Uniting the People of God in This Area
Bessemer Baptist Association
Monday, August 10, 2020
To Go...To Serve...Together

A Word From Dr. Cosper

S.W.O.T. Analysis Report to Birmingham Metro Baptist Association and Bessemer Baptist Association (July 20-22, 2020)

 
Prepared by: Dr. Rick Curtis, Assistant to the President for Convention and Associational Relations, NAMB

 

Initial Staff Observations 


Through the entire process; preliminary web meetings through the culmination of the S.W.O.T. Analysis training (on site), I observed the personality dynamics of all staff with which I interacted. There seems to be a genuine mutual respect of each party, definition of roles, and a synergy that illustrates a healthy work environment. The team seems to work well together and appears well equipped/prepared to shoulder the additional stresses related to the partnering of the two associations under the Better Together Plan.

 

Initial Attendee Observations


While it is true that in any one group of people, one would expect to observe individuals whom do not engage with the others. However, that was the exception and not the rule in the four online sessions that occurred. I observed a true camaraderie among both pastors and laymen. In consultations like these I am keen to observe the relational dynamics of the gatherings and my observations are as follows:

1. There is a true sense of common ground even among individuals from differing associations.

2. Considering the demographic of the two associations there was no discernable tensions, avoidance, or hesitation of interaction within racial, socio-economic or even big v. small church differences.

3. I was genuinely surprised to see at least four occasions where an attendee, encountering a face they did not recognize, immediately inquired about that person, and introduced themselves. There was a welcoming spirit among participants.

4. There is clearly a familial sense within the two associations. In each of the four meeting, the cross chatter illustrated that many of the pastors and lay people knew each other well, and one would guess they regularly fellowship together.

 

Scope 


The scope of the training was to draw from a “multitude of wisdom” to inform a S.W.O.T. Analysis that would speak into the Better Together Plan. The compiled data from the four sessions has been supplied to the leadership team for their determination of next steps. Additionally, the intent was designed around a two-fold value add; the first, value to the leadership team, in the gathering and parsing of data to inform leadership in the planning of next steps related to the Better Together Plan, the second, the training of the attendees in the S.W.O.T. Analysis so that the association in return would add value to their churches in that the pastors and lay leaders were then sufficiently trained to perform a S.W.O.T.  Analysis with their own respective leadership teams.

 

 Data Returns 


Data returns show nothing outside of normal expectations in a semi-healthy to healthy association(s). Prioritization of items in the S.W.O.T. categories resulted in clear predominate factors (listed below).

Strengths

Resources

Leadership

Unity

Weaknesses

Communication

Associational and Mission Participation

Internal Focus and Survival

Opportunities

Racial Reconciliation

Engaging the Community / Social Media / Technology

Gospel / Missional Impact

Threats

Economy

Anti-Evangelical Bias / Social & Moral Shifts

Confused Culture / Identity – Political and Otherwise

 

Concerns 


It is rare that Communication does not show up as a top three weakness. This is the case here as well, and is very much a norm. However, contrasting communication as a weakness with the indications that many of the churches are inward and not outward focused should be a concern to the associational staff. But it is also a huge opportunity to leverage the leadership and resources toward a communications plan that encourages missional activity and participation. Organized from the associational level, this will assure that all three of the priority weaknesses would move toward conversion to a strength. Additionally, associational staff will need to evaluate if the 70-80 churches participating in this event constitutes expected participation or indicates apathy toward associational events. Anecdotally, 50% attendance in such events is on the high side of typical. In comparison, when NAMB performed associational evaluations from roughly 2005 until 2010, 30% participation was the norm.

 

Potential 


The number one opportunity is resoundingly Race Reconciliation. While one could argue this does not directly work toward the gospel going forth in the local geography, it is a positive factor leading to it. If ever there was a “Such a time as this” moment, this is it. It is the culmination of social trends and God’s timing. The potential here is huge, especially within the Better Together partnership. Leadership would be remis in not examining this further. Race Relations should not be viewed as an end goal, but as a path to gospel communication. The stronger the first, the more powerful the second. 


 Timeframe 


The fact that the leadership of both associations are targeting October 2020 as a date for vote does not concern me. I believe appropriate discovery has taken place and relevant data has been gathered. While this event gathered a wealth of information, it should not be concluded that this information must be fully acted upon prior to the October meeting. The fact that there are tangible items to work on—in the immediate—is enough. The data will show itself to be continually valuable/actionable beyond the October timeframe. This is acceptable and expected. Had the four sessions raised significant or even moderate red flags, then this timeframe would not be recommended. I see no such flags.

 

Conclusions 


While I have completed scores of S.W.O.T. Analyses, my assessment must not be viewed as infallible. I am not privy to the intimacies and dynamics that individuals who live and work in the churches of the two associations are privy to. However, I pull from decades as a pastor, associational mission strategist (DOM), and denominational leader, and I strongly believe that the Better Together Plan is on target and viable. It is stronger than most partnership plans I have seen. The leadership has taken the appropriate steps and gathered relevant data. They have committed to reviewing that data and letting it inform their decisions. I believe commitment to letting the data speak and not interpreting the data in a way that would give credibility to any presupposed courses of action is a commitment each association and leader has made. This is necessary and good. I have no reservation in recommending the Better Together Plan and its full implementation in the recommended timeframe. Furthermore, I reassert what I have spoken to the leaders, that I am available to help in its success.

 

Respectfully, 


BR Rick Curtis

Assistant to the President for 

Convention and Associational 

Relations, NAMB