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“This was something he wanted to do,” said his mother Stefanie Hendley. “They (FBC) do a lot for the kids here” including providing backpacks and school supplies. Each week Owens reads Bible stories and “loves on the kids” in one of two such programs.
In past years, First Baptist leaders intentionally worked to reach and assimilate VBS prospects. Trained FAITH participants visited every family, took goody bags and exemplified basic growth principles by enrolling families in Sunday School.
While parents graciously responded to the church visitors, few of the families ever returned to church except to attend VBS the following year.
Last year, in an effort to more effectively reach unchurched families, parents were invited to a weekly parenting seminar held on Sunday morning. The seminar was located in a classroom easily accessible from the church’s parking garage—even if it meant temporarily moving an adult class that had met there for 20 years.
The first week, 37 parents arrived at the seminar and brought more than 50 children with them. Then attendance grew. Each family received a children’s Bible and were asked to read it nightly to their children.
Throughout the parenting class, the group became closer, forming a nucleus of a bonded small group.
According to Carol Daniel, minister of adult education, careful attention was given to every detail of the parenting class to retain adults as well as the children. “We looked at where it was going to be, how we can make it convenient and user friendly.”
Their attention to details paid off last September when 90 percent of the class was transitioned into the newest Sunday School class in the young adult department.
The church also sponsors other outreach activities for the community, including a fall festival that draws more than 2,000 to the downtown church and an annual wild game festival to attract men.
As a result of this evangelistic fervor, last year 168 persons were baptized by the church—placing it 21st among all Florida Baptist churches.
Owens and Daniel work hand in hand, said the children’s leader. “We believe in family ministry, not just children’s ministry.”
Daniel concurs, “Every ministry we do here partners with evangelism and is aimed at outreach. We are trying to think outside the church to the community.”
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