Part one: Church-wide Assessment
As part of our annual strategic planning process, the leadership of Lake Baldwin Church—including elders, deacons, staff, small groups, and others—conducted a series of meetings and discussions to assess the life of the church in 2015 and set the course for the coming year. All of the participants engaged in a robust way, and we received a treasure trove of helpful input. Due to the large number of people participating in the process, we have not been able to include every comment. However, we were able to trace a number of common themes.
We get high marks for being a welcoming community with good relationships.
Many people have expressed that they experience deep relationships and healthy vulnerability in small groups.
Although we have a growing number of singles in our church, at least one person wanted to see more progress in this area.
One LBC veteran, who has experienced the complete array of worship styles in the church’s 10-year history, said that she has seen an evolution in our worship. The word “rich worship” is used, along with “substantive” liturgy. One person (who comes from a more emotive Assemblies of God background) says, “I love the way Joel and Katie lead worship!”
It’s true that our worship style is different from a purely traditional service (on one end of the spectrum) and fully contemporary worship (on the other end of the spectrum). As a result, some have described a growth in their appreciation of our worship service. In one of our groups, people raved about the Christmas Eve service and the Good Friday service. One newcomer even said, “This is the first time I've enjoyed worship in years.”
The worship service is seen as a good place to invite non-churched guests. We want LBC to be a safe community where people can “belong before they believe,” so we try to make our worship services welcoming and accessible to everyone, regardless of where they are in their spiritual journey.
Attendance at Kids Camp 2015 reached another high water mark of 125 kids, 80% of whom came from outside our church. The program was conceived and written by our own Michelle Crouse, and our Kids Camp rates highly within our city.
Our team works hard to invite camp participants to church as a follow up, but that does not tend to work as easily as some might expect. We are always thrilled when families who found us through Kids Camp come back to worship with us throughout the year.
As for the weekly SPLASH Kids program, the kids love it!
Another new family mentioned SPLASH Kids as one of the reasons they are making LBC their church home. One great suggestion was to post parenting resources on our web site, and also to help moms.
For the first time, we took our assessment process to the small groups, and it was worth it. Almost everyone raved about their small group.
The hospitality gifts in our church make for enjoyable groups with good food and natural relationships. Many speak of the freedom to be honest and vulnerable in their groups. We have a caring church, and people experience that firsthand in small groups. We have 10 groups with around 120 participants. This is a high percentage of LBC attendees and attests to the great work of our small group leaders.
As we move forward, a key idea is to help people use their spiritual gifts in their groups.
The Cabo, Mexico mission trip was life-changing, and could lead to a long-term church-planting partnership in Baja. The mission to Nicaragua was huge for those who went, and left a good ripple effect on our church as we were able to participate and pray. Our partnership with ICC, a network of churches in Europe, continues to mature.
“Everything we attempted in [the] area [of Global Missions] was a big success.”
Beyond this, we have many in our congregation contributing globally through their connection with Cru. The Global Missions Festival, January 9-10, was a success and helped many in our church expand their awareness and heart for the world.
Most churches rely on volunteers in some capacity. At LBC a robust volunteer system is essential because we meet in a school rather than having our own church building. In some churches, “20% of the people do 80% of the work,” but at LBC, that axiom has been dramatically reversed. We have about 80% or more of our congregation serving at least once a month.
In our assessment, we did hear concerns about the toll it can take to serve regularly for years at a time, or how the need for people to serve limits other things we can do on Sunday mornings. On the other hand, some view this as a meaningful way of building up the body. One young adult couple is a good example of the serving experience ate LBC:
Some have talked about how they have taken a break from serving while in a difficult stage in their life, only to return to serve in a new way. We want people to have the freedom to say “no” to volunteering while they’re in the midst of difficult or busy seasons of life without any shame or guilt, and our hope is that when people are ready to get involved, their commitment will be genuine and cheerful. “A positive no can lead to a powerful yes.”
Many have observed that a high degree of recreation and travel consistently affects attendance on any given Sunday. Others wish that we could encourage people to arrive at church on time. These issues are not unique to Lake Baldwin Church, so it’s wise to not assume that our church is uniquely at fault.
While it is true that some people succumb to a consumer Christian culture and there is sometimes “subterranean” migration of Christians between churches in Orlando for a variety of reasons, we need to remember that most of the people who miss from time to time are highly committed to Christ and to LBC.
We’ve had a number of wonderful new people who have “stuck” at LBC, and we can rejoice in this. At the same time, we face a continued challenge in (a) opening wide the front door, (b) helping people connect and stick, and (c) further closing the “back door.”
We have received many good suggestions about ways to improve our assimilation process, and we look forward to making this one of our priorities in the new year. The new signage has been well-received.
80% of Orlando is non-churched, and most of our congregation is aware of our vision for bringing the gospel to those who are not yet believers. We have had a number of well-publicized outreach events throughout the year.
A number of individuals have expressed a desire to equip our people for evangelism. One newcomer to LBC reminded us of a great resource, Just Walk Across the Room, which the Wednesday morning Men’s group studied last year. Others defined specific ways that we can equip people in building common-ground relationships with non-believers, engaging in spiritual topics when they bubble up, and inviting people to church.
We do have a high percentage of people who are committed to building relationships with non-believers. The first step to evangelism is often to lovingly open our homes and lives to neighbors and friends who do not yet believe.
Our classes have been a hit in the past, and many expressed a desire for us to continue offering opportunities for biblical and spiritual education. Some people like the Sunday morning before church time slot, while others find that a challenge, depending on their stage of life.
We’re experimenting with learning cohorts, with good results. People rave about our shepherding plan, but we need to spread out and restructure its implementation.
Young adults appreciate the availability of our older adults for specialized mentoring opportunities and connection in some of our small groups, especially our women’s studies.
Our demographics are expanding. We have become a great place for mature single women and married women. The women’s retreat highlighted this and helped build community for women of all ages, marital status, and stages of life.
We also have a nascent college group, thanks to previous youth group involvement and our summer college Bible study.
Counseling is an asset at LBC, and we’re grateful for the work Fritz has done to help many people in our congregation and community.
Several people saw potential strategic advantages in getting a building: a sense of place and permanence, reduced need for set-up, and the capacity to offer more to the community. At the same time, there are many healthy, growing churches in our city and around the country who choose to use rented space for many years, and do quite well.
Since we are committed to wise stewardship and have an aversion to debt, our plan is to wait until God blesses us with the critical mass (people and money) to afford a building. In the meantime, our heart is to focus on healthy growth dynamics now, while trusting God for the future.
SERVING THE CITY
We have a lot of grass roots efforts, as well as partnership with some effective organizations that are serving the city. While many love this about our church, some are in a stage of life where they feel too overwhelmed to participate as much as they might otherwise. The Habitat Project was a big milestone this year.
We’ve recently added a page to the website that features many of the organizations that are led or supported by LBC members. We hope to take advantage of these partnerships more in the future, and mobilize more LBC people to get involved in serving the city.
Thanks to God’s blessing and broad-based participation in giving, we finished the year with a positive account balance for the second year in a row. This has allowed us to fully fund the ministries of the church, along with offering support to church planting, global missions, and local needs. We have also been able to replenish reserve funds, achieving the goal of having three months of expenses in reserve. Looking ahead, we want to trust God continue to grow our giving base in anticipation of the time when Joe White joins our team as assistant pastor. To prepare for the 20% this will add to our budget, a fund has been established to receive “over and above” gifts. By God’s grace, this fund has over $80,000 in pledges with over $16,000 already given. Increased expenses in 2016 will also include the re-introduction of rental expenses for Glenridge, having completed the period of rental credit due to our in-kind gift of the sound/video system.