The day – First Baptist pastor recognizes church crisis and tries new ideas
Acting Pastor Jean-Fritz Guerrier of First Baptist Church in Norwich offers a new approach to attracting more people to church.
“The point is what are you doing to get more people to come to the fold? Warrior asked. “Because at the end of the day, that’s what the church wants to do, bring people to Christ.”
The Haitian native said the mainstream and mainstream Protestant churches in the United States are museums. “These are places where you’re going to see how people sang 200 years ago,” he said. “If you don’t have young people, you will close someday because at some point everyone will die or get sick.”
Even though the church can hold nearly 300 people, around 60 attended before the pandemic began. Currently, 25 are attending Sunday services in person (masks are required) and more are viewing it through Facebook.
Examples of the unchanging approach of churches include the hierarchy and the hymns many use which include songs from the 17th to the 19th century, said Guerrier, which play “the same music, the same structure” as they did there. has years.
“So we’re talking about a place that doesn’t change and wants people to keep coming. It’s not going to happen. This is why we are losing people.
He said the Catholic Church, as well as all Protestant churches (including Baptist churches), are all in “crisis”, but they are not treating it that way.
Guerrier’s new strategy – with board approval – is to offer a modified service once a month. The first 25 minutes will include the worship assistant who will lead the congregation in prayer, song and announcements, followed by the shorter-than-normal sermon from Warrior, which he joked with the congregation “might be happy”.
After that, people will break down into “activity groups according to their wants and needs,” which he said could include a variety of activities for adults and children, like listening to a speaker, praying for 30 minutes. , watch a short documentary and talk about God and creation.
“I’m going to show that not all Christians believe that God created everything in seven days or 24 hours. It’s not that I’m going to say that I agree with this group or not.
After 30 minutes, Guerrier said “everyone will come back to the shrine” for about 15 minutes for a pastoral prayer, collection and blessing. “So you are creating a service that is not unique to everyone. “
Debriefing to come
When speakers are scheduled, Guerrier said he will invite the media and encourage church members to bring friends and family.
After three or four months of “cluster” services, he said they would do a “debrief” to find out what people think, what works and what doesn’t, and then “change it.” “
Especially since the First Baptist Church is a traditional congregation and “you don’t want to offend people,” said Guerrier, change cannot happen too slowly or too quickly. “If I have a small win, I can do bigger next time.”
Guerrier also proposes that he and other Protestant / Catholic church leaders, businessmen and laity meet globally, nationally, regionally and locally to talk about the low attendance crisis and make a “decision. corporate faith, and say, ‘Hey, we’re losing members. The churches are closed. What should we do?’ No one has a “quick fix”.
He said: “Beyond that, it has to be a decision-making body.” He also suggested that churches could pool their resources to help open or “plant” new churches and prevent others from closing.
Curt Brockway, deacon and chairman of the board, said in a phone interview that as people come out of “COVID” they want to start doing things again and be together again.
“I think there are opportunities for churches that are ready to go out and maybe try new things and try different types of ministries,” Brockway said.
The Norwich native, who now lives in Stonington, added: “I think our congregation is historically ready to try new things. But also, just like society in general, there are people who really question it, because it’s different from what we’ve always done.
Guerrier’s “out of the box” approach to bringing people back to church stems from his varied professional experience as a United Nations consultant and full-time professor of finance at the University of Notre Dame in Haiti, as well. as banker and board of directors of JP Morgan. member of several charter schools in Florida.
He was also pastor at First Baptist Church in West Haven and associate minister at Community Baptist Church in New Haven.
In addition, as part of his MBA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, he studied Marketing and Brand Management. “I can see things with different eyes as a person who has experience here and abroad and then has an MBA and has worked in different fields. So there are things that I can see that the average pastor is not able to see because they are not trained to handle complex things. “
Guerrier, 45, received an MA in Theological Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Florida and an MA in Divinity from Yale University.
“So I like being able to compare two approaches, two theological visions and traditions (conservative and more liberal) because it allows me to speak to everyone.
The son of a pastor, Guerrier said he was encouraged to follow the same path, especially since his parents swore to God that they would push him towards this vocation, as the doctors told his parents that they would not. did not believe he would be born healthy and alive. . Yet for a while he entered the business world, while continuing to serve as a worship leader and singer in churches.
“So every time I do it I feel like this kind of joy is flowing through my soul.”
Over time, he said he realized he didn’t like being a banker. “I guess God wanted me to do something else. You know that sometimes people are not satisfied because God does not want you to be satisfied with something, because God wants to lead you to something else.
The First Baptist Church at 239 West Main St. in Norwich has in-person services on Sundays at 10:30 am.
The September 26 service included clusters, including 30 minutes of contemporary and traditional hymns mixed together accompanied by an organist, guitarist, trumpeter and singer in the shrine. During this same period, there was also a Christian film for the children of the nursery.
For more information call 860-889-0369 or visit www.fbcnorwich.com. Additionally, you can see “The Overcomer Hour,” a nonprofit online ministry on Facebook, with hosts Reverend Jean-Fritz Guerrier, Reverend Daniel Cohen and singer Vicky Mariconde.