SBC Life Articles

‘Starting Something New’ Results in Growth, Pastor Says

Arthur Siggers knows the importance of starting something new. The Hattiesburg, Miss., native returned home 14 years ago to become pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church — a congregation of 140 meeting just twice a month. Today, Siggers preaches to more than 800 every week, and he attributes the growth to adding ministry and worship opportunities.

To start something new, churches must have the proper vision and planning, said Siggers. A pastor considering a new ministry, Sunday School class, or worship service must consider the reason for the new project, he said. "The Lord gives different visions to different men for different churches."

Churches must prepare the people, prepare the plan, and prepare for growth as they start something new, Siggers said. Preparing the people can help overcome discomfort or initial objections to the changes necessary for new initiatives. "That comes from sharing your vision. Talking about it. Not just doing it cold turkey."

Pastors must also prepare their plan in order to accomplish that vision, Siggers said. "If you don't have any idea where you're going, you won't know when you get there," he said. "So many times pastors tell folks, 'Well, the Lord was with me.' And the Lord is with us, but it requires some work too. Things don't just happen."

Part of Siggers plan for a second worship service was to prepare leadership for the new work to be done. "If you have a dynamic ministry and you don't train folks to help you with leadership, you'll suffer," he said. "You can't involve people in ministry if you're doing it yourself."

Training leadership is also a part of preparing for growth. Mt. Olive Baptist Church add more than 100 members annually, but Siggers admitted the church lost many people who were not being plugged into ministry opportunities.

Today, new members undergo a gifts assessment to determine the ministries in which they might participate. The new structure is a radical shift from when he arrived. "Everything was centered around 11 o'clock Sunday morning, where you couldn't have but so many deacons," he said. "You had all these people who were not involved with anything."

New units are vital to sustaining church growth said Charles Chaney, Home Mission Board vice president for extension, which includes church starting. "You can reach people and win them to Christ, but if you don't start some new structure for them to be a part of, then they'll drift away."

Start Something New is a two-year campaign designed to encourage every Southern Baptist church to experience growth through new activities and initiatives. From helping birth a new church to adding another Sunday school class, every congregation can achieve growth this way, said HMB President Larry L. Lewis. "I don't believe there's any church too small to start something new."

Sunday School Board President James T. Draper said America's rapidly changing society requires that Southern Baptists start new initiatives to reach a diverse culture. "We're fast becoming a 24-hour society," he said. "The day when we can say to people, 'If you don't come to Sunday school at 9 o'clock in the morning you've missed it' is over."

Small groups help cultivate ministries and relationships, helping lead non-Christians toward a profession of faith. He said when he entered the ministry the denomination's baptism ratio was nine Southern Baptists to every baptism in a year — a figure that has grown to 43 for every baptism. Meanwhile, one-third of non-Christians enrolled in a Bible study will be reached, he said. "When Bible teaching is sown, evangelism is the greatest fruit that is produced."

In addition to starting churches, other possibilities include adding another worship service, birthing a language outreach or creating a new Bible study, Chaney said. "There are thousands of different ways that you could start something new."

The Southern Baptist Convention will emphasize Start Something New for the next two years, highlighting starting churches the first year and starting ministries the second, Chaney said. "For us (in the HMB extension section), we're going to keep emphasizing Start Something New through the rest of the century."

A materials package for the Start Something New campaign, including 21 how-to models for new units, is being mailed to every Southern Baptist church.

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  • David Winfrey