A full crowd of First Baptist congregants gathered on Sunday morning to mark the launch of the public-facing work on the church’s four key priorities for ministry and mission — cultivating the well-being of children, mitigating poverty in our community, becoming a teaching and learning church, and growing in number and faithfulness.

Chief among the celebrations was an announcement of the newly-created John 3:16 Innovation for Ministry Fund, First Baptist’s primary source for resourcing Christian creativity and innovation to serve the kingdom of God through the ministries and mission of First Baptist Church on Fifth. Created in 2019 through an anonymous gift to the church following a grant proposal for this type of work, the John 3:16 Innovation for Ministry Fund begins with $250,000 to be spent for creative ministry over three years. Through its work, First Baptist will cultivate our church’s long-standing spirit of creativity and continue our legacy of leadership into a faithful future through meeting specific needs with innovative action.

At the heart of the Innovation for Ministry Fund will be the funding of multiple micro-grants, proposed from within the community to resource new ideas and initiatives around the church’s four priorities for mission and ministry. Among other things, part of the additional dollars will help reimagine the church’s digital presence with staff and resources to shore up existing technological infrastructure and create new digital content to aid Christian discipleship in a contemporary world. Upon the completion of this time period, dollars will be set aside to seed new ideas that may emerge in the course of these three years.

The idea for such a fund was born out of the church’s familiar challenge of how to fund new ideas that arise without a budget to support them. Such ideas are almost never born out of emergency, thus rarely if ever prioritized higher than more practical needs when assessing how to faithfully and responsibly allocate the church’s financial resources. To Pastor Emily Hull McGee, this pattern “can lead to stagnation, a lack of innovative spirit in particular unfunded or less-funded corners of our life together, and a continuing pattern of dreaming only as deep and wide as we’ve budgeted.” With the creation of this Fund, First Baptist broadens its capacity to step boldly into the community with courage and connects our church to the enduring legacy of Christian innovation for the sake of the common good.

The John 3:16 Innovation for Ministry Fund will be guided by the work of its Grant Advisory Group, a small team of lay leaders who have bold vision and faithful love for our congregation. These include: John Baxley, Justin Chandler, Mary Foskett, Joy Gambill, David Hughes, Jessica Moses, and Lynn Rhoades.

Among the Group’s responsibilities will be to determine the shape and scope of the grant’s allocations in light of the church’s stated mission, vision, values, priorities, and existing ministries, and the Winston-Salem community’s various opportunities, needs, and resources. The Grant Advisory Group will give leadership to developing processes for micro-grant applications, researching what community resources already exist, aligning the work of the Fund with the church’s vision, creating metrics by which to assess and measure the Fund’s impact, and reporting regularly to the congregation about their work. As stated in their job description, the Grant Advisory Group will “be prayerful, faithful, creative, wise, and generous in all things, in the spirit of the One who prompts us to join our voices throughout time and place to claim, “‘since then we have such a hope, we act with great boldness.”

The work of the John 3:16 Innovation for Ministry Grant Advisory Group will begin immediately, with the hope that by this fall, applications will be open for micro-grant proposals. The Personnel Committee will also begin to imagine how this fund might enable the hiring of staff to bring these ideas to life.

We celebrate the full and faithful possibilities that the John 3:16 Innovation for Ministry Fund now sets before us, giving thanks to the God who makes all things new!


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