BGCM board okays 'First Priority' plan

The Baptist General Convention of Missouri will take a team approach to ministry in 2005-2006, if messengers to its annual meeting approve its strategy plan. The BGCM board of directors unveiled the results of their planning process at the conclusion of a retreat March 4-5 at Windermere Baptist Conference Center.

The five-year plan, called First Priority, includes six strategic initiatives. The strategy team labeled four of those -- leadership development, congregational health, church planting and missions mobilization -- as Great Commission initiatives. Two resource initiatives are called ministry resources and congregational relationships.

The leadership development initiative calls for establishing regional networks for ongoing opportunities, providing online options, providing other resources and establishing a staff development program.

The congregational health initiative will help churches evaluate their health, provide resources for church ministry, develop partnerships and networks, and assist them with stewardship development.

Through its church planting initiative, BGCM plans to establish networks, develop models and provide assessment and training resources.

Missions mobilization will concentrate on providing resources and networking churches for worldwide mission endeavors and assisting churches to network with missionary-sending agencies.

Under ministry resources, the convention will develop resources for pastors and staff, including establishing insurance and retirement programs. The initiative also will include assistance for congregations that choose to examine denominational relationships.

The congregational relationships initiative will focus on networking and will assist church search committees and ministers seeking places to serve. The convention's communication and public relations efforts also will be part of this initiative.

In addition to the plan, directors also will ask messengers to adopt the following 10 recommendations from the strategy planning leadership team:

* The BGCM board would be restructured to follow the team concept. Five teams would be developed - leadership development, congregational health, church planting, missions mobilization, and a resources and relationships team. All board members, convention officers and related staff would serve on one team. The chairperson of each team and at least two at-large board members would make up the administrative team.

* The BGCM would hold the line on overhead expenses to direct more funds to resource development for churches.

* The BGCM requests its organizational charts for the board of directors and its staff leadership team be adopted. The staff leadership team would include the executive director, the executive assistant, the communications specialist, a secretary/receptionist, the four Great Commission team leaders, and four regional networks and affinity groups.

* The board would elect four team leaders who would serve either as volunteers, part-time staff or bi-vocationally. The executive director and administrative team would recommend those four.

* The current special assistant staff position would become the communications specialist with the responsibility to develop a communication strategy.

* The convention would seek to expand partnership efforts with Baptist institutions in Missouri.

* The BGCM would provide a world missions giving option.

* It would develop partnership agreements with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and WorldConneX, a stand-alone mission group organized by the BGCT to help churches and believers connect with mission opportunities.

* It would seek to expand its involvement in and support of the Baptist World Alliance and the BWA's North American Baptist Fellowship.

* The BGCM would establish mission partnerships and encourage churches to participate in mission efforts.

The First Priority strategy was based in part on needs recognized through interviews and an online survey, as well as information gleaned from six focus groups. More than 100 individuals took the survey, with about 70 to 100 people involved in the focus groups.

The plan reflects some similarities to the New Directions strategy the Missouri Baptist Convention adopted during Jim Hill's tenure as executive director.

The plan recognizes "that the churches are what the kingdom is about," he said. "It is the heart of denominational life.... In cases where denominations don't seem to be responding, churches are looking elsewhere for help."

"The biggest difference [between First Priority and New Directions] is that BGCM didn't have to concentrate on change as the major issue," he said. (03-08-05)