Approximately 66 pastors attended the first listening session hosted Jan. 23 by First Baptist Church in Lyons and Pastor Dannie Williams. A compilation of the most frequently heard responses to questions at the listening sessions offer a look at how pastors think the Georgia Baptist Mission Board can better equip churches. HARRIS MALCOM/Special
DULUTH — Hundreds of responses and discussions emanating from two months’ worth of listening sessions (see previous stories here, here, here, and here) across the state have provided a clearer picture for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board to better equip pastors and churches, says Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond, Jr.
“I’m extremely encouraged by the number of participants,” said Hammond, “but even more so by their enthusiasm and willingness to share their ideas of how the Mission Board can best serve them.”
The listening sessions – which began Jan. 23 and ended March 13 – were held at churches of various sizes, locations, and ethnicities across the state. Lasting roughly an hour-and-a-half to two hours, sessions took place both in the morning and at night to provide greater accessibility to pastors.
After a welcome from Hammond, pastors talked through the following questions in small group discussions:
- What does the Mission Board do well that it needs to continue doing?
- What does the Mission Board do that it needs to stop doing?
- What does the Mission Board do that it needs to keep doing and do better?
- What are the top three needs of pastors with which the Mission Board can help?
- What are the top three needs of churches with which the Mission Board can help?
- What is “the win” for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board?
In clarifying the purpose of each listening session, Hammond pointed out that the Georgia Baptist Mission Board exists to encourage, resource, and serve pastors, their families, and Georgia Baptist churches.
“It is paramount for the Mission Board to know and fulfill its reason for existing. When pastors have the opportunity to share their needs, it enables us to have a greater understanding for how we can accomplish that purpose,” Hammond stated.
After talking in their small groups, representatives from each would present their findings. Hammond then would ask follow-up questions, offer feedback and, when needed, sought clarification on how the Mission Board would address that topic.
While numerous responses from participants were offered to each question, below are the top ones, ranked in order:
What does the Mission Board do well that it needs to continue doing?
- The ministry staff are available and responsive.
- The Board is helpful to churches in crisis or transition.
- The Evangelism Training webinars are helpful and inspiring.
- The Board communicates well to churches.
- Conferences and training are provided by leaders with expertise.
- Resources for legal, financial, security, and retirement issues are helpful.
What does the Mission Board do that it needs to stop doing?
- Stop holding on to the Missions and Ministry Center. (Decentralize/ Regionalize)
- Stop the volume of snail mail.
- Stop trying to be everything to everyone. Too many departments – focus on doing fewer things better.
- Stop under-representing mid- to small-sized churches.
- Rethink how you do church planting and coordinate the systems better with NAMB, local associations, and local areas.
- Stop being partisan in politics.
- Stop supporting ministries with lesser participation at events.
What does the Mission Board do that it needs to keep doing and do better?
- Help pastors deal with stress, difficulty, and potential for burnout.
- Relating to language and cultural groups
- College ministry – funding and strengthening colleges
- Small church conferences
- Keep doing these Listening Sessions. Keep re-thinking.
- Working with young pastors and bi-vocational pastors
What are the top three needs of pastors with which the Mission Board can help?
- Training leaders
What are the top three needs of churches with which the Mission Board can help?
- Leadership development – revitalization
- Training (with expertise in fields)
- Evangelism assistance
What is “the win” for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board?
- Increase baptisms/see more people come to faith in Jesus.
The last response regarding “the win” came up four times more frequently than any other in that category.
“As a leader who had the privilege of attending most of these listening sessions, the honor of working behind the scenes to support this effort, and the opportunity to see our new executive director at work, I was impressed at how he did two things specifically,” related Steve Parr, Georgia Baptist Mission Board chief strategist.
“First, he genuinely listened to the concerns and ideas of Georgia’s pastors. More than once we heard someone express the sentiment that they expected to hear a long commercial from the Mission Board about the future,” he said. “Instead, they were personally engaged, heard, and felt both value and inclusion.
“Second, I can say that the ideas shared by the pastors directly affected the restructure plan and the future strategy that Thomas Hammond is implementing. I am hopeful that God’s guidance, Thomas’ leadership, and the wisdom gleaned from Georgia pastors is going to help the Georgia Baptist Mission Board to be an even greater asset to pastors and churches as we move toward 2020.”