December 15, 2020
Dear Church Family,
As we draw near to the end of 2020 and set our sights on a new year, we want you to know that our church staff is incredibly grateful for your flexibility, commitment, and support. Many churches are struggling to know how to function and thrive right now. While COVID-19 has certainly impacted us, we believe we are well positioned for a strong 2021 because of your faithful giving and involvement. This year has allowed church staff and lay leaders to step back, evaluate, and discuss how to restart worship services, Bible studies, and ministry opportunities in this new environment.
When we returned to in-person worship services this past summer, we tried a few different approaches. In August, we landed on two worship services at 9:00 and 10:30 that shared much in common due to our limited volunteer base at that time. As more Bible study classes have returned to Sunday mornings, we have found that the two worship times do not offer the best opportunities for all of our people to worship together, grow in groups, and serve as volunteers.
Recently the staff and deacons discussed and approved a new discipleship process and Sunday morning schedule for our church. While we will be sharing more about the discipleship process in the new year, the primary purpose of this letter is to provide you with information about the upcoming schedule, which flows out of plans for discipleship. Our new worship schedule will begin on January 10:
8:45 Blended Worship Service in the Sanctuary
10:00 Contemporary Worship Service in the New Life Building
11:00 Blended Worship Service in the Sanctuary
11:00 Mask Required Service in a location to be determined
There will be staff leadership and involvement in all three worship services. The worship services in the sanctuary will be blended in style, much like the 8:45 services were before COVID-19 disrupted our schedule in March of this year. Our adult choir and orchestra have not started back yet. Even when musical ensembles begin again, please know that it is going to take time for things to return to what we are accustomed to seeing on the platform.
In all three live worship services, masks are recommended. We will also continue providing a mask-required, in-person worship service that will be a simulcast of the 11:00 service. Also starting on Jan. 10, our livestreams on Facebook and online church will be at 11:00, and our TV33 broadcast will once again be a live service at 11:00.
The worship service in the New Life Building will be contemporary in style, similar to what it has been in the past. We know there are many who will be eager to return to the New Life Building for Sunday morning worship services. I will preach at all three worship services each Sunday that we gather.
We are offering multiple Bible study hours on Sunday mornings, as opposed to the traditional model of only one hour, because we need to be able to use larger rooms, multiple times. Our Sunday morning small groups schedule will look like this starting on Jan. 10:
Adult Bible Study – 8:45
Adult, Youth, and Children’s Bible Study – 10:00
Adult and Youth Bible Study, and Children’s Worship – 11:00
Masks are encouraged for all adult groups. We will continue to require masks for all next-gen groups (youth and children) with the exception of preschoolers. All groups will be scheduled in rooms large enough to accommodate safe distancing requirements.
The adult Bible study time beginning at 8:45 will not provide any age-graded children’s or youth opportunities. Preschool care, however, will be provided during all three hours. Adult Bible study classes that meet on Sunday should use the weeks leading up to January 10 to discuss and decide on their best time to gather. Some might even consider having two different times that their class meets on Sunday mornings. Any changes will need to be submitted to Tom Farr to allocate facility usage. If your group meets off site and at another time, you can continue doing this, or the group leader can request a time to meet on campus.
Our youth will have multiple opportunities on Sunday mornings, either to grow in groups or to serve in ministry. Student Bible study groups may combine grades, depending on numbers. We will do our absolute best to accommodate students who desire to grow in a group and also those who want to serve on Sunday mornings.
Children’s Bible study at 10:00 will be as close to traditional, age-graded Sunday school as possible. Children’s worship at 11:00 will be more of a larger group children’s worship experience that will be flexible to break into smaller groups as needed. Preschool care will be provided during all three hours.
From Two to Three
This church has historically seen more people attend worship services when we offer three services as opposed to two. We saw this phenomenon take place this past summer in going from one service to two, and also from launching our mask-required service a few weeks ago. The more opportunities we give people to gather, the more people take advantage of those opportunities. Our goal is to seek to engage as many people as possible through online, television, and in-person worship. We want to encourage people to come together to worship and ultimately come to know Jesus Christ.
In this COVID-19 environment, churches are no longer trying to fit as many people as possible into as few worship services as possible. Instead, we are encouraging worshipers to spread out over multiple services. The staff and deacons believe this worship schedule will accomplish two goals: allow everyone to keep social distancing for the near future and encourage more people to return to in-person worship services.
Unity in the Body
As to unity among our local body of believers, we must understand that music style or worshipping in the same room together does not unify a church. Rather, unity comes from a shared heart and mind and shared devotion to the Lord. “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble” (1 Peter 3:8 NIV).
A focus on Christ, a faithful allegiance to the Scriptures, a Christ-like attitude in every leader and committed church member, a compelling purpose and clear vision, and a congregation committed both to serving each other in love and sharing Jesus with the world around us—these are the things that unify a body of believers.
As a staff, we are committed to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). We are all going to be moving in the same direction, and we appreciate your patience and willingness to work with us as we make these changes in the coming weeks.
This year has not been easy, and we have come to these decisions with considerable amounts of prayer and discussion. We believe these steps will enable us to be more committed to fulfill the Great Commission by making disciples of all people, which is the reason we exist as a church. Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks. Please pray for God’s continued blessing upon First Baptist Church, that we would walk in full obedience to God’s will and purpose for our church.
Love in Christ,