On April 22nd-23rd, we gathered together at Lost River for the Serving Our Community Retreat. We learned a lot about how shifts in our society are affecting how we best minister to people (especially those outside the church), what the demographics of our congregation tell us about how we can best serve our community and how we can be a leader in making an impact in our region. It was a fascinating and enriching retreat so we wanted to create a way for church members to share in the experience even if they weren’t able to attend in person.

Below you will find videos, handouts and other resources from the retreat. To get the full digital experience, begin by downloading the handout for each session. As you watch the session videos, follow along with your handouts and take notes. Each video is about an hour in length so if you don’t have time to watch the full session you can read the key findings listed below. We have also included questions to consider to help you reflect on how these discoveries will shape our planning process. 

Our strategic planning process is about active listening and good conversations. It’s a journey of discernment that we’re on together. So be sure to talk with a friend about what you’ve learned, discuss interesting findings with your Sunday School class and share with Pastor Austin ways you are feeling called to get involved. 

Meet Our Strategic Planning Consultant, Glenn Akins

Glenn Aakins-glennkins serves as the Assistant Executive Director for the Baptist General Association of Virginia. Prior to coming to the BGAV, Glenn served as the interim Executive Director for the Illinois Baptist State Association and was the Director of Research and Consulting Services for the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Over the past 20 years, Glenn has helped countless churches  navigate successful strategic planning processes. He brings not only a wealth of experience, but a great passion for helping churches develop relevant missions and ministries to their local communities.

Glenn has been working behind the scenes with our Strategic Plan Coordinating Team since January. At our April retreat, Glenn served as our guest speaker and helped us interpret the incredible amount of information we have collected as part of our research. Be sure to say hello to Glenn the next time you see him at church as he joins us frequently for worship during this time of discernment and planning.

Opening Conversation: Numbers 13 & Church Size

To download the handout, click here.

Key Findings

  • Vienna Baptist Church is larger than almost 75% of the churches in Virginia.
  • Compared to churches across the country, we are a large congregation.
  • Churches must examine how they help guests navigate the building and orient them to the unique worship practices of the congregation.

Questions to Consider

  1. Before watching the opening session, did you consider VBC a large church? Why or why not?
  2. Fear has a way of shrinking us to the size we think we are. How would it change our perspective as a congregation if we came to see ourselves as a big church?

Session One: Mystery Guests Feedback

To download the handout, click here.

Key Findings

  • Our Mystery Guests shared that we were a friendly, welcoming congregation. Church members smiled, said ‘hello’ and took the time to get to know people who joined us for worship.
  • Mystery Guests especially loved the atmosphere in the foyer after service and all the lively conversation. They loved it so much they actually wanted to see the same energy before service as well.
  • Pastor Austin’s preaching was highly praised and Mystery Guests appreciated the opportunity to speak with him after service.
  • Children’s and Youth Ministries were also highly rated. Mystery Guests felt our lay leaders did a wonderful job creating a safe, nurturing environment for children.
  • Our Mystery Guests shared a sense that many people in the community didn’t know where we were. Since we are tucked away in a neighborhood, they thought we should do more to let people know where we are located and ways we make a difference in the community.
  • Mystery Guests challenged us to consider how we might make our worship services and congregation reflect the growing diversity of our region.
  • Mystery Guests told us that parking in the parking lot, finding the correct door to enter and navigating the building can be difficult for first-time guests. We were challenged to consider how we could improve signage both inside and outside the building to help people find their way around.
  • Overall, our Mystery Guests had a positive experience worshipping with us. We were actually rated slightly higher than churches of any size!

Questions to Consider

  1. Our Mystery Guest presentation emphasized the importance of hospitality and welcoming people on Sunday mornings. Do you remember the first time you visited VBC? Why did you come and, more importantly, why did you keep coming back?
  2. Pick any city in the United States. Try planning a trip to visit a Baptist church in that city this Sunday. Likely, you’ll have to use the internet. How quickly can you find a website for the church you will visit? How easily can you find when service begins, what you should wear, where to park and if there is childcare? Can you tell how the church is involved in the community? Now go to the Vienna Baptist Church website and do the same thing. What do you notice? What kind of information do we have that is helpful to guests? What else could we do to help them prepare for a visit and learn more about us?

Session Two: Congregational Survey Results

To download the handout, click here.

Key Findings

  • We expressed a strong belief that the best days of our church are in the future.
  • We continue to find our worship services inspirational.
  • We believe our church is guided by a group of trusted leaders.
  • We recognized our need to take into account the cultural changes affecting people’s lives today and respond appropriately.
  • We saw how we need to grow a shared sense of holy urgency about serving our local community today.
  • We shared our understanding that we must learn to deal with conflict effectively.

Questions to Consider

  1. Where do you see areas of overlap between the feedback from our mystery guests and our own self-assessment? How should this inform our strategic plan?
  2. We recognized our need to respond to changes in the community. How have you seen your neighborhood change since you moved in? What new needs are emerging?
  3. The congregational survey clearly showed that many church members “believe that the best days of our church are in the future.” What is one sign of newness in our church that has personally affected you? How has it given you hope for the future?

Session Three: Community Demographics Findings

To download the handout, click here.

Key Findings

  • Just over two-thirds of VBC’s membership lives within four miles of the church.
  • Very few of our members or guests come from inside the Beltway or south of 66.
  • The largest population group in our local community is young families with earners in the prime of their careers. This is largely attributed to the high cost of housing and the quality of schools.
  • The Fairfax County population is rapidly diversifying. There is surging enrollment in schools among Asian and Hispanic families.
  • In Fairfax County, between 2008-2013, the estimated number of persons below the poverty line & the number of students participating in the free & reduced price school lunch program both increased 36%. There are over 400 students in the Town of Vienna alone who participate in these lunch programs.
  • The needs for mission work can be broadly divided into two categories: Affluent neighbors struggling who are stressed, burnout and in need of spiritual care. Neighbors living at the poverty line in need of hope and tangible support.

Questions to Consider

  1. What surprised you about the map of our membership?
  2. Based upon our membership demographics, how do you think we could best keep people connected and involved? What kinds of ministries do we need to provide so people can grow as disciples no matter where they are?
  3. What is one need in the community the church could address that would make a difference in your life?

Session Four: Cultural Changes Shaping the Church

To download the handout, click here.

Key Findings

  • Americans today are working longer hours and more weeks out of the year than ever before in history. For many people in our community, time has become the most valuable commodity. Churches have to consider ways to help volunteers get the most out of the little time they have to serve.
  • Many families today are dual-income and parents are experiencing enormous stress trying to balance work and personal life. Churches must be intentional about providing support to young families who feel empty, burned out and stuck.
  • Smart phones, social media, email, etc. have all reshaped our society. For churches to connect with people, we must use technology in meaningful ways to deepen discipleship and expand mission.
  • Churches in the past have done a great job at bringing people into the building, but have lacked an intentional focus on discipleship. Many people today are in search of a place where they can participate in inspirational worship services, engage in meaningful dialogue about topics that matter and join with others to make a real difference in the world.

Questions to Consider

  1. —What was the most provocative point of this session?
  2. What opportunities did you hear in the session (things I liked…)?
  3. What threats did you hear in the session (things I did not like…)?
  4. What are some possible obstacles that might stop or slow down the likely outcome discussed?
  5. What are some possible accelerators that might speed up or encourage the likely outcome discussed?

What’s Next?

We hope you will join us on Sunday, May 22nd at 12:30 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall for our Celebrating Mission Banquet. We’ll be exploring the ways we’ve worked to make a difference in the world throughout our church’s journey. We’ll also explore what our tradition of missions teaches us about the ways we can make a difference today. This will be an interactive experience that you don’t want to miss! To RSVP for the event, click here.

 

Throughout the summer, we’ll be partnering with our friends at VOICE and First Baptist Church Vienna to lead small group listening sessions in our local community. We want to get to know our neighbors better and learn how we can best serve them. We are joined by many sister churches and together we will conduct 250 listening sessions over the next couple months. You are invited to join us on Sunday, June 26th from 4-6 p.m. to hear the reports of what we’ve learned from our neighbors!