In 1999, when I graduated from seminary and prepared to take my first pastorate, there was far more that I didn’t know than I did know.
All I really knew at the time was that God had called me to lead a church, and that I deeply desired to make a difference. What I was unsure of was how to do that!
I was asked to pastor a small church on the Eastern Shore of Maryland that had gone through fifteen years of plateau, followed by a leadership implosion that put the church through a near-death experience. The church had about 35 people, no pastor, no visitors, and almost no children.
After being there for just a few months, I attended two powerful conferences that totally changed the trajectory of our church.
The first was a pastors’ conference where the speaker challenged us to “dream God’s dream” for our church. He said, “If you could lead the church of your dreams what would it look like?”
I left that conference with my heart pounding and my head spinning. On the airplane ride home, I pulled out a piece of paper and began feverishly writing down “I dream of a church…” statements.
The second conference was Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church conference. He provided the systems and practical tools that we have used over the last fifteen years to turn the dream into a reality.
These many years later, this DREAM has continued to inspire and direct us.
We have crafted our DREAM into five statements that sum up our strategy.
Here’s our D.R.E.A.M.
D – DESIGN weekend services that the unchurched love to attend
We know that every weekend is someone’s first, and we want them to keep coming back. We do this by focusing on wowing our guests, teaching the Bible with relevance and life application, and using music as a cultural bridge. Because of this, we have baptized over 1,600 people since the dream began!
R – REACH families and RECOVER the broken
We believe that the average American family is facing incredible challenges as never before. Churches need to focus on creative ways to bring hope and healing to hearts and homes. We do this by defining broken families as our target, investing heavily in world class children’s and youth ministries, and offering supportive ministries for every member of the family. Real ministries – aimed at bringing real healing to real lives – have forever changed our church.
E – ENGAGE people in spiritual growth through CLASSes and community
Our motto is, “God wants you to grow up before you go up!” We help people grow by teaching the spiritual habits in our CLASSes and then encourage them to practice these habits in small groups. People aren’t looking for a friendly church; they’re looking for friends. Small groups are the most powerful tool for fellowship and discipleship hands down. The Christian life isn’t just about believing; it’s also about belonging. Using simple on-ramps, we have been able to connect over 70% of our weekend attenders into a small group!
A – ACTIVATE our core in ministry and leadership
Now, more than ever, people are looking for a way to give back. They want to use their time, talents, and tresasure to make a real difference. In most churches, 20% of the people do 80% of the work. At Oak Ridge, over 50% of our members give their lives away using their God given SHAPE in a weekly ministry that matters.
M – MOBILIZE our members to impact the world
Churches, not charities, are called to be on the front lines, engaging people in the most important mission on planet earth – bringing the gospel to every human being in the world. We believe the best way to do this is to partner with local churches across the globe and then help them accomplish their dream in their community. Today, we have mobilized over 1,000 members to impact their community, their country, and the entire world through international partnerships, and we’re just getting started!
We DREAM of 10,000 lives changed by the love of Jesus Christ, and we are crazy enough to believe that the God who raised this church from the dead and performed miracles in our midst can and will do it for His glory through any church that begins to dream God sized dreams!
Our passion is to assist other churches to discover God’s dream for their church. That’s why we host an annual two-day DREAM Church Conference where we share practical ways to grow a healthy vibrant church.
So, what’s your dream for your church?