Missions-minded churches are filled with missions-minded people. So how do you create a church full of missions-minded people? Ask First Baptist Church in Russellville, Ark., and they will tell you it’s all about information, inspiration, and involvement.
The pastors at FBC approach missions with an “arms wide open” mentality. “We’re big believers in finding out where God is working and getting on board with what He’s doing,” says Senior Pastor Greg Sykes. When members approach their pastors with an idea for missions opportunities, the church does what it can to help. “We recognize that the people in our church are quality folks, and when God is moving in their hearts, we want to help them.”
Missions Pastor Jay Ham agrees. “If the Lord wants you to get involved in reaching a certain people group, He’s going to tell you. He isn’t going to tell me to tell you.” And even though the church is limited in providing funds to everyone’s missions ideas, they do offer as much supportive help as they can. “I have an administrative assistant that will help them get the information they need and if they want to, they can go above and beyond,” says Jay.
Several church members have launched out and funded their own missions trips and programs, including one recent missions trip to help International Mission Board missionaries aid Syrian refugees.
So how do the pastors keep up with all these mission projects? Regular communication. “Control is an idol. It overpromises and under delivers,” says Jay. “Thinking I could be in control of all that God is doing is a joke. I don’t feel the pressure to be on every trip.”
Instead, they have organized a regular dinner that meets every other month for anyone in the church who has a missions project or who is interested in learning more about missions on any level.
The meal is provided by the church. They keep the menu simple—soups and sandwiches, and then they go around the room and share what they have seen God doing and how the rest of the group can pray for them. “These are the stories you aren’t going to hear in the bulletin or through an email,” Jay says. “It keeps us in the loop, and most importantly it keeps us praying.” Each person is prayed for by the person sitting next to them as they go around the room.
Another example of FBC Russellville’s effective missions communication is their Annual Missions Banquet. Rather than take up special offerings for particular causes throughout the year, such as, Lottie Moon or Annie Armstrong, the church combines their efforts to raise money for missions through one big celebratory dinner once a year, where they raise money for all the missions efforts of the church, including the special offerings.
The banquet includes a meal and speakers from missions projects which the church helps fund, and the foyer is filled with booths set up by all the organizations and projects the church supports, including church plants, disaster relief teams, and a representative from the Arkansas Baptist State Convention who explains the purpose of the Cooperative Program, exactly where the money goes, and how it has facilitated missions work through the state and the world. The booth representatives often use videos, hand out brochures, and make time to answer any questions. “The booth fair is what puts meat on the bones,” says Greg.
The tickets are sold for $5 apiece, but staff members buy the tickets and invite church members who are most interested in funding missions. The college ministry does the serving and the youth choir sings. Speakers in the past have included the pastor of a church plant in San Diego, a journeyman to Japan, and staff members from the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. “We explain where every dime of the missions budget goes,” Jay says, “and we make it clear that they were invited to the dinner because we need them to give.”
The event is held in the spring to give the congregation breathing room after the first of the year and also give staff the time to raise money so airline tickets and other planning needs can be prepared and purchased.
“People in our church know that this is the night to give above and beyond. We have walked away from this evening in the past with 30 percent of our missions fund goals for the entire year met,” says Greg. “People are smart. They know that people spend money where their passion is. It’s not complicated. We’re an Acts 1:8 church. If members are willing to get involved in missions, that’s all it takes.”