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– About that, let’s go ahead and just jump in. We’re thankful for those that are here with us live and those that will watch later on and really the idea today is to have a conversation. You’ll start seeing more about a conversation series where we’ll say it’s a conversation and here’s the topic and here’s the person or persons that will be involved. Today we’ve asked Beverly Reed of Lindsay Lane, she is the group specialist there, if you will. That’s not exactly her title but we’re talking more in our office about group leadership and disciple making leaders as well. And so she would be categorized in that area of ministry. And then we have Eric Taylor who’s pastor at the Bethel Baptist Church in Pleasant Grove. And so we’ve kind of got both perspectives, the pastor and the second chair leader and both of them were with us and have been a part of our Connect316 webinars that we did along with the four invitations webinar. And I’m just gonna frame up real quickly today, Connect316 to say, what is that about? Well, first of all, it’s a tool, that’s all it is. It’s a tool, it’s not a program. It’s not a push and play or whatever, plug and play type thing it is. It is something that help you think through what you’re doing, what you’ve already been doing. So it’s kind of a diagnostic tool in some ways, or maybe a tool that help you structure more carefully and completely your mission, vision and values for your church. Or if you don’t have those to be able to tap into something that can grow you in that direction. The word connect really comes out of Steve and Mark Gainey who’s not with us today and my experience, which for Steve and I is getting to be a lot longer between the two of us is nearly 80 years of ministerial experience, which is hard to believe ’cause we’re not anywhere close to that age but blessed to start at birth, so to speak. But when we looked at all that we’ve been taught, all that we’ve learned and we said, “Why are we here? Why are we here as state missionaries? Why are we here as pastors and educators in the local church?” And we came to a singular word, we’re here to connect, connect people to Christ, community and commission. Now a lot of you say it in different ways. We’re here to love God, love people, make disciples, live, sin, whatever, and we’re not trying to get anybody to change terminology. But that was the one word that we could all, we could kind of coalesce behind is emblematic via experience through the years that we always saw that as important, the 316, yes, John 3:16, catchy numbers, we like that but it’s really more what they represent than the numbers themselves. Because if you have missions, visions and values, where they need to be focused on, where they need to be focused on people, there needs to be a focus or a plan or a path of making disciples ’cause ultimately that’s why we’re all here is to make disciples. So there needs to be a plan or a path of doing that. And then the best practices that you put before your people and the practices that you celebrate, because you wanna see them replicated among your people. And so you’re gonna hear us talk about mission, vision, values. We’re not gonna spend a lot of time talking about Connect316, I just outlined it for you. And really that’s what it’s meant to be, a tool. The elevator talk to get us all engaged, where we can do our own personal SWOT analysis, looking at our strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that come related to the work that we feel called to do or even our focus as we move toward August and relaunching a lot of ministries. And probably in the future, you’ll hear Steve and I talk more about connect or maybe even C3 or something like that because that there’s a lot of threes involved in our strategy. Maybe it’s ’cause it’s the number of completeness, I don’t know. It just kind of works out that way. A lot of it has to do where we’re trying to keep it simple and memorable so that you can use the tool to help you. And just to give you an idea, it’s basically the structure and I know you can’t see this, you can’t read that. And that’s not really the point, that helped Steve and his church develop that so his people could understand it, visualize it and know why they are apart of God’s kingdom. So that’s what really this is all about. So watch for conversation series coming up, today and in the future, we’ll probably not do much of these kinds of things in July because it really does get hot and heavy for mission trips and in vacation Bible school and we’re also gonna try to reduce the amount of time. So if you can give us 20 or 30 minutes, then you’re gonna hear a conversation that highlights some good stories that may help you as you move forward for the kingdom of God. So without, let me introduce to you, Steve and Steve Layton is a state missionary. He is new to the office but he is not new to this work. Like I said, he’s been in the trenches for many, many years. That’s why we’re delighted to have him on staff. Steve is a great conversationalist and a great equipper and encourager, which are hallmarks of our office as well. So just asked him if he will walk us through the conversation not just with Beverly and Eric but a conversation that we would like to have with you at your church. We would be delighted to come down to where you are and just have a good conversation about what you see as your mission, vision and values. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses, opportunities and threats? And how we as your state missionaries can help you. So even watch this as a model of something that could happen in your own office and it’s only a phone call away. Okay, Steve, take us away.
– Well, welcome Alabama Baptist and what a joy it is to continue to serve you and thank you again for your support and allowing us to come to your churches and to have a coffee and barbecue with you and great conversation about how God’s at work. So, as Daniel said today, we’re talking to two great leaders of our state, great churches, leaders who get groups ministry, who get disciple making ministry. And so we, again, as we launch this series are excited just to have conversations. So it’s a great day to be an Alabama Baptist. And it’s a great day to hear how God’s at work. So Daniel’s already mentioned that we’ve been out in some associations and churches and there’s some things that we’re hearing. For instance we’re hearing that you are concerned and that you’re focusing on relaunching and regathering strategies for the fall. And that’s exciting because it means that you’re intentionally working and figuring out what are our steps, how are we going to reach people and regather this fall? One of the second things that we’re really hearing a lot about is is this elevation, if you will, of reaching lost and searching people, a focus on evangelism. And so as we talk to leaders, it’s not just regathering people. COVID has given us an opportunity to connect with lost and searching people. And so leaders are aware of that and are designing strategy to be able to reach and in investing intentionally in reaching lost in searching people. The third thing that we’re seeing is, as Daniel’s already mentioned, all the churches that are engaged in missions. So as we’re visiting around the state, we’re starting to hear churches and associations elevate service, both service and the community and service around our country and even abroad. And now there’s conversation, foreign mission trips are starting to come back and I know of a church or two that’s going down to Guatemala here in just a few weeks. So we’re starting to hear a little bit more about service and missions but not just for the fact of serving, serving for the purpose of making disciples and engaging groups with people who need to know Jesus. And lastly, as we’re out, we’re having some great conversations about disciples path, disciple making strategy, intentionality and you’re gonna hear some of that even today. So we decided today to talk a little bit about strategy, just to engage in a conversation around strategy with a couple of great Alabama Baptist leaders. And so welcome guys, let’s talk about strategy, let’s talk a little bit about mission, vision and values. So one of the first things I’m curious about is, do you all in your congregations and in your churches have mission, vision, values statements and how’s that used and play out in your work? Eric, you wanna jump in?
– Yeah, I’ll go in, I’ll go first up. Yeah, we have a mission, vision, value statement. It says, our vision is to impact every person in Pleasant Grove and the surrounding areas with the gospel of Jesus so they can take steps to love God, love people and make disciples. And we know that every mission, vision, value statement is really a restatement of the great commission. So there’s a lot of different ways to say it but that’s the way that we’ve chosen to say it. And we have three words that are kind of the buzz words that we talk about a lot is gather, grow and go. And that really represents the steps that we take. We gather for worship that helps us to glorify God. And we grow in community through groups that helps us to love people and we go and make an impact by serving the church and the community and the nations, this is how we make disciples. So that’s kind of the mission, vision, values component of what we’re doing in a nutshell.
– I love that and one of the churches I had the privilege of serving previously, their mission statement was very, very similar, to gather, grow and go. It was actually connecting people to Jesus Christ, through worship, discipleship and service, which I think are your big three. So it kept the connecting aspect there. It kept the focus on Jesus Christ, where our focus and the gospel layers, and then the methodology of how we do that. How about you guys up at Lindsay Lane, Beverly? What are y’all doing as far as mission, vision, values.
– We used to have worship, grow and serve. And it was funny when Daniel showed up your thing, this was our little logo.
– Well nice.
– That was the worship, grow and serve. And now that we’ve got pastor Andy John, he has implemented something Eric has of the gather, grow and go. And like I was saying earlier, he’s implemented staff values to us. And one of those is reach out, reach in, in that order. So anything we do, he wants us reaching out first before we’re reaching in ’cause a lot of times our ministries tend to gravitate toward ministry to our people inside the church instead of going outside the doors and doing that.
– I love the focuses, so they’re simple, to get our minds around connecting people to Christ, through worship, discipleship and service gather, grow, go, reaching out, reaching in, loving people and loving God, loving people, serving others. The question that I hear in conversations is folks say “Well, we get it.” And most of the time our staff gets it but do our congregation and our leaders get it. And how can we effectively communicate our mission, vision, values to our groups and to our congregations and to our church families? You guys have any thoughts on that?
– Well, our pastor has really, Andy John has said it from the pulpit several times but also to be a member at our church you have to go through a new members orientation doctoral class. And in that he really pushes that that we got you in here but you’re not gonna sit here long, we want you growing in a connect group and then we want you serving.
– Yeah and I love it. I think Beverly that you’re on the key and the key, I always heard the person is the pastor and the place is the pulpit for promotion. And I know that’s an old saying for some of us who been around a long time but there’s a lot of truth in that saying, if the pastor believes and where we’re going and our pastors share that vision repeatedly and then weave it in, other things I’ve seen pastors do, Eric is we’ve been into their sermon and say, as they’re preaching, they’ll say, “We see this in this story and this is how it fleshes itself out in our congregation or in our church family.”
– Yeah, that’s exactly what I do Steve is trying to figure out a place when I’m preaching to connect the mission, vision, values back to the sermon because the sermon is not a disconnected part of what we do. It should be leading people toward the movement of the mission, vision, values, so that’s how we do that.
– Well, I think weaving it in helps our people understand that it’s not just a statement on a wall or a poster or a decal on the side of our computer but it actually drives our practices, our actions and how we execute church. So I’m curious, how does your mission, vision, values, how does gather grow and go, reaching in, reaching out, how has that fleshed out in your church families?
– We have implemented on Wednesday nights, we call it our move month now. Each month of the quarter is a different move. Our first quarter is moving in. So we would do preach in plus one, which would be, we offer parenting classes, financial, money planning management classes that was a reach in. Then the second month we do reach out and or move out. And on those move nights, each Wednesday night, each staff department has a responsibility, so the first Wednesday is called feed my people, who one of our pastors linked his staff and they come up with something to feed our people, we collected groceries and then we got names and addresses of people needing food in our area. And we took big bags of groceries and just delivered them to their door where they knew we were coming, they were home, we went through our Christmas House families and did groceries and then the next Wednesday night is care for my people. Well, it happened to be in February. So the pastor and his department was over that when they did potty tulips and took them to anyone that had lost a loved one over the past year and just delivered them and the kids made little hearts and we love you, Jesus loves you and things like that stuck in those plants. And then we did in May, my department is visit my people because I moved to assimilation and connect groups. So we did this past, ours happened to fall the week before our VBS. So we did VBS invitation bags with stickers and candy and hung them on doors of apartment complexes and people took them to their own neighborhoods. And we had a record high, I mean, it wasn’t a record, but we had 407 kids one day here-
– Wow and what I love about that is, in churches and so many times we make the gospel harder than it is. Sometimes it’s literally tea bags and coffee and tulips to hurting people and needy people. And if we can just help our group leaders, help our congregations realize that, serving back in Alexander City, Alabama, a number of years ago, each quarter we just did to Alexander City with love or if you live there, you can say to Alex City would love. So we did the Alex City with love and we’d bake cookies at Christmas and just literally walk the basins, walk the streets and get them out to that. And it was great joy, I mean, it was so enjoyable. And what started happening is is they started realizing, “Oh, you’re the church that does to Alex City with love, y’all love us.” And we’d say yes and they’d wanna come and be a part of it. So I love the practical nature of letting the gospel be shared.
– We would gather all on the gathering into the sanctuary before we would all scatter out. One night we did give cards. We collected food gift cards to all the different restaurants, fast food places. And then we just scattered out through the community going to, we went to Lowe’s and there were several of us in Lowe, some went to Walmart, somewhat to the parks and just handed them out and invited them to Lindsay Lane Church and engaged in conversations. And then they would all come back and because everybody had to come back and pick their kids up out of nursery. So they would come back and we would offer refreshments, some kind of little snack. And for VBS we did mystery island. So the night we did VBS we had all this tropical fruit and tropical punch and did a whole big spread that winning with the thing. Whereby comes back excited and talks about who they engaged with, who they invited, who they saw, conversations they had.
– Right and how easy it is to do that. And then you take that conversation and you make the connection, you go, “Our mission is to gather, grow and go. And we’re growing as we’re serving and we’re going, we’re fulfilling Christ command us.” Eric, you look like you might wanna jump in.
– How well is that, I’m become a learner because I’m taking notes on everything that Beverly’s talking about. That’s exactly what and I’ve not been here, I’ve only been here about a year and a half and most of it’s been in COVID. So I’m chomping at the bit to try and get some of these things done ’cause we’d never done that before. And so that’s why I’m taking a lot of notes Beverly from what you guys are doing. But that’s exactly what we wanna do is look for those opportunities to, I think somebody said it earlier, is to do some things that are worthy of celebration because what gets celebrated gets repeated. And if we just say, “Hey, we’re gonna go take gift cards or we’re gonna go take welcome bags and hang them on there.” And then you regather and say, “Well, I did 15 homes.” Okay, great but we need stories because we need stories of how those conversations happened. Just one of the things that we’re gonna do pretty soon before it gets too hot, is we’re gonna do a thing called shadow with a staple. We’re in kind of a neighborhood and we have a street that’s probably 300 yards to the end of the street. We have had two people on that street approach us. We had a lost dog on Tuesday that kind of wandered up and we were just kind of saying, “How in the world, what’s this dog gonna do? And who does this dog belong to?” But the owner comes up, he works for the Air National Guard in Birmingham out of the airport and he was new to the area. And tell me that was not a divine appointment, tell me that was not orchestrated by God, tell me that was not something that fits right into what we’re trying to talk about, gather, grow and go. Because I mean, we do that to push each other out but that’s something that God’s saying, “Hey, I’m bringing them to your campus to look for their dog,” or “I’m bringing them to your campus to ask him questions about the area.” So we need to engage everyone in those opportunities. And so the critical phase of that is making sure our people are ready because I shared this with some of our leaders. We miss so many opportunities because we’re not paying attention. We miss opportunities, we recognize that we gather on Sundays and Wednesdays but we don’t recognize that those, what seemed to be random moments are opportunities for growth, opportunities for going and serving and things like that. So we’re trying to get people to pay attention to the spiritual leading in all of this. So that’s a big component of it.
– That’s right and to affirm you, you talked about a year and a half where you’re there for a year and a half during COVID and Beverly’s long-tenured at Lindsay Lane and serving. I think when we think about it, you’ve done a great job, Eric, in laying the foundation, which actually your words are powerful and you start laying that foundation. And now with this regathering opportunity, we’re coming to this place where pastors in churches can now begin to actuate that example. All right, so we could sit and talk about mission, vision, value all day but we’ve got another great educator on the line. He happens to be the department director. You serve some great churches at enterprise and other places, Daniel. I know you wanna throw us a nugget here from your service.
– Actually, I’m just enjoying listening to the conversation. I hope people that take advantage of this will see the value of that too, because as they tell their stories, it makes us think of different stories as well. Like one of the things I say all the time to churches that I go connect with is if you don’t know how to make friends anymore, remember that friendships are forged over food. You’re always looking for opportunities to connect. And I did with a neighbor trying to connect, I thought, does he play golf? Does he do this? And it never seemed we could find a connecting point and it struck me. I know one place we can connect, over food. And we did, friendships are forged over food. And look at Acts two, they went from house to house, doing what? Breaking bread together, eating with clients’ sincere hearts enjoying the favor of all the people. So as I’m listening even to Beverly or Eric share some of their stories, I’m thinking about, we had some senior adults in church that I served, and they say, “I’m too old to be out at night and driving it’s dangerous and all that.” And it didn’t matter whether I agreed or not, it was a perception on their behalf. And I certainly didn’t need to force them or try to manipulate them into doing something they weren’t comfortable doing. And so we just took the idea on Wednesday nights, for those that had come, we were gonna have one of our senior adult ladies who all have a great recipe for cake or pie or whatever, to make some baked goods. And then somebody that was there on Wednesday night would have a card of someone that had visited and they would go and simply at the door for a minute to say, “Hey, we know you came to our church and we want you to have a sweet taste in your mouth about the fellowship and let you know that we’re here.” So it was real simple, scripted thing. You could do it on your way home and all that. Well, here was the fun thing about it. I would have those ladies come in and some men, quite frankly too, who come in with their baked goods and they would hold it out and of course I would admire and ooh and ah, all that looks buber. I promise you I’ll take it and put it on a table, but I sure would love to eat that myself but, those kinds of things. We’d have some fun and there were a couple of them so I would reach for the baked goods and they would pull them back. And I said, “Honestly, I’m not gonna take them myself.” And they said, “Ah, ah, I bake it, I take it, give me the card.”
– That’s great.
– And it opened up some new avenues because they knew exactly what they were supposed to do. “We want you to have a sweet taste in your mouth about the fellowship of our church. And we’re here to serve you. This is just a gift to remind you of that.” And it was something people could get into and celebrate and have fun with. And so some of the things that have been discussed already, I think, great ideas and they’re fun, they’re easy. And people come back excited going, I had a conversation with so-and-so, because a lot of times to have something to give somebody becomes the icebreaker to open up the conversation. So yeah, that’s my two cents worth, I’ll hush.
– I think it’s great. And here’s the thing that two thoughts and then we’re gonna transition into Connect316 for a few minutes. One thought is stories are becoming a key component of the new scorecard of effective Sunday school or an effective a disciple making. We’re gonna have to capture stories and remember them and value stories. So I’m glad that we talked about our mission, vision, value, create stories and the execution of that it makes the gospel attainable and reachable and fleshed out for people to see, it’s not just words, it’s deeds. And so I think it’s a tremendous scorecard and I encourage pastors and educators who are watching to capture those stories. It’s one thing to tell them, we get excited hearing them today. We learn, Eric, you’ve already commented, you’re writing them down. And Beverly, you sharing great ideas of how we can utilize those but to capture them. So even being able to record them, I served a church where we valued story so much that we literally had a little recording room and we just, we would capture stories, would invite people in on Sunday morning before or after Sunday school. And we’d just say, “Hey, you were telling me a story the other day about XYZ, let’s get it.” And we literally would record those stories. And then they made their way back into the worship room and announcements and different places. So stories are important, mission, vision, value is important. So let’s make a transition. We talked over the last few weeks, God’s been stirring in our heart, a tool called Connect316, which again, is designed to help people connect to Christ, community and to the commission. Each of you’ve heard about it. What’s your takeaways guys. Beverly, let’s start with you, what do you think and just as you listened to us share about 316 over the past few weeks.
– It’s gonna be a little bit of insight to, ’cause right now, our connect groups, we started back our connect groups last August, our Sunday school. So we’re almost getting back up to where it was but I think a lot of the things is identifying people and how we can grow those groups is what I was gleaming from the 316 because some of the things that y’all used for, that I’ve never heard of, of identifying the acronyms to identifying groups. You hear it but using the little acronym, a little, helps to reinforce that. So I gleaned a little bit from that and helping even those, we’ve probably gained 100 people, new people over COVID but we’ve lost, twice that many have not come back yet. And I don’t know if they will.
– Right and I think we’re all facing that. And I think that was for us one of the beauties of Connect316 was to say, if you are trying to regather, here’s some key components that we need to think about and apply them to your culture. Eric, you wisely recognized it’s not designed to be a plug and play program, it was designed to be a tool. Tell us, what have you taken away from our Connect316 conversations?
– Well, you mentioned that it’s a tool and I’m not real handy, I’m not a real handyman but I realized that you can’t really use tools unless you take them out of the toolbox.
– So one of the things that I’ve realized is that this tool is a simple template that we use. I mean, we can apply it and it identifies people, it engages people, it allows our people when we train our people with it and we roll it out to our folks. What happens is they began to see, “Oh, you know what? I can do this.” Because I’ve heard as we’re beginning to regather. And we’ve been regathered for a long time but the age old question is when are we gonna get all of our class back? And the statistics say that we may not see 20% of the people that were here before. And so we’ve got some of our Sunday school classes, some of our small groups that are saying, “Well, we need, where’s so and so?” Or “Where’s this family?” And they really focus on getting them back which is good. We want to reach them and we wanna recapture them. But we also don’t wanna just focus on the ones that we used to have, we wanna focus on the new ones. And so like Beverly was saying, the reach in and reach out. We wanna make sure that we do that well. And I think the tool, the Connect316 helps create a template to say, “Okay, this is what we can use with those folks that we already know that have been here before.” Some best practices. And then the ones that we don’t have yet, these are some best practices. These are some steps we can use to reach them. So I think it’s a great template for both reaching in and reaching out.
– What I love about it is it really aligns with your mission statement if you think about it because connecting people to Christ, that is very simply reaching lost and searching people. It’s very simply helping people who are stalled in their spiritual journey and not moving toward Christ, like misses people who have somehow during COVID got disfranchised or discouraged and moved away and being able to help encourage them along the way. So to be able to help people connect and reconnect with their passion and we all say it and we all know it, how many people were on fire for the king at some point in their life and the king and kingdom work and maybe have, that flame is cooled. That would be, how do we really encourage them and reconnect them to Christ? Connecting them to community, which is the Israel gathering. It’s connecting people back into the groups, back into the strategies, back into the intentional process of gathering, whether that be in person or through technology, to be able to help them become more like Christ Like in words and deeds and be formed, conformed and transformed literally into his image and then to serve, connect them to the commission to reach out. We’ve talked about some great ways. So I’m curious, I think about connecting people to Christ, community and the commission. Where are you guys focusing this fall? Are you trying to balance it across all three? Are you intentionally focusing on connecting to community or evangelistically? What’s God doing in your churches?
– I think we’re pretty balanced in all three with the way the things that we’ve implemented during COVID of the get, with Andy John pushing gather, grow and serve, or gather, go and I think that it helped me to reinforce also with, our Sunday school groups are called connect groups. So I had already, when y’all came out with this, I thought, “Okay, maybe my mind was on the same track because on some of our visitor forms and on my announcement sheets, I put connecting people to each other and to Christ, all those connect groups. So it helped implement the fact that we need to be connecting. But when I looked at that, thought about that question, I just thought, I think we’re pretty equal because we’re doing something, with us doing something on Wednesday nights, each month is a different focus. We’ve sort of done that of reaching in to our people, reaching out to people in the community and then serving and doing things. So I think we’re pretty balanced on it.
– And that’s netting results, right? Because you’ve already talked about new people that are coming in kind of during and post-COVID. So we’re seeing that it’s not literally just this theory, if you will, it’s actually being executed in practice but it’s producing kingdom results. People are coming in on Christ.
– Yeah, ’cause I would say of most of everybody that has actually taken the step to either join the church or they’re already plugged into a connect group are already serving. I looked around Sunday, Wednesday nights we’ve got a couple that serve in at the door greeting. Sunday morning, I saw a brand new couple, they just came off a mission field. They were overseas missionaries and they’ve joined our church and I saw her greeting, handing out bulletins. So I see I’m already working and couples working in the nursery. So the people that have come over COVID are right in serving.
– Yeah, I’d see that too. And not only do I see it, I’m hearing it. I’m hearing it from pastors and leaders across the state, which is really encouraging to us. Eric, how about you guys? Where are you all focusing for the fall?
– Well, I think like Beverly, I think we’re remaining balanced with that. I think that the natural drift for us and probably for most churches is the gather part, the just getting people into the building. And I know that’s not the end all because once we get them here, we wanna get them out of here, we wanna train them up, we wanna equip them and then we wanna mobilize and release them. But our focus in the fall is going to be, we gather so that we can, we gather and grow so we can go. We’re really gonna focus on neighboring. We did a neighboring series back when we were kind of in COVID and we talked about reaching our neighbors because we couldn’t invite people because we were not meeting but we wanted to encourage people to get to know their neighbors. And when they can, like Daniel said earlier, friendships are forged over food. When they can have an opportunity, then you do a block party. One of the things that we’re gonna look at doing between when it’s 120 degrees in August and before it gets too cold and football season starts, we’re gonna try and find a weekend or two weekends where we can do cookouts. We’re gonna encourage people to invite their neighbors. We’re gonna provide hot dogs or hamburgers, things like that. They’re gonna be able to pull the resources and all they need to do is they need to invite the neighbors, get their friends there. And that’s gonna be an opportunity for them to be outside. They’re gonna be able to go into their own community. Because what we learned through COVID was the fact that the hub of ministry shifted, it shifted from the church building because we couldn’t gather, to the home. And so again, that’s where I think we’re going to really push the accelerator a little bit and really focus on mobilizing people through their homes and through their neighborhoods.
– I love that, last church, go Beverly.
– We’re doing something similar to that. Like I said, on those Wednesday nights, we’ve been doing stuff. So I know the last Wednesday night of July, our thing is gonna be neighborhood cookouts, that yeah, we’re gonna do a cookout in your neighborhood and invite a couple of neighbors that you don’t really know to come over. So that’s the same thing.
– And a lot of churches could collaborate. I was thinking lock parties have been big. At one of the churches I served they continued to remain big and we had built a block party trailer and just made it literally had those big parties at the end of the block. Last church I served, we did something called too deep and across the street, most people tended to know their neighbors that live right beside them but didn’t ever really reach out too deep and know who lives besides them. So we said, “We want you to know the neighbors on both sides too deep.” And across the street was kind of reach out to some civic minded servant in the community, I.e, whether that be your postman, you’re a trash collector, whether that be the fireman down the street from our home. And so it was reach out and even think about inviting them to be a part of some of these cookouts. So think too deep, not just the neighbors beside you and across the street, which were just practical ways to do it. All right, so Connect316, as Daniel shared with us is about connecting people, it’s about having paths and plans, it’s about having steps and practices in there. What are some of your best practices in these areas? And I know I’m gonna vary a little bit from just the question. And we’ll give you a, I’m combining some of the questions I sent you. So let’s think about people, plan, path and practices, what’s working? What are you doing? What are you seeing other churches doing that’s effective? Identifying and reaching people. We’ve talked about a few here. Live, work and play layers, Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria layers. Anything else that you’re seeing some best practices in identifying people?
– I think just us getting out in the community doing the projects we’ve been doing have been identifying. I mean, we did Christmas House at Christmas time where we gave Christmas presents to families, our congregation bought gifts. And then those are the same people we did a follow-up on that identify and that group of people and then come February we took food, those groceries to those same group of people. So we’ve had a couple of those families to come and visit the church from that. So that was helping us to identify that, “Hey, we just didn’t buy you Christmas presents and forget about that, so we’ve all come back and bring you some groceries now.” So we’ve been doing things like that. And those were some of the same areas we hit for VBS today.
– Yeah and I think you just hit and I’m sorry about that folks, I thought I had the thing off but long story short, when you think about Bible school and we’ve talked a lot about that, identifying people and families who come to Bible school is another great way to identify people and be able to minister to them. Eric, how about you guys? Y’all got anything going on identifying folks?
– Well, it’s funny because we’ve had events throughout the last year when we began to gather. We had a yard sale for missions. Gosh, some moment, so ago. What typically has happened is this becomes an event. Okay, well, it’s a fundraiser for our mission projects. Well, I challenged our people that were part of that yard sale group to really use that and utilize that as an opportunity to connect with people. And I love the conversations that I heard. I would go down there multiple times. We had it Thursday, Friday and Saturday and I would be down there and stay for awhile. And I would just kind of wander through and I would hear some of our people having conversations and inviting them to church, because again, it was on our campus and so it’s a fairly easy thing to do and we’re providing a service for them but it was more for our people. It was more of an opportunity of saying, “Hey, I know that it’s really intimidating to say, ‘Hey, will you go out into the neighborhood and get to know your neighbors and share the gospel with them.'” Hey, God has provided people just to kind of come in and buy somebody’s junk at a yard sale and there’s some divine appointments, there’s opportunities that God’s orchestrated to have a conversation. All we need to do is kind of take that step and just begin the conversation. And we even gave them of some template for some conversation starters, “Hey, what’s your story? Where are you from? How long have you been here? Are you new to Pleasant Grove?” Different things like that. And because sometimes we recognize this is the biggest barrier, is we’ve got a lot of folks that are not outgoing and are not extroverts. And so it freaks them out to say, “Hey, I want you to have a conversation, maybe share the gospel with people,” and then they’d go run and hide in a corner. But if they’re at a yard sale or we had a car show not too long ago too, those are things that bring people together. They’re working the yard sale because you know what? They liked yard sales. And so people who visit yard sales, they like yard sales. So they already have an affinity towards the same thing. So they just need to initiate that conversation.
– What I love about what you’re talking about Eric is you’re teaching your people to have this heightened awareness where the spirits working around them. And I really am convinced and convicted about the fact that God puts people in our path all day, whether it be a stray dog or a yard sale, whatever, whether it be cookies taken to someone’s home or our sweet treats but we’re unaware of it often as Christ followers, we’re unaware of the fact that God’s literally all the time giving us the opportunity to engage in gospel conversations. And they are divine appointments as you’ve talked about, and just elevating that among our people and in our groups will be helping make stronger disciples out of them. Just creating that awareness that God is at work all around. And sometimes it’s just simple, normal conversations that we have where we live, work and play, which I think is huge. Well, you guys are doing some great things in your churches. So tell us what you see in God at work these days, where’s God moving in your congregations? What are you excited about? What can we learn from you? What can you share with the folks who are on the webinar with us?
– I know that we have two church plans. We have a Lindsay Lane Main, we have Lindsay Lane Eastern, Harvest. And then we have a Lindsay Lane North, which is in Elkmont community. The Elkmont, the Lindsay Lane North, my husband works with a young lady that lives up in the Elkmont area. Her kids go to school because the church is just a few miles from the high school and elementary school. She said, “I can’t go anywhere without seeing some of Lindsay Lane North people.” She said, “They’re not out there handing out trucks, talking Jesus, they’re working, they’re serving.” What they have been doing is football game nights, they worked the concession stand for the high school, they had gone and cleaned up the grounds around the elementary school. They gave a picnic for the graduating seniors last year. So she said, “Every time I turned around,” she said, “They’re not just out there handing trucks out there, they’re working.” They’re doing things in our community and they have grown to where they’re running over 200 people up there now.
– Wow, wow. How many conversations have we had about that very thing, Daniel? About just engaging people and just serving your community whether it be, literally, we’ve had hundreds of conversations, it’s same flack about how do we have people engage at the ballpark handing out water or serving in the concession stands and just representing the kingdom and again, doing what comes natural. Just letting Christ’s light shine out through them. You wanna jump in Daniel? I know that you love this conversation.
– Yeah, I was just a reading a comment from Patty Burns who’s also a state missionary in our office and she says, “A conversation with VBS Church member where I was visiting asked this question, ‘how do we connect with community?'” And Patty responded, “Well, offer in VBS is a great start.” Now do simple things like a snail mail, a postcard that said, “Thanks for bringing your child.” We’d love to see you again, make a front porch visit and take a VBS token to give the child, invite them to join your social media pages so they can see what’s going on for children later in the summer and beyond. Simple, she said, sincere visits go a long way. And I echo what she said. I remember one of my favorite times of the year was not just VBS but following up the families that came to VBS. And I still remember, I’ll call her name, Samantha. I remember when Samantha came to the door and she saw me and a couple of others from VBS, she just lit up ’cause she knew we were there to see mom and dad. And she was excited about what she had experienced and she knew her parents would be too. And we did see her parents come to know Christ. All we did was to go by to say “Hey, we’re so glad you came in and telling a little bit about our church and God opened the door wide open for opportunities.” And so, she’s right, there are so many things that we do, we just go through the motions. When we need to go back to the John four and learn to lift up our eyes and look out on the field. There is a harvest there.
– That’s right.
– And we can do so with confidence. And so getting out and engaging people and learning to do it in very common ways that the water fountain is alive is also how I use John four. We all have those people that are in our path and just to raise our awareness and the opportunities that God gives us to do even a simple act of kindness can connect somebody with us so that we can connect them with Christ and the community of faith.
– That’s so true, go ahead, Beverly.
– Their first year up there at North was in the summer. So they had a fireworks show because there’s municipal ball fields, it’s got, I don’t know how many baseball fields, softball fields, they’re used for all year long. It’s like a big municipal park. So we did a huge fireworks that had blowups for the kids, snow cones, it was free. I don’t know how many people, we had a lot. And so this Sunday night, we’re doing what we call altogether, where all three campuses come together and we do a big event. So we’re doing another food trucks and fireworks, and we’re having a hot air balloon with tethered rods in it up there.
– Oh, wow, how fun.
– Where’s God at work over in Pleasant Grove these days, Eric?
– Well, He’s doing some really cool things in all of our churches but specifically in ours, I think what He’s doing is He’s stirring, we talked about it earlier and just the awareness. I think the culture is shifting and we haven’t really talked a whole lot about that but one of the things that I think is beautiful about this tool is it helps shift the culture from the mechanical nature of events. And hey, we’re gonna go and do VBS outreach. And so instead of just trying to hit every home and give them a flyer or something like that and just do it and when it’s over, you check it off, this is really an opportunity to try to help our people connect. It’s changing the culture to really focus on the people and again, to the people and the path and the practices because once we get them engaged with the people, we don’t wanna just say, “well, I had a great conversation.” Well, what happened with that conversation? Well, I invited them to church. Okay, that’s great. When they come to church, guess what’s gonna happen? They’re gonna hear about a pathway and they need to take a next step. And as they’re taking those next steps, they’re gonna meet Jesus. And when they meet Jesus, they’re gonna realize that they were created for more than what they’re doing and they were created to serve. And so that really is the impetus of what this whole thing is about. So it’s heavy on the front end. But as we talked about before paying attention to the spirit’s work, that’s one of the things that you can’t always quantify those things like you can, “Hey, I delivered, 500 VBS packets” or those kinds of things. But we wanna see the spirit move and y’all know this as well as I do, there’s no real movement of the spirit apart from prayer. And so I wanna back up and say, “That’s really been the foundational part of what we’ve seen God doing” is we’ve seen prayer meetings and prayer emphasis become more believing prayer. Instead of just, “Lord, bless our VBS” or “Lord, grow our church” or “Lord, let us see people come to know you.” It is more of a, “God, we know this is what you want because your word says this. And so we’re trusting that you are showing us the field, you’re showing us the harvest. And so we wanna be involved in what you’re doing. And so we’re trusting you to do that.” We’ve even seen prayer lives being changed, and we’re seeing the verbiage of our prayers change. And so again, it’s a slow culture shift that’s happening. So that’s the exciting thing that we’re seeing.
– Now, that’s all awesome.
– That’s gonna trickle down in the days to come.
– Well, I’m looking at the time and I’m trying to decide if I wanna do an equipping question or a take away question, because, well, this has been rich and it has been so practical. Let’s talk about what God’s teaching us. What are we taking away? And let’s just jump straight to take away questions and each of us, as we’ve been talking about Connect316 is we’ve talked about mission, vision, values, is we’ve talked about some best practices, the way God’s moving and working in our campuses and our families and even in our lives personally as ministers of the gospel of the good news. What have you taking away from our conversation today? What have you taking away from the conversations that we’ve been having about Connect316? Eric, you wanna jump in first? What’s God saying to you?
– Two words, flexibility and adaptability.
– That’s good.
– This tool is incredibly flexible because it allows it to, instead of saying, “Oh gosh, Daniel and Steve has given me something and I’m gonna have to go change everything about what I’m doing to kind of plug into this.” No, it’s incredibly flexible and it’s incredibly adaptable. You can use it as a template. And here’s the great thing, a lot of times what it said to me is all throughout my ministry I’ve been doing something and somebody has presented a new thing, a new tool, a new program. And I said, “Boy, I’m doing it wrong, so I have to stop what I’m doing and plug this in.” I can use what I’m doing and I think what it’ll do is it will tell, it shows me and it’ll show other pastors and other second chair leaders, other folks in other churches, “Hey, what we’re doing, we’re not doing anything, we’re not doing the wrong thing. We just needed a little bit of encouragement. We need a little bit of direction. We need a little bit of encouragement to say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing that works. This is what we’re doing that needs a little bit of help. I can apply this tool so that it will make my system and my pathway more robust.'” And we can see more people come to know the Lord and plug them in through disciple making.
– Hey Eric, just a quick follow-up. Daniel and I are sitting down with guys and ladies like you and Beverly, who are practitioners and pastors and leaders in their churches. Can you have a 316 conversation with your Sunday school leaders? Is it easy for you to sit down and talk about how they’re connecting people to Christ, community and church? How they’re developing plans, people and processes practices? I mean, how easy do you see this tool to be able to talk to your leaders in one-on-one like we’re out doing with the pastors?
– I think it’s critical because you’ve got the 30,000 foot view, that’s the macro micro, I can’t remember which word it is but it’s the big picture view that I’m in charge of, that’s the big vision but then you take it to the Sunday school class or any other ministry in the church and say, “How does this fit in what you’re trying to do?” Because in Sunday school, guess what we’re gonna do, at 9:15 every Sunday morning, guess what they do, they gather and part of the lesson and again, they’re not there to teach a lesson, they’re there to connect people to community but the lesson is kind of the vehicle that they use. And so that’s part of the grow aspect. And this has always been probably the weakest area of Sunday school and small groups. It has been the go part, is how are they involved in serving? How are they involved in the overall mission of the church. But one of the things that we’re gonna do and if y’all were at the Southern Baptist Convention last week, you saw the backpacks that Nam did, listen, we’re gonna get 72 backpacks for free and we’re gonna pack them full of school supplies. And we’re not doing it as a church. Guess what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna send them to the Sunday school classes and say, “You pack 10 backpacks.” And that becomes, they get involved in mission and they get involved in serving the community through the schools. So that’s kind of how we will use that on a smaller scale in that area.
– Thank you Eric, Beverly, what’s your takeaways?
– It’s the same thing that, we just had like a teacher training Wednesday night and I didn’t use the terminology, the 316 but basically we talked in the same thing of our connect groups are for you to connect with your people. Yeah, it’s great to get the lesson in there but if you don’t get your lesson done, don’t sweat it and don’t try to push it in there because this is what we connect. We’re a large church and that’s how we minister to our people is through those connect groups. But one of the things we told them too is we do care rotation, which you serving in the nursery during worship time. Well, we use one of our, we were saying, if you’re there on time, they’re gonna be on time. If you serve the nursery, your people are gonna serve in the nursery. If you come on move out nights, your group, we have one teacher, his whole class was here for move out night and it was just awesome to see you them. Well, we had a class, the pastor that I work under, he told me, he said, “The other day, Sunday, I was walking in the hall and I saw Rick’s class room was dark, no one was in there.” And I said, “What’s up with it?” And he said, “Beverly, let me know. They’re serving in the nursery this month.”
– Oh, awesome.
– ‘Cause right now we’re running two services and two connect groups. So they were coming to the early service and during worship, second worship were serving in the nursery and then we’re meeting on Sunday nights for their connect group time. Even record seeing people show up on the Sunday night group.
– [Steve] How awesome, Beverley.
– Because he led the way, so.
– And that might be my takeaway from today. And I’m about to throw it back to you, Daniel but maybe my takeaway is just a couple. One, God’s at work in Alabama. And so many times it’s easy to focus on the half empty. Well, boy, there’s a lot of half full going on and we’ve heard it today in each of your churches. And we hear it as we travel around the state and talk with our associational missionaries and our pastors and our church staff. So there’s some great things, there’s some great disciple making going on. And just being able to communicate that with intentionality and I think the other thing, the second thing that’s really inspired my heart today is the encouragement of conversation getting together. So we came together to have a conversation. We just talked about what God’s doing today, right? We had three or four ideas to guide our thoughts and we just went where the spirits led us today. And it’s been encouraging and not only has it been encouraging, hopefully it’s been helpful and it’s equipped some folks. So from my heart, Daniel, thank you for allowing us to have these conversations, for inspiring us to do so. And I’m gonna flip it back to you and you can kind of wrap us up. For my heart, thank you, Beverly, thank you, Eric, great job and y’all know we’re here for you, we love y’all and you just give us a shout, we’ll come right on in.
– Well, I’m gonna wrap with that I hope you saw what Steve is talking about because the forefront thing in our minds is the office of Sunday school. We’re here to encourage you and equip you to connect people to Christ, community and commission but encourage and equip, we are a phone call away from coming and having a conversation with you. Whether it’s like Steve says over a cup of coffee or some barbecue, we hope you take advantage of the opportunity. This kind of conversation always thrills me. It stimulates me. I saw Eric taking notes, I know Beverly jotted down a few things, we’ve linked up so we can share ideas. This is what makes the call of God on our lives fun. To come and to share the good news of what God is doing in our midst. And after what we’ve gone through this past year, it does the heart good, doesn’t it? So please call us, we want to come and help. Thank you, Beverly, thank you, Eric. It’s been a blast, I’ve enjoyed every second. I hope you have and so give us a call, give us a shout. You want us to come to your area just to encourage you and others, we’re glad to do it. God bless you.