What are our next steps in the coming year?
By "next steps" we mean the initiatives, events, and priorities that will give tangible expression to our vision in the real world. While resources (see Part 1) can be described as “critical mass,” these next steps can be described as our “critical path.”
While we identify fresh initiatives and strategies each year, we also retain “core strategies” that remain on the front burner. These are worship, SPLASH Kids, youth, and small groups. Our staff and volunteer leaders provide passionate focus to these vital areas in the life of our church. Our hope is that our congregation will find joy and fruitfulness as they use their gifts and talents in these areas.
Here are some fresh initiatives for the coming year:
engage every small group with the vision:
With an adult population of roughly 200, we have around 120 people involved in small groups. Thanks to the care and work of our small group leaders, these groups have already become a place to experience community, spiritual growth, care, and service.
A listening tour of small groups last November revealed a high degree of passion for the vision of the church, but limited engagement in the vision. We need a way to make the vision more hands-on for people who feel limited by access, time, or just the busyness of life. We need engagement through better communication and a simplifying of time commitments.
Based on ways we have already seen God work in our groups, our hope is to help people identify their spiritual gifts and passions. Some have gifts of hospitality, mercy, teaching, leadership, administration, global missions, or evangelism. For example, one small group became engaged in the vision of global missions when two group members went to Nicaragua for a medical mission. Several groups got involved by praying and giving supplies, as well as just cheering for those who went. This trip became known and supported church-wide, giving life to our vision for global missions.
Other groups have experienced growth through outreach, especially by initiating with new people at church. Still others have found great teaching content, contributing to the heart transformation and discipleship of their members.
Just as a trellis and vine work together to achieve organic growth, we envision similar "grass roots" engagement as more and more individuals are equipped and given opportunity to use their gifts.
Improve assimilation Process:
Our church-wide assessment last November revealed "leaks" in our assimilation funnel. While a good number of visitors are making LBC their church home, others are not being effectively enfolded into our community. Since there are other good churches in Orlando, it’s to be expected that not all visitors will put down roots at LBC. At the same time, we want to help all who visit our church to feel included and connected relationally. While good worship services and a quality environment for children are keys to effective assimilation, it will take a broader plan to grow the church in our mobile culture.
This year we’ll clarify and strengthen our approach to assimilation while continuing the effective efforts that are already in place. One thing in our favor has always been the “hosting environment” on Sunday mornings, so keep reaching out to those guests!
TEACH AND DEVELOP INDIVIDUALS:
A “cohort” is a group of people learning together, for a defined period of time, with a mutually agreed commitment to participate. For years, Lake Baldwin Church has had a commitment to educating the Christian heart and mind, coupled with service in the real world, but today’s mobile culture makes consistent spiritual education a challenge. Cohorts present a versatile alternative to “Sunday school” which works for some, but not for others.
Learning cohorts will expand our venues for quality teaching. The participants can customize the meeting schedule, perhaps opting for breakfasts, coffee after work, or even Sunday before church. Cohorts also meet for a set period of time, established at the outset—as short as 5 weeks or as long as a year. This flexibility allows participants to remain in their weekly small group and makes the commitment more feasible for people with busy schedules.
For example, one current cohort is meeting twice a month for eight months to gain an overview of systematic theology. Other examples of cohorts include: Membership Class (Friday night & Saturday morning); Discipleship Intensive Group, or DIG (Wednesday nights for eight months); Financial Peace University (a nine-week, focused class); and the Future Project (twice monthly for a year). Most learning cohorts include interactive learning and home study.
A renewed focus on cohorts will allow LBC to customize learning, mentoring, and discipleship for individuals in every stage of the spiritual journey.
Equip people for personal outreach:
We’ve learned that many people at LBC have relationships with non-churched people. That said, some have expressed a need to be equipped to engage people more deeply as God opens doors to spiritual conversations. One member of our church has identified a need to equip people in three areas:
- How to build relationships with people who are non-churched.
- How to respond when a conversation turns to spiritual things.
- How to invite people to church.
While not all of us have the spiritual gift of evangelism, we’ve learned that we all are part of a team that can help spiritual seekers come to faith.
Expand outreach in Baldwin Park:
Although our vision extends beyond Baldwin Park, we do see our nearby community as an important part of our mission. At present, 30% of our congregation lives in Baldwin Park, while 70% come from around the city. We’ve learned a lot over the years about natural ways of relating to the 10,000 people moving in to this part of the city. We’ve seen fruit through relationships, parties, community events, and media communication. In March, Baldwin Park Living, our community magazine will feature an article about Lake Baldwin Church on the occasion of our 10th anniversary!
Our most fruitful community events have been Kids Camp, the Baldwin Park Easter Egg Hunt, and the Winter Spark Christmas Parade. We are so grateful for the many people who have served at these events, meeting the public and relating in warm, tactful ways. Untapped opportunities on the horizon are the new apartments under construction in Baldwin Park, better connections with new move-ins, and taking the long-term view with trusting, common-ground relationships. It might surprise us to realize that people are more receptive than we think if we “conduct ourselves with wisdom toward outsiders.” (Colossians 4:5)
STRENGTHEN Women’s Connection and Development:
Last April, LBC's first women’s retreat exceeded our expectations in both attendance and lasting fruit. We anticipate a future retreat (probably in the Fall—stay tuned!) to capitalize on this success. We also value the three women’s bible studies that are offered, as well as informal mentoring throughout the church. We want to continue to create an environment where women can grow, flourish, and use their gifts. We value the inclusion of women in ministry planning, leadership of events, and in the leadership development process of the church.
ENGAGE BROADLY in serving the city:
We already have many people at the grass roots of our church making a difference in the city. These people and organizations are listed on the new landing page on our web site, serving the city. Going forward, our hope is that this heart for the city will become embedded in the culture of our church.
The most natural way for this to happen would be through small groups. Led by individuals with mercy gifts, our groups can be informed of needs and decide together how they would like to engage. For example, one small group had several people serve at Orlando Children’s Church because of the vision of one person in the group. Other groups have simply worked together to offer care for an individual, or to devote a work day to home landscaping.
As these stories are told church-wide, others will be inspired to “offer a cup of cold water” to those in need. The deacons will continue to create opportunities and to update the landing page on the web site, so that groups can easily plug in and meet real needs.
BUILD GLOBAL MISSIONS Momentum:
Our first Global Missions Festival drew 75 people and provided a weekend of vision and exposure to what God is doing through LBC members and our international partners. This part of our vision will further come to life when we identify someone in each small group with a passion for global missions. While not all will have the chance to go on a mission trip, everyone can pray and cheer for those who do, personalizing our connection to God’s heart for the nations.
ENGAGE College STUDENTS and twentY-SOMETHINGS:
We have already experienced the heart and influence of both singles and marrieds in this age group. Several individuals and small groups have expressed a desire to give some focus to this opportunity in our church, and this vision will be given an additional boost when Joe White comes on board. This is a divine opportunity for our future, given the new apartments in our area and nearby college campuses.
speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of … Christ. From him the whole body … grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
—Ephesians 4:15-16, NIV, emphasis added
We believe that God will continue working in and through Lake Baldwin Church as we each grow personally, and as we work together to build each other up in love. Our hope is that everyone in the church will capture our shared vision for the coming year and take part in the kingdom work we have been called to do as the body of Christ.
Small groups are important hubs for communication, education, service, and community, so if you aren't plugged into a group, we encourage you to visit the small group page and learn more!
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