A Time of Opportunities at Beargrass: Building the Future on Today’s Strengths
—a report by John W. Wimberly, Jr., Congregational Consultant
Beargrass Christian Church is a strong, healthy congregation with abundant resources (members, finances, facilities) for ministry in the 21st Century. The congregation has a dedicated, multi-talented staff to assist and lead the ministry. In comparison to other congregations with similar worship attendance, Beargrass has a large staff. Long-term it may not be financially possible to support five full-time clergy staff members. The impending retirements of Dr. John Hull (2019), Dr. Leigh Bond (2020) and Ms. Jenell Buckman (2021) provide the congregation with a strategic opportunity to rethink how it might shape the clergy and administrative staff.
During this time of strategizing, it is advised that the current assignment of clergy to specialized ministries (pastoral care, ministry with children, ministry with youth and young adults, and faith development/administration) be rethought. Given the ability of the current staff members to work in multiple areas of ministry, a more wholistic approach can maximize the varied gifts they bring to Beargrass.
The retirement of Ms. Jenell Buckman (2021) offers an opportunity to rethink the staffing plan for finance and administration. Since Dr. Hull spends a considerable amount of his time in administration, a phased restructuring of the finance and administration staffing plan over the next three years makes sense.
The congregation’s finances are solid and the congregation has a wonderful campus that it uses in service of its ministry. The congregation definitely needs to increase its cash reserves to maintain the campus infrastructure. This report strongly recommends the creation of a Capital Reserve Fund which will create a permanent, large amount of cash to deal with building problems as they emerge in the future. A Capital Reserve Fund will take care of the building and allow the congregation to focus on the ministries to which they passionately committed such as inspiring worship, children’s/youth/young adult ministry and mission outreach. It will also avoid the problem of constant, morale-draining fundraising for building repairs.
The congregation’s communications are nicely produced. However, their format is more 20th than 21st Century oriented. A team of communication-savvy members needs to develop a strategy that produces more image/podcast/video-driven communications on the Beargrass website, eblasts and newsletter.
Like the overwhelming majority of congregations today, Beargrass devotes way too much energy to governance. The large number of people needed to fill the system drains energy away from hands-on ministry opportunities. A review of the governance system and corresponding by-laws changes is advised.
The issues identified in the report are not intended to suggest Beargrass has major problems. On the contrary, it has major opportunities to improve its inspiring ministry moving forward. Given its history and dynamic leadership, there is no reason to doubt these opportunities will be seized.