Mission, Vision and 2027 Vision
BIG BETHEL MISSION, VISION AND 2027 VISION STATEMENT
The mission or Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ; and to communicate to the world through preaching, teaching, evangelizing, worshipping, and stewardship, that “Jesus Saves.”
“We are a spirit-filled fellowship engaging in fervent worship, bible-based teaching and preaching, and compassionate missions driven to be the miracle in downtown Atlanta.”
Jesus was always doing his Father’s business. He was actively engaged in ministry and so were the people that followed Him. Jesus did not have “pew disciples” the way we have “pew members” in today’s church. Moving from membership to discipleship means that we must all commit ourselves to being involved in meeting needs.
We encourage you to take seriously the command that we are to be doers of the word by actively ministering to others. There are over forty ministries at Big Bethel. There is something for everyone to do. Your gifts and talents are vital to assuring that we meet needs. As you look through this section, ask yourself “how can I find my space” in the ministry? Once you have determined how you would like to use your gifts, talents and interests in Christian service, contact the coordinator of that ministry or the church office for additional information.
November 30, 2020
Dear Big Bethel AME Church Family:
In November 2013, I first shared my vision for Big Bethel AME Church of which I called “Big Bethel 2020.” This vision statement consisted of seven pillars or ministry areas that God would bless over the next seven years. Well, those seven years have passed in the “blinking of an eye.” Therefore, I want to share with you my assessment of accomplishments and areas of improvement for the Big Bethel 2020 Vision. It is also appropriate to discuss where Big Bethel is going for the next seven years.
Big Bethel 2020 Vision
The original vision statement was comprised of seven pillars: i) Worship, ii) Christian Education, iii) Youth, iv) Young Adult, v) Adults and Seniors, vi) Community Outreach and vii) Economic Development. Before discussing each area individually, I would like to highlight our major accomplishments over the past seven years.
God has allowed us to payoff a tax lien on the Dobbs Parking Lot totaling $987,485 in 2013. This blessing allowed us to get out of “crisis-mode” financial management and become more strategic. Through the efforts of the Commission on Stewardship and Finance and the faithful giving of our membership, God also blessed us to reduce our mortgage principal from $4.6M (2013) to its current level of $1.58M (2020)! This reduction enabled us to remove our parking lot from the mortgage financing! In addition to our mortgage blessings, the $32M Bethel Towers renovation was completed (2020) as a beacon to affordable housing for downtown Atlanta. One hundred eighty units of 1-3 bedrooms apartments are now 100% occupied. The Common areas include a newly renovated exercise area, computer labs, a social area, and a washroom with brand new equipment.
Youth and Young Adult
Our youth and young adult ministries have been mightily blessed over the past seven years. First, our Youth Church became part of our bedrock ministries. We have held Youth Church on a regular basis since 2014. Other Youth ministries that have received consistent support include Church School, Youth Bible Study, Vacation Bible School, Youth Sunday, Youth Choir, Liturgical Dancers, MIME Dancers, Sign Ministry and the Handbell ministry.
In Fall 2015, we began our initiative to reinvent our Young Adult Ministry in what we called “New Beginnings.” With the addition of a Young Adult Pastor, our Young Adult Ministry evolved to what is now called “Thrive” and “Next Shift” ministry. “Thrive” has become the model for AME Young Adult Ministries in the Atlanta Area. Before Covid-19, our weekly Thrive services averaged over 55 live attendees with 175 viewers online. Thrive has a social media presence through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram which surpasses the social media outreach of our 10:00 am worship.
Big Bethel’s live streaming Audio/Video ministry became live in September 2013. This system was unique in design so that it could be fully operational by 1-2 persons in a remote booth. Other systems – comparable to Big Bethel’s audio/video capability in 2013 – required 8-12 technical staff persons to operate on a weekly basis. The ministry delivered live streaming for worship services and bible studies. Since 2013, over 157,563 viewers have watched all or part of a worship service. One of our biggest blessings came in March 2020 when Covid-19 forced all of our worship services to provide remote streaming. The technology presence at Big Bethel made this transition a realizable task.
Big Bethel AME Church holds annual Fasting and Prayer vigils as part of our annual calendar of events. Our Fall and Spring Revivals have provided preaching opportunities for young ministers; and our morning prayer line averages over 40 participants on Monday thru Saturday every week.
Since 2013, two external financial audits have been completed for Big Bethel AME Church – our first audits in over 10 years. In addition to the successful audits, we hold external reviews of our fiscal processes. FOCUS giving has been instrumental to the reduction of our mortgage and will be just as important in the elimination of our future mortgage. Morris Brown College has received more than $70K over this span of years.
While, Bethel/Trinity, Bethel Village, Saturday Academy, Social Action and the Auburn Church Collaborative all provide vital community outreach efforts in specific areas. Also, Big Bethel AME Church developed a Master Plan in 2015 which describes our campus development in support of our ministries.
Needed Areas of Improvements
God has indeed blessed the Big Bethel Family and the 2020 Vision. However, there is certainly room to grow. First, membership growth has been mostly flat over the seven years. Average annual statistics on the number of conversions (14.5), baptisms (6.5) and ascensions (37.8) are all lower than the 10% goal given by the Episcopal District. For example, Big Bethel should have 84 ascensions per year to reach the 10% growth goal instead of 37.8.
Big Bethel has been blessed with paying off debt but remains relatively flat in total funds raised over the past seven years. Total funds raised for all purposes in 2014 ($1.41M) is about the same level of total raised for all purposes in 2020 ($1.38M).
The summary of the Big Bethel 2020 Vision Fall 2020 Update is shown below:
As a church family, where do we go from here? Where are the needs and challenges as we look at the next several years. I would like to share with you some of what I see as the Big Bethel 2027 Vision emphasizing areas of future growth and opportunity.
Big Bethel 2027 Vision
The Covid-19 Pandemic has taught us the importance of our distance worship and ministry. What will be our posture once this crisis is over. I believe it would be a grave mistake to return to our “back to normal” posture but rather learn from the journey that God has taken us through. One primary emphasis for future worship and ministry will be the presence of an Online Pastor. Our goal for church membership growth will be to have the online membership equal to the ground membership by 2027.
It should be noted that Big Bethel’s worship style should remain “Blended”, i.e. delivering worship genres for all generations. This can be accomplished through the creativity of the Worship and Arts personnel. In addition, Big Bethel should always remain at the forefront of worship technologies. This leadership will insure that we are prepared for unknown challenges of the future.
Christian Education is the cornerstone for all ministries. Christian education is important because it teaches us to incorporate God into all things. We must continue to develop education media to include the entire liturgical calendar and all ministries of the church. Christian Education must continue to be woven into the fabric of our church.
We have demonstrated over the past seven years a consistent model of youth ministries including worship, arts, dance, study and extra curriculum activities. The next phase of youth emphasis is Leadership Development. This can be accomplished through deliberate increased involvement outside of Big Bethel to include connectional AME and ecumenical activities.
Our Young Adult ministries are to be commended for its establishment of a vibrant, gospel-filled, intentional worship and ministry experience which meet the spiritual, social and emotional needs of its participants. The future challenge for our Young Adults is to strengthen its links with our local colleges and other Young Adult ministries in the Atlanta Metropolitan Areas.
Adult and Seniors
Our congregants are growing more senior in age. The Big Bethel Senior ministry has been effective in gathering our Senior Saints and helping to meet the needs. This ministry needs the presence of a pastor who is designated to minister particularly to Senior Citizens, i.e. a Seasoned Saints Pastor. The Big Bethel Seasoned Saints Pastor will help in the following areas: i) identify annual goals and directions for our seasoned saints, ii) integrate adult and senior ministry with the rest of the church, and iii) provide activities for outreach outside of the church.
Big Bethel is blessed with the following community outreach ministries: i) Bethel/Trinity Partnership, ii) Bethel Village Outreach, iii) Richard Allen Outreach Center, iv) Saturday School Institute and v) Social Action. In each case, these outreach ministries define goals and directives according to both internal and external influence. These ministries and their subcomponents will be vital to the impact of Big Bethel in the downtown Atlanta area.
There are several specific goals for the economic development pillar over the next seven years. These include: i) pay off of the Sanctuary building mortgage, ii) full development of the Bethel Towers Ministry Space, iii) build and inhabit the Family Life Center, and iv) continued development of the Campus Master Plan which includes the parking deck, family life center, retail and office space. Most of these goals are interdependent and will include reaching milestones along the way.
The Big Bethel 2027 Vision 7 Pillars are shown below:
God has truly blessed the Big Bethel Family for 173 Years as we continue to proclaim that Jesus Saves. With your prayers and support, God will continue to bless us on our journey.
Rev. John Foster, Ph.D.