On September 28, 2015, senior pastor Barrett Owen discussed with Church Council the potential of starting a strategic planning process to help shape the direction, potential, and energy for the foreseeable future. It was agreed upon by Council the need of conducting a robust, congregational conversation on the future and energy of our ministries. Following the September 28 and November 30 council meetings, Council called for moderator Stu Crow to form an ad hoc committee to lead a strategic planning process.
The following church members agreed to serve on the Ad Hoc Committee: Stu Crow, Rick Kane, Lora Hamp, Carolynn Coiner, Carla Thomas, and David Collier with Pastor Barrett as an at-large member.
At the November 30 Council meeting, Barrett offered the framework for the strategic planning process. With the help of Dr. Bill Wilson, Director of the Center for Healthy Churches, Barrett presented a proven model from adaptive leadership strategists known as Appreciative Inquiry. It is the same process Dr. Wilson uses as a consultant.
The Strategic Process
First Baptist’s strategic planning process has multiple phases intending to span multiple years. This process was taken and adapted from resources acquired from the Center for Healthy Churches at no charge.
First is the dreaming phase. The congregation comes together for three “Listening Sessions” focusing on the church’s past, present, and future.
Secondly, the church, through the leadership of the Ad Hoc Committee, evaluates the data collected to discern what areas need the most focus (i.e. priorities).
Thirdly, the Ad Hoc Committee enlists the help of standing committees and teams to further nuance and dream about how to fill each of the corresponding priorities.
Fourthly, the Ad Hoc Committee, in partnership with established teams and committees, present all findings at the final three quarterly business meetings (May 4, August 10, November 9) offering recommendations and visions for the future.
Fifthly, the church implements the approved recommendations while consistently evaluating the effectiveness and contribution of each recommendation to the overall mission of the church.
The Listening Sessions
In order to rekindle the congregation’s enthusiasm for missions and ministry, three listening sessions were needed. Each session focused on either the past, present, or future of First Baptist. The intent was to shine light on areas we have invested (and might need to again) energy, dollars, and resources.
The first listening session took place on February 9, 2016, “looking” at our church’s past. We answered three basic questions: “When and where did you feel closest to God? Why did you become connected to First Baptist? What words best describe First Baptist to you?” These answers were placed on a 70-foot timeline in the Fellowship Hall and remained on display for six months.
The second listening session took place on February 24, 2016, “listening” to our church’s present ministry successes. We ranked our ministries in terms of importance, and then we performed a “KoolAID" activity in which we discussed what needed to be Kept, Added to, Improved, or Dropped.
The third listening session met on March 12, 2016, in order to dream about how to best “live” into our future. Together we wrote God-sized dreams for each of top ministry priorities from the second listening session results.
The data collected from each of these sessions was sifted through and interpreted by the Ad Hoc Committee. Their findings were then reported on to the church at the second and third listening sessions as well as regular business meetings.
Following the first listening session, the Ad Hoc Committee determined a new logo was needed in order to innovate. It was agreed upon that the logo should honor our church’s history and theology as well as call us into a shared future.
Our logo takes pieces of our past and displays them in a new, contemporary way. The font is a sans serif creating a more contemporary look with a sharp contrast to a more pronounced serif font for the tagline.
The stained-glass is the central image of our sanctuary and perhaps the most important focal point on our church’s campus. It was used as the backdrop for the logo signaling the need for “traditioned innovation.”
The cross in the middle of the stained-glass shows what is at the heart of our theology and worship. It is slightly off-center showing movement and drive. We are stepping into God’s future together, and we are led by the saving acts of Jesus Christ calling us to do, love, and walk.
The stained-glass is shaped like a mosaic representing the differing aspects of our congregation coming together to make a larger, more perfect picture of God’s hope for us. All of our ministries, Teams, Committees, Bible studies, and missional opportunities represent pieces of the whole. The stained-glass captures the importance of each piece while forming it to make a more perfect image of God’s hope for us.
The background shining through creates negative space for the cross. It reminds us of John 1 when scripture says, “The light outshines the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.” The light shining through reminds us of God’s grace in the midst of our darkness.
The Center for Healthy Churches strongly recommends, when conducting Appreciative Inquiry conversations, a central image capturing the best of the organization. Their desired image is a timeline in which members offer significant memories and hopes that then becomes emblazoned as the church’s appreciative history.
Each of our listening session offered opportunities for members to share memories of what God has done and is doing through First Baptist. These memories were captured on a seventy-foot timeline with Post-It notes around the Fellowship Hall authoring the energy and vitality of First Baptist’s history while also promoting an open-ended, hope-filled future to step into together. This timeline remained present for six months as the data was transferred over to a permanent, professional piece of art.
Thanks to the creative genius of the Ad Hoc Committee (and the overwhelming participation of the congregation), the final product is remarkable. It now sits in the hallway outside the Fellowship Hall as a collective work of art.