Archive for November, 2019

by Mark Larson

With the year 2020 only weeks away, this seems like a good time to check in on our many initiatives; to see how God has used our church to spread his seeds of love.

As we reexamine the 12 goals of our 2020 Vision, let’s think about two questions: “What did we accomplish?” and “What did we learn about God’s will for Richmond’s First Baptist Church?”

Your level of involvement in the 2020 Vision process will inform your answers. Were you among the hundreds who participated in the town halls? They produced a thousand responses that guided the 2020 Vision Team. Were you among the hundred who volunteered for one of the twelve Implementation Teams?

As the co-chair of the 2020 Vision process, I was blessed to watch over the entire process for four years and observe each team pour their souls into the planning.

As Bill Wilson predicted, not all our goals were realized as envisioned—but so many were. I know God continues to use each team’s work for the benefit of our church and His Kingdom. Here’s my perspective on what was accomplished:

Don't look now; it's almost 2020We now have a discipleship blueprint for our children and youth programs. This guide spells out how we seek to nurture the faith of our children, their growth in the image of Christ, and lead them to become followers of Jesus.

Well-attended marriage enrichment seminars continue to be held every fifth Sunday. A part of this effort is a social media site called “Us First” that regularly sends encouragement and helpful tips for sustaining a healthy marriage.

Don't look now; it's almost 2020Have you seen our community garden lately? The first full year in partnership with Tricycle Gardens went very well. Urban farmers work one-acre plots at the church’s property in Hanover County after being trained by Tricycle. Fresh produce from the First Baptist plot was harvested throughout the summer and used to feed families in “food desert” areas in Richmond.

Our partnership with local schools Glen Lea Elementary and Albert Hill Middle continues through the work of several dedicated members. They provide support to teachers, take on small projects, and serve as lunch buddies to students. Our Children’s Ministry is getting involved through a mission project to collect clothes for children at Glen Lea.

The Adult Discipleship team was very ambitious in setting out ten objectives for the Formation Team to implement over time. “Leadership FBC” continues to prepare our emerging lay leaders for service to our church.

New this summer was 3D groups (dinner, discussion, discipleship).  Each 3D group had 8 – 10 participants who meet over dinner to delve deeper into the pastor’s most recent sermon. The small group size provided a comfortable place for discussion. New 3D leaders are being trained as we form new groups.

Speaking of small groups, some initiatives haven’t yet bloomed to the degree we hoped: interest groups and the formation of 100 small groups. Having common goals, these two teams joined efforts but still found it challenging to start and sustain new small groups.

In trying to understand the challenges, we realized over 100 groups already exist with some connection to FBC. These groups are not necessarily small nor even meet within our Monument Avenue facility, but they provide a sense of community that is so important for spiritual and personal relationships. New small group creation remains a high priority and church leadership is exploring ways to nurture and sustain such groups.

Another team with a similar realization looked at our connection to the neighborhoods that surround our church. While they initiated several outreach activities, a quick survey revealed we are already very engaged with our neighbors. Would you believe that on an average week, as many as 500 neighbors walk through First Baptist’s doors? Most of these are young families who participate in Upward, Scouts, City Singers Youth Choir, Vacation Bible School and First Baptist Preschool.

So we have all these neighbors already coming into our building each week. There seems to be an obvious opportunity for invitation right in front of us.

For two years, a small group of young adults provided worship at an alternative time other than Sunday morning. The “Gathering at Five” was an intimate and casual Sunday evening service with an average attendance of around 30. In the end, it became apparent that most participants had already attended church that morning. They were there primarily to support the worship team and provide a welcoming atmosphere. Though it didn’t take off as envisioned, many friendships were formed and several members were given a chance to be worship leaders.

Don't look now; it's almost 2020As a result of the visioning process, our communication team now has a clearer picture of how media is changing and a plan for how it can be used most effectively at FBC. With the use of Shelby Systems as our new database and a completely redesigned website, members, regular attendees and staff are now better informed and connected. The new system also provides a mobile app with a pictorial directory of contact information for those who sign into the system and populate it with their data. A giving portal is also available for those who prefer to give online.

Also in the near future, expect a new focus on telling the First Baptist story so others in Richmond can see and join our mission efforts.

Finally, a team examined how we use our gathering spaces. They listened to four years of feedback from all the other teams and soon will propose a few changes to common spaces around the church. Tweaking a few spaces really could help us welcome and connect with all who enter our doors.

A common thread seems woven into the mission and results of each team. It’s a desire to build and strengthen relationships within the family, with each other, and with our neighbors across Richmond. This is an echo of Christ’s command that we love God with all our heart, soul, and mind—and love our neighbors as ourselves.

When relationships are carefully planted and nurtured, love is bound to grow!




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