In January of 2017 we launched an ambitious five year vision to “Raise the spiritual climate of the community.” This is a God-sized vision because it takes the Holy Spirit to “raise the spiritual climate” in any way, shape, or form. That is what makes it so exciting! This vision will make a significant impact in our community because it affects thousands of people. This is why I am all in.
When the vision was launched, we wanted to be able to test it against actual data to determine whether or not we were making any progress. We began by establishing baseline metrics collected from community and congregational data. Since establishing a baseline, we have been able to track progress toward our goals in multiple areas. I want to show you what has been done so far and share what you can continue to do.
1. Lower the divorce rate by 5% in five years.
What do we know?
61.4% of adults in our areas are married.
13.7% have experienced a divorce
There are about 30,000 people in our immediate area. Based on the data, around 4,000 people and 8,000 children have felt the direct impact of a divorce. An untold number of others have felt the pain of dysfunctional family life.
Our vision is to reduce the divorce rate by 5% in five years. This translates into Freshwater helping 200 couples and over 400 children over a five year period. This is an ambitious goal! We believe that families matter whether you are single, married, currently in a relationship, or involved in a struggling one. We don’t shame those who have experienced the pain of divorce, instead we show grace and love to everyone and offer help and support.
What have we done so far? As of May 2018 we have formally helped over 22 couples with a combined total of 40 children. Our marriage mentoring ministry is doing well and is recruiting new mentor couples. We have also established a counseling referral network for family and marriage counseling.
What else are we doing? On July 28th we are offering a free wedding weekend for couples who want to get married but could never find the time or money. We are also adding marriage mentors to the team to help even more people.
2. Lower personal debt by 50% in five years.
What do we know? In September of 2017 we did a survey to get a baseline on the debt load of Freshwater attenders. This is what we found out:
25% of people had unsecured debt of over $5000.
This averages out to be about 200 individuals that we are directly trying to help.
What have we done so far?
Financial Peace University classes
We talk about lowering debt and are helping people to reprioritize their lives around biblical values. We will not know how many people we have helped until we take a second survey this fall.
What else are we doing?
Providing debt reduction resources.
Providing more financial mentoring.
Encouraging people to live within their means and reduce their debt.
3. Positively impact and assist over 300 people struggling with substance abuse and mental health challenges.
What do we know? We know that mental health issues are on the rise.
7% of the population battle depression on a regular basis.
18% suffer with anxiety.
1 in 10 people struggle with substance abuse.
What has been done so far?
Freshwater has established a counseling network.
We are talking about mental health issues and have sent several staff members to a mental health seminar.
We have launched a Celebrate Recovery ministry.
We offer peer counseling and mentoring.
We have helped almost 110 people struggling with substance abuse in the past year and a half. As we continue to grow and spread the word, we will continue to help more people. There are currently about 15-25 people who attend Celebrate Recovery every week.
What else are we doing? We are hosting a three session mental health seminar this summer. We have also been very open discussing mental health issues so that people feel comfortable talking about it and seeking the help they need.
4. See 1,000 people make the decision to follow Christ in the next five years.
What do we know? People need Jesus.
What has been done so far? Since launching our vision in January of 2017 there have been 259 people who have said yes to a relationship with Jesus Christ. We believe there are more, but we have connected with 259 people to follow up with them.
What else are we doing? More opportunity to make faith decisions have been given. IN July we have a big baptism party planned and are encouraging all new believers to take the next step by getting baptized by immersion.
5. See 80% of Freshwater people connected with others in a group.
What do we know? We believe that you connect better with others in circles rather than in rows. Small groups provide people with a place to get relationally connected for support, encouragement, accountability, prayer, and fun.
What has been done so far? About 50% of Freshwater adults are currently connected with a group of some sort. We currently have over 30 groups that meet on a regular basis for prayer, bible study, and relationship building. We have launched a new 50+ group that will help connect people in that stage of life. We have also hired a Next Gen pastor (Zach Frietas) to connect with 19-35+ year olds. This is one of the largest segments of our community and also one of the least reached people groups.
6. Plant five new churches in five years.
What do we know? Church planting is the most effective way to reach more people for Christ. We need a life giving church in every city in our area.
What have we done so far? We launched Freshwater bilingual church in 2017 and helped launch Williston Alliance in Williston ND in 2017. Freshwater is also part of the Association of Related Churches. We support them financially because they are planting one new life giving church every four days around the country,
Freshwater is currently in the process of working with a church planter in a nearby city that will be announced in the near future.
7. Celebrate with over 2,000 people at all of our worship services in five years.
What do we know? Average weekly attendance is around 912 combined between two campuses. Online views average over 100 per week and the April 2018 average attendance was 1351. This number does not include online views or people who come every once in a while. Over 2,000 people already call Freshwater their church home, but they don’t attend every week. Our goal is to have over 2,000 people in attendance every week.
What has been done so far? We have improved the weekend experience. We improved the sound system, added staff, are doing more volunteer staff equipping and empowering. We are also committed to ensuring everyone has a great worship experience so that they can connect with God without being distracted by a technical or sound issue.
What else are we doing? We have added a Thursday night service to minister to people who have weekend commitments, vacations, and summer homes.
8. Build and move into a new facility within five years that meets our needs and leverages our existing facilities.
What do we know? We know that both of our facilities work, but one facility designed around our needs would be best.
What has been done so far? We have discussed plans and even drawn up a blue print. We have connected with fundraisers to help us raise the funds to build the church.
What else has been done? We are launching a capitol campaign in the fall even though we don’t have any land yet. Because a new facility is in our vision, we need to make plans now to be able to pay for it.
A generous donor has provided 100k in matching funds to be used specifically for the land/building fund. The congregation will be challenged to match this amount by December 2018 bringing our building fund which is currently at zero to 200k or more. This will empower Freshwater to buy land in the near future.
What can I do? This is the real question we need to ask. If we are going to fulfill our vision, each of us needs to do our part. I am asking you to take action four ways. Here is what you can do:
1. Pray for a movement of God. Add Freshwater to your prayers asking God to move in powerful ways in our community. Pray for one specific person, that they come to faith in Christ and attend Freshwater with you. Prayer moves the heart of God so we pray expecting God to hear our prayers and act on them. This is not arrogance, its obedience. We are told to pray in faith so we do.
2. Give Generously. One of our core-values is to be people who give generously of our time, talent and treasure. Giving generously starts with us. If you currently support Freshwater financially, thank you. If you give a little or only once in a while, I encourage you to start giving regularly. The Bible instructs believers to tithe. That means they are to give the first 10% of their income back to Him in faith. If you don’t currently tithe, start giving something and increase it every month until you are biblically tithing. God promises to bless us when we trust him with our finances. One way to be more consistent in giving is to set up an online recurring giving schedule (http://freshwater.church/give/). You can also give specifically to the building fund.
3. Be an authentic Christian. This doesn’t take much explanation. Honor God with your life every day and if you mess up don’t give up, just keep pressing on. People need to see Christians like you live out your faith every day.
4. Mentor one person. Relationships are so important. Find someone that you can pour your life into and connect with them on a regular basis. Get together to build your friendship, pray for one another, study the Bible, and hold each other accountable as disciples.
Our vision to raise the spiritual climate of the community is going to take a united effort. This vision is too big to be done alone and apart from a work of the Holy Spirit. I am convinced that this is the vision God has set before us and is calling us to accomplish. So why put so much effort into this? Because people matter to God and they matter to us. The greatest investment we can make with our life is to use it for the glory of God to accomplish His purposes for us. This is also where we will find the most fulfillment and the most satisfaction each and every day. Thank you for being on the team, I look forward to serving side by side with you for the glory of God.