One of the books our Missions Team has been reading together this year is City Changers; Being the Presence of Christ in Your Community by Alan Platt. He challenged us to consider a hard truth: those outside the church will see as meaningless the church’s attempts to engage and connect if we do not genuinely care about them as people first. This became an important truth for us. Platt wrote:
“We can engage Babylon by caring about its people. If you’re bringing a message of change but your attitude and actions reveal that you don’t really care for the people you’re offering it to, not many are likely to want what you’re selling. But if you demonstrate a burdened heart for the people and their hurts, the situation will be different. If you actually care for them as people and families, not to judge them or preach to them but to love them as fellow sojourners, they’ll be more likely to want what you’ve got. This is how we become God’s presence within the world.”
It is important for a church to go outside the walls of the building and into the community. I think most churches believe this, at least in theory. It’s difficult to move from the academic understanding to the practical application. First Baptist Church had struggled with this for years. God is preparing the people here for a different future. We desire to see the people who make up First Baptist Church mobilized and involved in their communities for the sake of the Gospel. Therefore, we want to sponsor or participate in opportunities and make strategic partnerships in the community where First Baptist Church is represented by her members and attendees. These events and partnerships will provide opportunities to engage with individuals and the community at large in ways that are meaningful. I share the following strategies not as a means of prideful boasting, but as a demonstration of how First Baptist Church will move community ministry from the abstract to the concrete – from somewhere in the air to a certain spot on the ground – from theory to practice – from a good idea to strategic plans. Based on our context, resources, and vision, we’re pushing forward in four areas. I’ll share the first two today.
Strategy #1: The Taylor County School District is our largest mission field. We will seek to establish long-term partnerships that positively affect the lives of students and their families.
- At Perry Primary School, we have adopted the 2nd grade for the 2018-2019 school year. This adoption includes prayer support for teachers and students, an annual recognition during Teacher Appreciation Week, assistance with school supplies, etc.
- Also, at Perry Primary School, with Florida Baptist’s Write Beside You School Initiative in view, we are enlisting volunteers to spend one-half hour a week, every week with a student who struggles reading on grade level. Our volunteers will see the same student every week. Consistent time spent with the same student fosters a sense of consistency and trust that many children lack today.
- Our school superintendent has asked for help from the churches of our community. His desire is to have mentors in all schools.
- Several times last year, First Baptist Church worked the concession stand during Friday night football games. This gave parents of the high school band members an opportunity to watch their children perform on the field. We will continue this partnership this year.
- We will seek opportunities in other sports where our people are already involved as coaches and staff. to be of service to athletes and parents.
Strategy #2: We live in an area prone to natural disaster (hurricanes, storms, flooding, etc.). We will be prepared to assist the members of First Baptist Church, as well as the members of our community when their lives are disrupted, or they are displaced by natural disaster.
1. Taylor County Emergency Management
- We will strengthen our partnership with TCEM. This partnership will include, at a minimum, the use of our buildings and property in times of sheltering and evacuation. We will continue our service, in conjunction with TCEM, as a cold-weather warming station.
2. Florida Baptist Convention Disaster Relief
- We will make/have made ourselves available to serve as a place of staging/service in times hurricane/storm relief. This assistance may include the use of parking lots, kitchen, student center, etc.
3. Neighborhood Awareness
- It is important for us to be aware of our immediate neighbors and assist with the after-effects of hurricanes/storms (debris removal, etc.). We will ensure the same assistance for our membership as well.
4. Facilities Renovation
- I believe we have a great deal of under-utilized space in our Student Center. This space has great potential. I envision a renovation of the Student Center. The Student Center would move from a single-use building to multi-purpose Missions Center. The Missions Center would not only be a place primarily for our students to gather, it would be a place to serve the community in a real and meaningful way. This renovation would, at a minimum, include:
- Shower facilities
- Laundry facilities
- A generator that would enable consistent usage during and after a crisis.
- An improved kitchen
- This newly renovated facility will allow us to prepare food and provide showers/laundry for our membership and community. Also, the space can be utilized by Disaster Relief to coordinate relief work in our area. The laundry facilities could serve a double purpose: usage in times of outages and as a potential outreach/ministry to struggling families/single mothers.
- This Missions Center would also allow us to host mission teams who are serving alongside us in our community. All basic needs would be available.