw First Baptist Church