Tag Archives: Jim Somerville

No rocking chair for me

It is official.

Lord willing, I will retire on September 1, 2013… the same day I celebrate my 20th anniversary on the staff of Richmond’s First Baptist Church.

This congregation has been so good to me and my family for all these years. I wanted to return the blessing and help make this transition in the Communication Ministry as easy as possible. That’s why I gave notice at this early date: to allow plenty of time for consideration of the options for the future of this ministry.

To say it has been challenging and fulfilling would only scratch the surface. It will take me all of the next year to find the appropriate words to express my feelings:

  • to God for the opportunity to have some small part of His mission on earth by using my time, talent and energy for more than 30 years;
  • to Jim Flamming for bringing me into this remarkable staff family at FBC;
  • to Jim Somerville for keeping me on after he became Pastor and allowing me to serve as Associate Pastor for Communication;
  • to the crew and team members who have served so faithfully and effectively over the years;
  • and to this loving, generous, energetic, and compassionate congregation for paying me to do what I love to do, for providing all the tools we’ve needed to carry out an effective Communication Ministry, and for taking such good care of me and my family.

I don’t plan to rust out over the coming year… I intend to flame out. We have so much to do.

I hope we will be able to produce The Prodigal Project before I leave. And if we don’t, I’ll continue to work on it as a volunteer, post-retirement.

Over the coming months I will continue to give full attention to our ongoing ministries including the TV program and webcasts, the website, the WebClass, First Things First, and the KOH2RVA stories.

I am optimistic and excited about the future of Richmond’s First Baptist Church and the Communication Ministry. The best days are still ahead.

What will I do in retirement? Well, God willing, I won’t spend my time in a rocking chair in a dark room. I plan to continue, on a freelance and part-time basis, using the medium of video to tell compelling stories.

I’m looking forward to it.

The Prodigal Plot Thickens

This week in our writing session, we decided on a direction for the second draft of our screenplay for The Prodigal Project.

Dr. Jim Somerville, Senior Pastor, Richmond’s First Baptist Church

Thanks to our Pastor, Dr. Jim Somerville, who met with us and offered some well-timed words of encouragement. He also made a suggestion which forms the structure for our next draft. It was actually his brother, Gray who came up with the idea. But we’ll get into credits later.

We spent a lot of time laughing during our meeting. We recalled some of the wild ideas we’ve had, both the far-out and the way-too-safe concepts that we’ve considered, and the long path we’ve traveled so far.

I think God opened our eyes to a new perspective: our message and our goals are serious and life changing, but we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously… and God Himself is in charge of the life-change department.

The meeting came after a difficult three weeks of sifting through the responses and input we’ve been getting in response to the first draft. We asked for it, sought it and, in two cases, paid for it. We appreciate every word of it. Most of it has been helpful.

English: Example of screenplay formatting. Wri...

I’m learning something about advice, though: Listen to all the advice that comes your way. But be careful, prayerful and wise about which advice you follow.

Seems pretty simple and obvious, I know.

But I, for one, tend to tune out when someone offers advice that I don’t want to hear. Maybe I’d do well to keep listening and try to pick up at least one point I can use. If I shut down too soon, I may miss something really important and helpful.

A couple of cases in point:

One reader (a west coast script coverage professional) advised against beginning the screenplay with a voice-over. But when I viewed one of the movies he’d written, guess what? It began with a very long voice-over. And it wasn’t especially well-done. I lost interest pretty quickly and turned it off half-way through.

Well, at that point I was ready to dismiss all the rest of what he’d given us. But then I watched another film – and this one was both commercially successful and critically acclaimed. It began with an even longer voice-over. This time, it held my attention.
It was a difference between good and poor filmmaking – not necessarily poor writing.

OK, I understood. So I went back through all the other points our screenplay coverage guy gave us and found several very helpful tidbits. Our second draft will be better for it.

Hollywood Sign

One consistent theme that runs through all the comments we hear from “industry insiders” is about how important it is to stick with the tried and true Hollywood formula for movie making. There are certain kinds of things that have to happen at a certain time, in a certain way for a movie to be successful.

Most of this information is helpful. If we don’t produce a movie that people will want to see, we will have failed miserably.

English: Nestor Studios, the first film studio...
The first film studio in Hollywood, 1913

And Hollywood has been at it for more than a century, so we will listen to the folks “in the business” who know what works and what doesn’t.

But then I pull up a wildly successful movie on Netflix and watch as it systematically breaks all the rules.

As one of my writing partners, Matthew Brown has pointed out, “Who would think that a two-hour and twenty-minute movie, most of which takes place on an island with one actor talking to a soccer ball would be any good.” But, of course, “Cast Away” was hugely successful at the box office and won a raft of awards.

Cover of "Cast Away (Widescreen Edition)&...

The lesson: Learn the rules. Learn why they are the rules. Learn the theory behind the rules. Then and only then, with fear and respect for our industry forebears, venture out and push the edge of the envelope.

I don’t think it is an overstatement to say we’re going to push the edge of the envelope with this project. Can’t say too much about it yet because it would spoil the surprise.

Pray for us as we write the second draft… and as we listen to advice, learn the rules, and decide which rules to break.

Stay tuned… this is going to be fun.

Discerning God’s will; building a church budget

We’re beginning a bold experiment in discerning God’s leadership and developing a Ministry Action Plan at Richmond’s First Baptist Church.

Its still a work in progress, and I’m sure we’ll hit some bumps along the way. It may even fall apart in the process. But it is an open, honest and straightforward effort to listen and follow God’s leadership.

I’ve never been a big fan of the way most churches develop their budget.

There are some notable and extraordinary exceptions, but in many churches the process usually begins with the Budget Committee looking at last year’s budget, comparing it with how much money has been given and what the economic forecast for the coming year looks like. Then they decide upon some number that represents their best estimate of what the members will actually give next year. They close with prayer and ask God to bless their work.

Surely there’s a better way. So this year, we’re trying a different approach.

It begins with a discernment process. All of the teams in the church (all 50 of them) are meeting during these days to pray and listen for God’s answer to the question, “What is God leading our team to be and do?” They’re not discussing money yet. That will come later. But for now, unencumbered by the financial costs involved, they’re trying to discern God’s leadership for their ministry area.

Our Senior Associate Pastor Lynn Turner has come up with some guiding questions for the teams to use in the process.

“God’s Will: nothing less, nothing more”

Framing:  What is God leading us to do in this area of ministry in the coming year? 

Shedding: What do we need to lay aside in order to hear God speak?  What do we need to let go of in our current ministry that will allow God to open new avenues of ministry? 

Listening: Whose voices do we need to hear now?  Who do we need to talk with that might give insight? 

Exploring and Weighing: Sharing of ideas of those who have been praying… asking the question… ”where does God seem most present in the ideas shared? Where does the Spirit seem to rest?” 

Resting: Taking some time to pray about the path ahead.

You can’t enforce a timetable on discerning God’s leadership, but we hope that by the end of the summer all of the teams will begin to sense a direction.

Next, the team leaders and leadership staff will work together to figure out how much it will cost (money, time and people) to accomplish what they feel God is leading them to do.

And then, in mid-September, we’ll have a Saturday morning-long “Ministry Action Plan Summit,” attended by all church team leaders, and the members of the Budget, Finance & Personnel Teams. Each team will have written on a 3×5 card what they’re sensing as God’s direction. The team leaders will have two minutes each to tell the group about it. (Senior Pastor Jim Somerville says he’s going to keep the stopwatch and call time.)

We’ll communicate what the teams are hearing throughout the church, through every possible channel of communication. We’ll challenge our congregation to consecrate ourselves to follow where God leads.

An important piece of the process is one we don’t feel we can implement quite yet. But, God willing, it will be the centerpiece of the Ministry Action Plan development process beginning next year. It is a “Consecration Sunday” when the congregation will have the opportunity to make a commitment of their time, talent, and finances to carry out what God has called us to do in the coming year.

Up until this point, there has been no discussion of the financial aspects of the Ministry Action Plan. But now, with the financial projections that the team leaders have developed and the commitments the congregation made on Consecration Sunday, the Budget Team will meet to develop a three-tier budget for the coming year:

  1. A “Hold the Line Budget” – the smallest of the three, that essentially keeps the budget where it was the previous year.
  2. A “Step of Faith Budget” – a larger number that accounts for the faith that God will provide.
  3. A “Bringing Heaven to Earth Budget” – a number that reflects all that we sense God is calling us to do, and so large a number that only God can make it happen.

The Deacon Chair, two representatives each from Budget, Finance & Personnel Teams, the Senior Pastor, the seven Associate Pastors, and one representative from each of the eight ministry areas of the church (Invitation, Community, Worship, Formation, Compassion, Communication, Support, & Pastor’s Office) will get together in October. With the Budget Team’s three scenarios in hand, this group will negotiate and develop a recommended set of priorities to meet each of the three scenarios. We fully expect to give-and-take among the ministry areas so that, when the day is done, we will agree on on where God is leading our church in the coming year.

The Budget Team will review, adjust and take final action on the recommendations and then begin a two-month series of presentations and discussions among Deacons and the congregation, allowing more room and time for God’s Spirit to move among us. Perhaps additional adjustments will be made the plans during this period.

Finally, in mid-December, the congregation vote on the plan.

That’s the plan. I’ll tell you how it’s going as we live it out in the coming months.