Of the 101 SBC churches in the SNBA, almost half (even before COVID Pandemic) average less than 50 people on a Sunday morning. As these congregations are made up of older (though, very faithful) members, the tough reality is many churches will face difficult decisions in the next decade. As the Associations of Southeast Texas have historically adapted to the different challenges they've faced, the time comes for us to face the coming realities as well. We want to focus on helping these congregations thrive and continue in their Great Commission purposes.
In most ways the SNBA is already "ONE" organization. The Associations share a joint budget, a central office, an area staff, and send representatives to the Area Committee. The current alignment carries the requirement to have bimonthly executive board meetings in two of the three associations, and eight yearly in the other. These meetings were once a centerpiece of the fellowship and connection felt among the associations. However, while 93% of SNBA churches send contributions throughout the year, only 20% of SNBA churches send representation to executive board meetings. Churches are voting by their nonattendance that these meetings are not beneficial or, at least to them, necessary. We want to provide resources and times of gathering that are encouraging and engaging to all those that would attend.
Many churches on the "association boundaries" have long celebrated a geographic sisterhood, but are divided in two different associations. In times where we have had to cancel meetings due to weather or pandemic concerns, other locations that are meeting the same week are "off limits" to the sister association board members. We feel this is a limiter and not beneficial to the unity that should be further developed. Imagine ALL meetings being open to ALL 101 church partners! We can gain a better appreciation and cooperation of churches attempting to fulfill the Great Commission in our Southeast Texas context.
Much of what is discussed at Executive Board Meetings could easily be sent through postal and electronic mail. The business at Executive Board Meetings have become affirming reports rather than suggesting proactive motions. The need to have three of these meetings calls for much redundancy. In the Path Forward, The Area Committee will remain represented by geographic zones of the entire Area and in control of the budget and vision of the SNBA. However, the assembly time moving forward will be centered on providing resources, encouragement, and training (and not simply hearing reports and information).
Geographically rotating Leadership Forums and Ministry Roundtables will replace the "Executive Board Meeting". Whether bringing in subject matter experts, asking local pastors to share about ministry resources, or simply gathering like-minded ministry leaders around the same table and topic - we can learn TOGETHER! Fellowship is a welcome by-product of SNBA gatherings and we hope to further ministry partnerships and gain from the experiences shared among church leaders. We will extend this by developing unique gathering times for our bi-vocational pastors and their spouses throughout the year as well.
The SNBA is full of churches that gather with one another to partner in areas like special music, revival meetings, sharing ministry resources, and mission initiatives. We want to cultivate and enhance these relationships. Time and resources saved by the Path Forward Plan can be mobilized to offset costs and highlight advancing these partnerships. Shared focuses like WMU, Children & Preteen Leaders, Student Ministry, Men and Women Leaders all do better when they know and trust leaders in sister churches.
With so many churches in our Area that will need to consider revitalization and replanting options in the coming years, the Area Staff will need to be trained and ready to aid in this endeavor. Overall church health directly effects associational effectiveness, and so our efforts must be focused on helping churches maintain healthy practices. Personalized coaching, developing mentor relationships for newer pastors, strengthening our Launch Student Ministry, and developing churches with growth strategies will be components of reaching future generations with the Gospel.