Volunteer ministry teams help Alabama Baptist churches reach out to members, guestscomment (0)
May 1, 2014
By Gary Hardin
David Birdsong stands in the parking lot of Liberty Baptist Church, Chelsea, each Sunday and gives a high-energy greeting to members and guests.
“It’s all about putting your best foot forward,” Birdsong said. “You never get a chance to make a second impression on your guests.”
He understands the Sunday morning experience begins in the parking lot, not inside the building. As part of Liberty Baptist’s parking lot ministry team, Birdsong and other members of the team assist people in finding a parking space as well as walk first-time guests into the building and direct them to the church’s welcome center.
“And if it’s raining we hold an umbrella over their heads,” he said.
Birdsong’s team also works closely with the church’s shuttle ministry team.
Wade Pugh, an Alabama Power Company engineer, drives a golf cart on Sunday mornings to shuttle people from their cars to the church’s front door and back to their cars.
“We encourage our members to park their cars on our back parking lot and reserve the more convenient spaces for first-time guests, the handicapped and the elderly,” he said. “We run four golf carts on Sundays to shuttle those who park in the back lot.”
These are only two of the ministry teams working tirelessly each Sunday at Liberty Baptist, but they are similar to the thousands of other volunteer ministry teams in Baptist churches across the state helping church members and guests have a first-rate Sunday experience.
Pine Grove Baptist Church, Centre, in Cherokee Baptist Association has parking lots across from two busy county roads. So the church organized a crossing guard ministry team. Crossing guards, wearing orange vests and holding “stop” signs, help members cross these roads and get into the building.
Jerry Benefield, a Pine Grove Baptist crossing guard, said, “Our ministry is to keep people safe. It’s a ministry that has to be done.”
GuideStone Financial Resources encourages churches to have in place safety and security procedures that protect members and guests, an important dimension of giving people a quality Sunday morning experience.
Diane Johnson and her security ministry team at Liberty Baptist have taken GuideStone’s advice to heart. “We have policies and procedures in place for dangerous weather, fire, missing child, intruder, lockdown and medical emergency,” Johnson explained. “Even small churches need to have procedures in place for these things.”
The ministry of greeting is often the first impression people get from a church. For this reason Jackie Davis gives volunteer leadership to an extensive greeter ministry at Central Baptist Church, Phenix City, in Russell Baptist Association.
“Our greeters serve four-week rotations. We make sure two greeters stand at each entrance door. We give first-timers a guest packet containing a pen, a devotional book and information about our church,” Davis explained. “You can’t believe how the greeter ministry has changed the atmosphere in our church. Greeting people with a warm smile and big hello sets the tone for Sunday mornings.”
First-time guests can feel anxious about their visit. They wonder whether the church offers child care, if they will be welcomed, where to sit and more.
Ken McKissack and Butch Drew, ushers at Bay Springs Baptist Church, Dothan, in Columbia Baptist Association understand the anxiety of a first-time attender.
“They are hesitant about coming into a church building filled with strangers,” McKissack said. “But when they see a smiling and friendly face it really helps calm their anxiety.”
Drew, a retired military pilot trainer, added, “I believe it’s important that people feel welcomed when they come to church. I’m a firm believer that the first impressions of your church show what’s inside.”
Jerry Roberson, pastor of Chatom Baptist Church, gives high praise to the greeters in his Washington Baptist Association church.
“Our greeters are enthusiastic, positive, welcoming and help create a warm and loving environment in our church,” he said.
At Chatom Baptist, Regina Thornton brings the power of prayer to Chatom’s Sunday morning services. Thornton heads up the pastor’s prayer ministry team. Thirty individuals who serve in rotation spend time on Sunday mornings in the church’s prayer room (nicknamed by church members as “the pretty room”). Team members pray for the morning service, the pastor and for any prayer requests mentioned on their updated list.
Thornton knows these times of prayer are important. “We have seen this ministry set a positive tone for Sundays,” she said.
The women’s prayer team at Liberty Baptist, led by Maggie Boggan, gathers to learn about prayer and to pray for the church’s ministry and for people’s needs. The team maintains an up-to-date prayer list and sends and receives email prayer requests.
Presence in the community
Liberty’s associate pastor Alan Kuykendall said, “The prayer ministry team has blessed our church greatly by giving our church a presence in the community, which has allowed us to minister to people not connected with Liberty.”
Staff members of Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, Birmingham, also commend the blessings of volunteer ministry teams.
Associate pastor Bill Johnston said, “Teams mobilize people into active ministry. Teams help people find places where they can serve.”
Tom Thompson, minister of stewardship, added, “We would not be able to meet the needs of people without the effective ministry of volunteer teams.”
Speaking of the Sunday morning experience, Jamie Baldwin, associate in the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions’ office of Sunday School and discipleship, reminds churches of the importance of first impressions. “First-time guests decide whether to return to your church during the initial minutes of their visit,” he said.
For information about developing Sunday morning ministry teams, contact Baldwin at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-264-1225, ext. 240.