Thanks for listening in to this week’s unSeminary podcast. I’m excited to have Brett Bixby join us from Bridgewater Church – a multisite church with campuses in New York and Pennsylvania.
Founded in 1807, Bridgewater Church plateaued for many years with most of their growth being transfer growth rather than new salvations. But fifteen years ago God began stirring in the hearts of the staff and in 2009 Brett was brought on board as the Outreach Pastor to help develop a focus on reaching adults with the Gospel. Listen in as Brett shares the methods Bridgewater began to implement over the years to become one of the fastest growing churches in the country in a relatively rural area of the northeast.
- Change your methods. // As Bridgewater began to shift their focus more to spreading the Gospel, they realized that most people who don’t attend church aren’t necessarily against God, but rather see church as unappealing and have no desire to come. So Bridgewater began to examine their structure and methods for reaching the lost to see what needed to change. The first of these changes was to add a contemporary service and then encourage their people to invite their friends and family. People were so responsive to these invitations that the church had to continue adding services, and eventually transition the traditional service because they needed the room for new families.
- Invite friends. // Bridgewater made it normal for people to invite everyone they knew to hear about Jesus. The staff wanted to be the first to model the invite culture they were trying to develop and so they went out of their way to get involved in the community. As part of this natural outreach, the lead pastor coached high school soccer and Brett coached junior football and sought to connect with local families. This philosophy and involvement in the community continues to be an important part of Bridgewater’s culture today.
- Tell God-stories. // Another change Bridgewater made was to focus on stories of life-change within their communities. Week after week they shared stories of what God was doing in the lives of people at their church. When they didn’t have the ability to record videos of these testimonies, they simply asked people to come to the front of the room and share. Bridgewater also celebrates salvations with carnations. Whenever people give their lives to Christ, it’s represented by carnations within the service. At a recent church business meeting, 464 carnations were displayed, each representing the people who were saved at the church in the last year. Realize that God wants to show up this way all of the time in our churches, but we have to be willing to work with Him.
- Plug people in. // As new families have come to the church, Bridgewater looks to Jesus’ example of how he connected people relationally and invited people to serve. Jesus had his disciples passing out bread and fish and hanging out with each other, and connection can be as simple as that. Brett reminds us that there are several team roles that can be available to anyone, regardless of where they are spiritually. Working as a greeter, serving coffee in the café, or working in the parking lot are all roles new people can step into. And now as churches reopen, cleaning teams will be necessary at each campus as well. Plug people in wherever they fit and get them relationally connected to people who love Jesus in order to help them take steps forward.
- Explore what’s next. // When the lockdown started, Bridgewater went back to their mission and just looked for different ways to accomplish it. Now as the church reopens, they are exploring new campuses to see where God wants to move them next. Another church has already approached them during this season to explore a possible merger. When planning to launch a new campus, take a look at towns with elementary schools. As Brett notes, any place with a school has enough young families that they need a great church.
You can connect with Bridgewater Church at www.bridgewater.church.
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