By Matt Tullos
Special assistant to the executive director, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board
Everybody loves a good comeback story and game-changing plays. If you enjoy sports, you can certainly remember an alley-oop, a trick play, an interception, a home run or a steal that changed the momentum of a particular game. We call them game-changers. And we desperately need these game-changing moments in our churches.
Even the most contemporary church models easily fall into the rut of doing the same thing over and over again. That’s because we find comfort in the surprise-less groove of church practice, polity, and perspectives.
Here are some easy, game-changing things that your church can do to sharpen your church’s purpose and reach your community and world.
Leaders, I want to invite you to read through this short list, grade your church and adjust plans appropriately as you move forward.
1. Be an expert on your community. You are going to struggle to reach people if you have no idea who they are and where they are. Here’s a cool hack for that. It’s called Missioninsites you can get information on the demographics of your community, even names of people, religious affiliation.
If they provide an excel spreadsheet of their church members you can get a plotting map of where their church members live. If you are interested in this very inexpensive service ($0), give Bernie Baker a call: 615-371-7925. She’s your guide to connecting you with one of our Missioninsite gurus. It’s just another way for the TBMB to serve you.
2. Start something new. Effective churches of all sizes continually and effectively start new initiatives. For example, any church could be a game-changer by birthing a new church. Often, we think of “mother churches” as big, brick and megachurches with elevators and activity centers. Not true. And if being a mother church makes you nervous, join another church and work together.
Here are a couple of examples. True Life Church, in Johnson City and their pastor Jimmy Inman has birthed three new churches of different ethnic and language varieties. Ridgeway Baptist Church and Pastor Ashley Ray helped start a gamer church to reach those people in the gaming hemisphere — (Level Up Church in Memphis). First Baptist Church, Joelton, and Mount Harmony Baptist Churches, Knoxville are two other congregations with a history of being mother churches. It’s exciting stuff!
Being a mother church allows your church to reach people in neighborhoods you wouldn’t be able to reach. It also activates the church body to think Great Commissionally (I know. I just made a word up). Church planting is just one new thing you could start. Another idea is starting a Compassion Ministry. Beth Moore of the TBMB can help with that!
3. Stop something old. Baptists are legendary in keeping old, outdated practices that have outlived their effectiveness. Game-changing churches are self-aware and uber-courageous. These churches examine the effectiveness and the cost of cobweb-ridden eyesores and dusty programs that produce little results. Remember, if you want to start something, you might need to stop something.
Does your church have a prayer strategy and prayer coordinator?
Are your corporate-worship prayers a transitional tool or the centerpiece and apex of worship?
How does your church utilize her prayer room?
Are you praying for your community and the lost as much, if not more, than you pray for the sick or chronically ill?
Prayer really is the ultimate game-changer. Focus with intensity on prayer and see how God begins to work.
5. Make your church a community center. One of the barriers that we have in reaching people in the community is simply getting them in the door. You can break through that paper wall of unfamiliarity by hosting events that unchurched folks attend.
6. Think big. Between you and me, Tennessee Baptists do it best. Celebrate and educate your church’s gifts through the Cooperative Program.
There are church members who are active in their church, doing life through a small group, and even tithing to the church’s offering but don’t know exactly what the Cooperative Program is all about. Sometimes even church leaders don’t know. Others get confused and think that the CP is just a way to fund an impersonal irrelevant bureaucratic network — but nothing could be further from the truth.
CP is all about the Great Commission. With the local, state, national and international funding, we can do the things that no one church could do alone. It’s just a fact! One more thing about sharing the strategy of the Cooperative Program: when people know the impact of their generosity and where their money goes, they give more.
7. Invest in families and their kids. If you want to see your church survive the next 20 years, you must have a strong family strategy that covers the bases of volunteers, programming, safety and hospitality. Millennials who have kids won’t come back if there is disorganization and little accommodation. Period.
Unchurched families might not worship Jesus, but you can count on the fact that they worship their kids. What you are doing with kids will determine whether they’ll come back.
8. Get away! Some of the most meaningful experiences happen when we rid ourselves of the daily routines and surroundings and get away. By the way, did you know that your church owns two conference centers? Well, you do.
Carson Springs Baptist Conference Center and Linden Valley Conference Center. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a great getaway. These two conference centers, owned by Tennessee Baptists, can host staff retreats, deacon retreats, women’s conferences, student events … You name it. And you’ll be surprised how inexpensive your event can be. These conference centers can even help you plan your retreat, conference or getaway. And here’s another thing — pastors and staff need to have a place to recharge but may not have a place to go. Your conference centers offer a beautiful place to do that privately for a greatly reduced rate. Call Susan Mason at the TBMB for more information.
9. Plan sooner rather than later. It’s easy to allow the daily slog of activities to keep us from looking down the road. Remember that early planning always allows for more involvement and creativity. This immutable law is true for events, worship, facilities, and preaching.
The pandemic was certainly a game-changer in our churches. But, who’s to say that your church isn’t the game-changer in your community in the days, months, and years ahead? If Tennessee is filled with effective, spirit-filled, strategic, prayerful, game-changing churches, then watch out! This could be our finest hour as Tennessee Baptists. B&R