Auxano | How One Church Prepared for COVID-19 in 2015

Fresh Content

How One Church Prepared for COVID-19 in 2015

Featured Articles

A few weeks ago, we captured the story of First Baptist Church Greater Des Moines, Iowa, and it’s too good not to share. As hard as these days are for pastors and ministry leaders all over, the whole team at Auxano gets excited whenever we see that God is at work! We hope that as a holiday weekend approaches, you are encouraged by Pastor Tim Deatrick’s story of God’s provision and continue pressing on to uncertain days with unprecedented clarity!

First Baptist relocated to Johnston, a growing suburb, from downtown Des Moines in 2002. As a church, we knew how to do urban ministry. We knew how to reach homeless populations and meet downtown physical and spiritual needs. But we relocated to a place surrounded by three, four, and five-hundred thousand dollar homes. We soon realized that our church didn't know what to do with that. It's hard to imagine people having a need when they've got a Mercedes and a Lexus sitting in the driveway.

This means that First Baptist Church had been here for 13 years, but we never really found any sense of clarity about why we were here and what we were supposed to do. We could just continue to go downtown and do the ministry we did before the relocation, but that felt a little disingenuous when surrounded by people with so many real, but very different, needs around us.

As a result, we began a Vision Framing process five years ago, and our Auxano Navigator asked us a question: "What do we need to do to be responsive and bring the gospel of Jesus to Johnston five years from now?"

Part of our answer was staffing, so we hired a full-time family pastor. Part of our response was our environment, so we changed the settings, especially for children and student ministry. But the big realization in our three-year planning was that we really felt the need to ramp up our technology.

In our process of vision clarity with Auxano, we looked at the families in our area, and we discovered that local families are very active. They have the resources to be active. As a church, we're not going to win the battle of soccer, softball, pee wee football, or club volleyball. We're not equipped to fight that battle, and we were not even going to try. It wasn't that these parents were not interested in church, their busyness is just the reality of suburban ministry. As a result, we felt led to invest heavily in making sure that First Baptist Church was doing everything we could to bring our worship services to people who weren't physically here. We had a vision of sports-centric families gathering in the Hampton Inn breakfast area watching and worshiping with us before heading to the tournament fields for the day.

It wasn't rocket science. We just prayed for a deep understanding of where the community was, who the community was, and how First Baptist was most effective at reaching the people around us for Jesus over the next five years. As a result, on April 8, 2015, we developed the 2020 Technology Plan. Five years ago, we made the commitment to reach people and then backed that commitment up with a $100,000 investment in technology. Over the next few years, we installed large HD screens, automated camera systems, and we even ran new service to our building to make sure we had the bandwidth to engage with people who were not in the room.

This means that one year before the COVID-19 crisis, we were fully involved in reaching people outside of the walls with quality worship services live-streamed online. When the pandemic hit, our decision making took all of fifteen minutes. We had all of the readiness, especially with technology, and we would not have done that without the Auxano vision process. We would have been as flatfooted as possible, doing some kind of, for us, a low-quality product that we were trying to distribute on social media. We were ready. We didn't know what we were getting prepared for, but our Vision Framing process helped us plan and respond when this COVID-19 moment came.

Five years ago, we made decisions that we are just merely acting on today, and that has given us the freedom to sit down and ask: okay, what's next? Now what? What can we do? How can we look at this crisis as a gift, and how do we receive it and maximize it as good stewards in the kingdom? We just want to steward the gift that God has given to First Baptist Church Greater Des Moines.

Today, we're living in the blessing and the benefit of being what Church Unique describes as an upper-room church. And I feel guilty saying it, but these are exciting days. They really are. We have so many opportunities around us right here in Johnston, and God continues to open our minds around it. I know some people are concerned about what's going on in our world and concerned with getting sick. But, I told myself that if Mother Teresa could walk the streets of Calcutta with lepers, okay, I can get a mask and a little hand sanitizer and then go serve my community.

Interested in expanding your ability to serve and lead your church, or others through a vision clarity process? Our Church Unique Certification is happening online this August, learn more and reserve your spot here.