When Mike Jones became pastor of Marion Baptist Church in May 2007, the church was already a great church with potential of being even better.
Jones followed a good interim pastor who had been with the church for 18 months. Prior to the interim period, the church had moved into something of a maintenance mindset and needed to do some things to reach people.
“So when I came they were ready to go,” Jones said.
Marion Baptist averaged 164 in worship attendance and 128 in Sunday School then. Today, the church sees more than 300 people attending two morning worship services and about 240 attendees in Sunday School. They are reaching people from all socio-economic backgrounds in Crittenden County. Marion Baptist is an exciting worshiping and serving congregation with an eye on outreach into their community.
When asked what the Lord may have used to help the church grow, Jones suggests the following list:
1. The church had a great interim and was ready to grow. The church had benefited from an interim pastor that helped the church become ready to move forward. A good interim leader can be used of God to help a church return to its original vision and become outwardly minded. Most churches start with an outward focus, but in time many of them turned inward and offer programs and services aimed primarily at their membership.
2. They were intentional about using their facility to serve the community. Prior to Jones’ coming, the church had built a Family Life Center with gymnasium, walking track, weight room, commercial kitchen and classrooms. They opened their facility for people in the community to come play basketball and volleyball at certain times. This exposure to the community enhances the church’s reputation as well as gives members an opportunity to build relationships with people.
3. The church developed an evangelistic prayer ministry. Marion Baptist, under Jones’ leadership, has a multi-pronged prayer strategy. They have members who pray during the morning service. They also pray corporately on Wednesday night. They lead their congregation to enter into multiple 30- or 40-day prayer emphases, and they pray for lost and un-churched people by name. Jones knows that the path to reaching people requires planning and hard work, but the power for reaching people comes from God through prayer.
4. They place a strong emphasis on Sunday School. The church offers a traditional Sunday school that is staffed with trained leaders, heavily promoted from the pulpit, and well supported by the congregation. Sunday School is the primary tool for assimilating and connecting new people to the life of the congregation. Jones leads the charge in promoting Sunday school and is himself actively involved.
5. They have an outwardly focused pastor. Jones has a heart for outreach and has led the church to adopt a vision for reaching the community. When he heard, through a ministry offered by the Kentucky Baptist Convention, that 7,800 people in Crittenden county did not attend church anywhere, the “outreach wheels” began to spin in his mind. Since then he has led the church to support a vision to intentionally reach 10 percent of these in the next 10 years.
6. They added staff to accommodate and promote growth. When Jones began as pastor, the church staff was made up of a senior pastor and a youth and worship Pastor. To promote growth, they have added a Family Life Center pastor to reach families with children.
7. They promote ongoing training for all levels of leadership. Marion Church takes advantage of all training offered in their area. They attend KBC training events including Super Saturday and Equip Tour, as well as other targeted regional efforts.
For a congregation to break through attendance barriers requires prayer, a plan and hard work. Jones advises: “Begin with prayer. Get together with some key leaders and have them pray with you. Be very patient. We spent seven years before we could start a second service. Lead the people to the point where the people are begging you to do it. Be intentionally evangelistic and outwardly focused. And visit other churches and have your people visit churches that are at the place you want to be.” (WR)
Todd Gray, West Kentucky Consultant