PADUCAH, Ky. (KT) – Reidland Baptist Church is showing consistent growth by utilizing inventive ways to reach out to the community with renewed commitment and motivation from its membership.
Rob Ison, who has been the pastor at Reidland for three years, has watched the church find success through gospel conversations that come from those community events for children.
“When Christians are willing to be the church, God always blesses that,” he said.
Ison sets an annual baptism target – this year it’s 36 or 15 percent of the total attendance – and he keeps that number in front of the membership in the weekly bulletin.
“We publish how many have been baptized in the last four months,” he said. “If people start seeing zero, zero, zero, it motivates them.”
Last year, Reidland baptized 28 and, considering that’s among the 180 current members, it translates into an impressive 7-to-1 ratio. Ison said he’s noticed a trend in his church the past two years where the evangelism efforts seem to be much stronger from January to July that from August to December. That held true last year with 26 of the 28 being saved and baptized during those earlier months.
“We’ll get four, six or eight per month in the first few months of the year but in the fall, when school starts back and everybody gets busy, it dwindles down,” he said. “People are more revival-minded from January to July.”
Ison said he’d like to advance those baptism numbers into the fall and it starts with him. “I wish I could say, as a pastor, I didn’t do the same thing,” he said. “This is a big event church and a lot of our community events happen in the spring or the first half of the year.”
Reidland has seen growth and it’s been from a diverse age group. A basketball league for youth called Impact, modeled after the Upward program, has been a godsend that has not only allowed church leaders to reach children but also their parents and grandparents, he said.
They have a 10-week season so there are 10 scripture verses to memorize that make an impact. The children share the verses and are rewarded for how many they can memorize, making them accountable for learning.
Thirty-five children in grades preschool to second grade have said 77 Bible verses and it's only midseason.
The majority of the memory verses seem to be said by children who are learning to read, Ison said. Workers in Impact estimate each memory verse said at halftime of games was spoken 40 times at home in preparation for the game.
“If I do a halftime devotion as a pastor, nobody is listening to me,” Ison said. “But if I take the microphone and all the kids say a memory verse over the mic, you can hear a pin drop. The Bible itself is making an impact. Upward didn’t bring a lot of families into church, but the Impact season brings us in five new families a year. The parents and grandparents see the commitment the kids are making and recognize the holes in their own spiritual life.”
An early learning program has been at Reidland for a number of years but only until recently has the staff been part of the church. That has changed under Ison’s watch and now the early learning program, which has about 50 children, is part of the church’s ministry. “They are very clearly part of the church staff and know what we’re doing,” he said.
The children are told what opportunities are available through the church, such as the Impact basketball or other programs, Ison said.
“We’re focused on making sure young families and children know what events we are doing,” he said.
Reidland is undergoing changes brought about through circumstances and not conflict, he said. “We’ve had 50 funerals in the past three years and we had one young man in church who was called to pastor a church down the street. We lost 25 to 30 through that revitalization project. Of the 180 I’m looking at today – not because of conflict – but there’s only about 65 who have been there for three years. The church has gotten much younger.”
The constant reminders of how many baptisms the church has had over a four-month period serves as a weekly motivation, Ison said.
The pastor said his 15-year-old son sometimes will do the announcements and if the number of baptisms is at zero, he will let the congregation know it’s time to start praying and visiting. “He said, ‘Dad, I want to make sure they understand what those zeroes mean.’’’
The pastor also promotes Tuesday night visitation both from the pulpit and in the bulletin. While only four or five may show up regularly, the message in the bulletin subconsciously lets the church know they are still in the business of starting gospel conversations whenever or wherever they can happen, Ison said.
He has promoted a church that has become much more evangelistic in everything they do, from hosting community events, to knocking on doors, to helping children with Bible memory verses.
What has transpired is a church in decline before he came is slowly turning the corner and becoming a church that not only cares about the community, but cares about the lost souls in the community.