Small changes matter! Back in 1979, Air New Zealand TE109’s flight coordinates were off just two degrees, but that resulted in the airplane crashing into a mountain. A typo in updated software sent the plane 27 miles off course. Clouds obscured the mistake until it was too late for the pilots to make corrections.
I have been blessed to lead this association for seven years. When I first started, I attended an orientation led by Hugh Townsend. The North American Mission Board analyzed 175 Baptist associations and found four things that churches should be doing that help them to be successful and five things that would be challenges for churches. In the Cincinnati Area, these have proven to be true. Do these nine issues sound familiar for your church?
1. Leadership/Vision – this included both leadership within the church as well as the pastor. An overwhelming number of pastors could not adequately state a vision for their church. In our association, two consultants are available to help address vision and leadership that your church needs. We have found out that when a church does not have a pastor that it is during this period that churches are most open for revitalization. CABA has trained 10 Transitional Revitalization Pastors to invest in a church to get them ready for a pastor.
2. Sunday School/small groups/discipleship – basic programming. The need involved both organization needs as well as training. In the past seven years, we’ve been regularly talking about making disciple-makers.
3. Outreach/Evangelism – very few pastors could identify an intentional outreach strategy. For Discipleship and Evangelism, CABA has instituted No Place Left available to any church for training churches in disciple-making and evangelism.
4. Community/Family/Social issues – pastors knew issues connected to their community, but generally did not know how to adequately connect with the community. Contact me and let’s discover ways together to address needs that your community is facing. These are not generic, but specific ways that churches can even work together across communities. In that same report came some other results that you may find essential to the future of your church:
5. When it came to church planting, churches recognized the need, but “there generally was a low level of readiness on the part of the churches.” Church planting is the responsibility of every church and not just those who have been through the NAMB process. In working with Urbancrest Baptist in Lebanon and the IMB, I was blessed to be given a sabbatical this year to develop what is called People Teams Training. This is a free video training series available on my YouTube Channel. A Leader Guide has all the links and it’s free, too, by writing me. CABAdirector@gmail.com
6. The top 10 giving churches in an association typically gave 75% to 80% of the total giving both to missions through the Cooperative Program and to the Baptist Association. In our association, the top 10 giving churches gave about 55% of our giving. In reality, it took 20% of our churches, which is 23 churches to give 75% of CABA's church contributions.
7. Collaboration among the churches is typically low. There seems to be an inability or unwillingness for churches to work together. In addition, pastors tend to be isolated. However, in CABA we’ve been working on ways to connect churches. In the past ten months some 25 churches have been helping each other.
8. Pastors understanding the Purpose of the Association was usually rated low. This is an educational challenge. In the last four years, we’ve instituted a New Pastors Orientation to help new pastors have a deeper appreciation for CABA. We also provide specific benefits – 10 to be exact – for church planters connected to CABA.
9. The spiritual vitality of the churches was often low as well as the spiritual vitality within the region. This is where you come in! Every follower of Jesus should be active in their faith – both living it out and speaking it out.
Making changes is never easy, but even if your direction changes just a little bit each day, what a change can be made in just a few months!
Mark Snowden serves as the director of the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association