By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
FAITH BAPTIST CHURCH
Faith Baptist Church in Glen Burnie, Md., connects with their community through strategic programming and follow up. One of the church’s biggest “open doors” is the Wednesday family night that fosters friendship and offers families a chance to relax together at dinner and enjoy a variety of age-based activities.
Church members serve a large family style home-cooked dinner each week. Afterwards, kids may attend AWANA meetings while youth meet for Bible study and fellowship. Adults meet for Relational Discipleship Groups.
“Our programming has been a big thing for our church, especially Upward basketball and AWANA,” said Clarence Byerly, pastor of administration/discipleship.
Over 100 children attend AWANA each week to learn scripture. Upward Basketball and Upward Soccer have been a steady draw and registration fills up fast each year. The church partners with Glen Burnie Baptist Church to offer the soccer program. Over 300 children participate. In addition to being an outreach to the community, it offers church members a chance to plug into service, helping as coaches, providing snacks and sharing testimonies.
The church’s Child Development Center is known in the community for its quality Bible-based teaching for preschoolers. It has been a very effective way to minister to local families. Easter and Christmas pageants, as well as special music programs have also drawn large numbers of guests.
Throughout the week, Faith Baptist members participate in Relational Discipleship Small Groups.
Byerly said the church has used a variety of follow-up programs through the years. G.R.O.W. (God Rewards Our Work) was part of follow-up that proved effective at one time. It included offering weekly visitations to guests, answering their questions and looking for opportunities to share the Gospel. Many people responded and opened their doors to talk with the church’s GROW teams. The church continually seeks ways to connect with its neighbors, building relationships, sharing love and sharing Jesus.
GRACE BAPTIST CHURCH
Grace Baptist Church of Sunset Beach is tucked away in the small water-privileged beach community in Northern Anne Arundel County. The church is over 50 years old, but there are still folks who don’t know they’re even there, Senior Pastor Douglas Alberts said. So they work hard to get the word out.
“We have revivals, concerts, Easter egg hunts, Christmas programs. We use the local papers, The Maryland Gazette and Pasadena Voice, we advertise on our marquee and we put up flyers to let people know what we’re doing. We have to let people know we’re here,” he said. “We try to expose ourselves to the whole neighborhood.”
The church uses it’s close proximity to the local elementary school to reach families. Alberts said the school welcomes volunteers to read stories to the children. Even Alberts spends time with the children and he likes that the kids know him. Many recognize him from Vacation Bible School.
Each year the church has a VBS kick-off event and follows it with other activities to keep the momentum going and encourage return visits.
“VBS is huge. We start planning for VBS the day after the previous one ends. We also follow up. We talk with parents and invite them to come to other services.”
The church is proactive in building student ministries. “We hired a part-time youth director two and a half years ago. We started out with zero kids. Last week we had 19. We recently decided to hire a part-time children’s ministry leader,” Alberts said.
The church works hard to make visitors feel welcome. Visitors are sent a hand-written letter the following day. In addition, names and addresses are given to three or four people in outreach and visitation and they follow up the letter with a phone call and another little note.
Alberts feels very strongly about giving an invitation. “I believe people need an opportunity to respond to what has gone on for the past 30 to 40 minutes. I’ve always done that. I think it’s a necessity.” He also believes it’s imperative to make it understandable.
“Sometimes we can get too ‘churchy’ in our words. we need to make them understand,” he emphasized.
MONTROSE BAPTIST CHURCH
Since coming to Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, Md., Senior Pastor Ken Fentress has led the church to be more intentional in reaching out to families whose children, ages 6 weeks to 12th grade, attend Montrose’s child development center and school.
Before his arrival, Fentress said in many ways, the church, school and child development center were in their own worlds. Recognizing those communities as “low-hanging fruit,” Fentress urged members and staff to invite those to church who already have a presence on the church campus.
And the result has been positive.
“We have improved at connecting with those families—some have come to hear the Word of God [which Fentress describes as expository and Gospel-centered] and have become members,” Fentress said, adding that many have invited those in their own networks to come as well.
In addition, Montrose hosts two major productions, at Easter and Christmas, jointly sponsored by the church and the school. “It really brings everyone together,” Fentress said.
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, CROFTON
In following a relational model, First Baptist Church in Crofton, Md., offers its AWANA program to area children for free. AWANA is an exciting ministry for children ages 2 to 11, which meets during the school year on Sunday afternoons from 4-6 p.m. The program stresses Bible memorization and includes many fun activities.
Though it is a costly endeavor, “It is my deep conviction I shouldn’t make people pay to learn the Bible,” said Bob Parsley, senior pastor. “As long as we can afford it, we will pay.”
And pay they do, even into the thousands of dollars. But the reward has been sweeter. The church is a constant buzz of activity as children from all over the community participate.
“Half of the kids are not our kids. Some get baptized elsewhere, but it doesn’t matter, because we are reaching them for Jesus Christ,” Parsley said.