Building Community Through Shared Interests
The Church: Rock Bridge Community Church, Dalton, Ga.
The Challenge: Help people connect with the mission of the church
One Key Idea: Develop a ministry tailored to the interests of people in your community. For example, if hunting and fishing are popular in your area, start an outdoorsmen ministry.
Outreach spoke to Discipleship Pastor Brian Holt, who says staying true to elements of the local culture provides effective outreach. Here are highlights of the conversation.
What is your strategy for connecting people to Rock Bridge Community Church and to Christ?
Small groups are our bread-and-butter. We don’t have Sunday school, a men’s ministry or a women’s ministry. Our small group life is designed to offer deliberate relationships to help you apply God’s Truth to your life and live it out during the week. Sixty percent of our congregation is in a small group.
How do you specifically connect with people in the Blue Ridge Mountains of rural Georgia?
We don’t strive for a key demographic. We focus more on staying true to our culture. You’ll notice a lot of generational and economic diversity in our area, with its high level of carpet mills—execs making millions and workers making hundreds. That’s reflected in our congregation. We ask ourselves, What are the things in our culture that people like? We are good old country boys. So we make sure we sing a hymn each week. We don’t sing it like people sung it as kids, but it’s a song they know. In the South, most people think they’re Christians because they go to church. That’s why you’ll hear at least one series a year on giving up religion and starting a relationship.
How do you connect with people outside church?
It’s easier to get a woman to come to church than a man, especially in rural Georgia where men wear camo and want to go fishing on Sundays. There’s also a high percentage of men who have been hurt by church. So we decided to connect relationally with men not in church, have some fun, build a relationship—so when they’re ready to make that next step, they know where to go. We’ve seen that happen many times through Rock Bridge Outdoors. We have guys who love fishing, so we take as many fishing trips as we have leaders for. We also do mountain biking, hiking, skeet shooting and kayaking on the Ocoee River.
What’s your biggest challenge as it relates to connections?
We’re not hearing about that person who didn’t get connected last week. We’re always looking for ways to improve our processes, but we don’t want to change just because we experienced some adversity. I start to wonder, Am I really leading this well? Am I taking this to God and trusting Him to move? Or am I trusting in this next methodology to fix everything? We can talk methodology and systems and processes, and to glorify God we better have good ones. But at the same time, I can’t make someone fall in love with Jesus, no matter how good my process is.
What is one process you’ve improved?
We’re going to start tracking connections differently. Instead of, “We’ve completed this contact or made that phone call to a visitor,” we’re going to start evaluating the notes ministry heads are taking on those contacts. Then I’m going to go in and qualitatively assess the nature of that contact. We have another meeting scheduled about how to know if someone has really connected—volunteered, joined a small group, etc. We want to track each person beginning to end.
MORE ABOUT ROCK BRIDGE COMMUNITY CHURCH
Weekend attendance: 2,700
Key connection points: Three locations, six worship experiences, small groups, Rock Bridge Outdoors
Rock Bridge Community Church was a 2010 Outreach 100 Church (No. 46 Fastest-Growing).
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2011 issue of Outreach.
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