By Sharon Mager
GLEN BURNIE, Md. — Members of Bay Life Church (BLC), formerly North Arundel Church, celebrated their 25th anniversary on Sept. 22, baptizing 13 people at a “Community Day” outreach. It was a huge step of faith into the future for the church.
Bay Life Church has been in a state of transition for several years. The church rebranded in 2016, changing its name, selling the shopping center where the congregation previously met and moving into a shared space with Glen Burnie Baptist Church (GBBC), Maryland, where Bob Simpson serves as senior pastor. In June 2017, the church’s founder and long-time pastor James Pope resigned. Brian Miller became senior pastor of BLC in January 2018. The congregation struggled through the changes, but God held them together, and they’re growing.
Miller led the church in participating in the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s (BCM/D) AWAKEN process, helping plateauing and declining churches to self-evaluate and move ahead in a Godly revitalization process.
With the sale of the building and moving to the new space, Miller said the church lost some of their drive for outreach. AWAKEN opened their eyes. “We knew the way to grow, the way we would survive and be revitalized is to think outside of the building,” Miller said.
Bay Life Church used the Community Day as their AWAKEN project. It energized the church and they were thrilled with the response when over 170 people attended the event.
“We’ve always had a great worship experience. That’s always been a part of the church, but we have a whole community that doesn’t know Jesus,” Miller said. “My goal is to think externally, to be mission-minded. That’s what God honors.”
Ministering alongside and with GBBC has also helped BLC through their transition and revitalization.
Miller said the arrangement works well. “Bob and I have developed a good relationship and friendship. I have tremendous respect for him.” It helps that both men, in addition to their pastoral callings, are also musicians.
The two churches cooperate and share. They combined children’s ministries, share praise band members and leaders and meet for special events.
The children from both churches meet during the time between the two worship services and teachers from both churches work together to teach the kids. Also, BLC volunteers renovated the children’s area, now called “Kidzone,” to modernize it and make it more “kid-friendly.”
The congregations come together at times for special events such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.
“These are great opportunities for both churches to mingle and worship together,” Miller said.
Glen Burnie Church has a long history of offering its facilities to diverse congregations. In addition to BLC, they have a Korean church and a Hispanic church that meet at various times in the building.
Working together on the special services is where Simpson and Miller began to bond and to share resources. “When I needed a worship leader, Brian would fill in,” Simpson said. “They had a drummer, and we didn’t, so their drummer would stay and play for us. They needed a keyboardist, so I would sit in and play keys,” he said. Later, other musicians stepped up to help. The churches jointly hired a technician, who handles sound for both. Also, Simpson and Miller provide pulpit supply for one other.
Simpson initiated a task force with leaders from both churches — pastors, music leaders, children’s leaders, custodians and others. Through that task force, they developed the idea of “Kidzone.” In addition to meeting between services, the Kidzone ministry team oversees Vacation Bible School and movie nights.
Last week, Kidzone leaders hosted a successful community “Trunk or Treat.” “We had great participation from both churches and 200 people showed up,” Miller said, excitedly. They’re already planning for next year.
Simpson said the churches have developed a great model for sharing a facility and building a partnership.
“Though we’re still two churches, sometimes we act like one big church just worshipping God,” Miller said.
“We’re very fortunate to be in the situation we’re in,” he said. “This gives both churches the opportunity to see their pastors working alongside each other. Everything is about the Kingdom, not Bay Life not Glen Burnie Baptist. We’re utilizing the space we have, and it’s a beautiful space.”