Some old things still work.
Remember the Harwell Dekatron? It is now 64 years old, but it still works. The giant calculator looks like something right out of Star Trek. According to Marian D’Souza the calculator weighs over 2.5 tons, has over 10,000 moving parts, and can work for over 80 hours in a week without making a single mistake. It is the world’s oldest working digital computer.
There is also a steam-powered car built in France in 1884. It is called the De Dion-Bouton et Trepardoux and is fueled by coal, wood, and bits of paper. Although the car takes about a half hour to build up enough steam to drive, it can travel at a speed of almost 40 miles an hour. The automobile still runs and was sold at an auction in Hershey, PA in 2011 for $4.6 million.
Kevin Williams, pastor of First Baptist Church in Villa Rica, decided to try something most pastors would be reluctant to attempt. And, it worked like a charm.
Williams was in a staff meeting with his ministry team when Micah Hamrick, executive pastor, suggested the church plan a high attendance day like his dad, Wayne Hamrick, had developed and implemented in his ministry in years gone by. Wayne Hamrick, former Georgia Baptist Convention president, pastored almost a dozen churches through the years and knew how to motivate and challenge his people to grow their Sunday Schools and reach their goals on high attendance days.
Something that works
Micah Hamrick explained, “I had thought about suggesting that we use dad’s plan for having a high attendance day for several months, but being the ‘new guy’ on the staff I thought they might be tired of me talking about my dad, so I chose not the mention it.
“However, back in the early summer we were having a round table discussion with our staff about ways to grow our Sunday School. We had continued to grow, but at a slower pace, so we were discussing ways to kick-start our Sunday School growth again.
“After about 20 minutes, I finally spoke up, and said, “Pastor, I have been holding an idea ever since I have been here, but haven’t mentioned it, because I thought everyone would laugh.”
He asked, ‘What is it?’
“I said, ‘I know we live in a world of digital electronics and technology and this might be hokey, but it just might work.’ I continued to explain dad’s Sunday School emphasis that he called ‘Don’t Break the Chain’ where every Sunday School member was asked to sign a paper link designed to go into a chain, promising to be present on a certain Sunday.
“Kevin seized the concept immediately. He looked at Jon Price, our discipleship pastor, and said, ‘We are going to do it.’ Within a few minutes we had our date picked out and started our planning process.
“We started with a teacher and care group leadership banquet on Aug. 4. We had approximately 200 in attendance. Kevin introduced the emphasis: ‘Don’t Break the Chain on 11-5.’ The idea energized our Sunday School leadership team. It was like a pep rally for a football game. We gave each class their goal that night for Nov. 5 and even started letting our leadership ‘sign’ their link for the chain.”
‘The way daddy did it’
“Two days later on Sunday, Aug. 6,” Hamrick continued, “the pastor introduced the plan to the congregation in both morning worship services. You could really feel the energy as people began to grasp the concept. We hung a placard for each class across the front of the worship center with the class name and goal for all to see. That is the way daddy did it – with old-fashioned cardboard signs. Then as people signed their link, we hung those links one by one, forming a chain of names.
“We didn’t say much about it in September, but began to push it hard in October from the pulpit and elsewhere. Our people bought into the idea and once the people had signed their link in the chain the message transitioned into bringing friends and guests. During October, Jon began to stress to our teachers the importance of direct contact with their class members. There in no telling how many thousands of phone calls, text messages, emails, and personal visits were made by our staff and Sunday School leadership during those few weeks.”
Hamrick added, “Our classes worked hard. Several brought breakfast in for their classes. We had pre-positioned folding chairs around our facility with the anticipation of needing them. Our Sunday School starts at 9:45, but by 9:35 I was getting texts and phone calls from classes needing extra chairs. By 10 our parking lot team made me aware our parking lots were full and they were parking cars curbside around our campus. What an exciting day!”
An exceptional day
The setting of a high attendance goal and the hard work that preceded Nov. 5 paid tremendous dividends. The previous high attendance for Sunday School was 761, but FBC Villa Rica had 1,057 in Sunday School and 1,383 for worship on their “Don’t Break the Chain” day.
A text message was sent to Pastor Williams just before the benediction so he could announce the attendance numbers to the congregation. The congregation offered a praise offering of applause for what God had done through His people. It was an exceptional day.
Best of all, the church had ten additions on their special day with five of them coming into the membership of the church on profession of faith.
Was “Don’t Break the Chain” hokey? Maybe. Was it an old-fashioned concept? Maybe. Would most churches be reluctant to try something like what Micah Hamrick suggested? Probably.
But First Baptist in Villa Rica proved some old ideas still work … if the people will.