LeaderLines – from Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas  Contact Tom Goodman, Pastor
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“Outside These Walls—Part One”
Hillcrest Church Office
October 9, 2003

LeaderLines is a weekly “e-briefing” providing valuable information and inspiration to those who serve at Hillcrest Baptist Church.

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Here is this week’s LeaderLines. . . .

“Outside These Walls—Part One”
by Tom Goodman

Wow—last week I challenged you with a “homework assignment,” and boy did you respond!  Since the most successful outreach begins with identifying the characteristics of those around us, last week I asked you to help your new pastor understand the mind and heart of your neighbors.  You responded with over 425 lines of text, all total!  Some of the insights into “Austin Al and Alice” were so poignant they brought me to tears and renewed my prayer life.

Across the next three editions of LeaderLines, I will try to summarize over 10 pages of material and offer some “outreach implications.”  You can see all the responses at www.HillcrestAustin.org/austin.

Age and Family:  Almost everyone identified “Austin Al and Alice” as between 35-45 years old, dual income, with at least two elementary-school kids.  A couple of people noted that kids vary widely in age among parents of this age-range—“There are those of us that are getting kids out of college, all the way down to the newborn.”

On the other hand, one person observed, “Al is single actually.  He's got a steady girlfriend who he just started living with in May.”  This is an interesting observation, considering that Forbes magazine just ranked Austin as the nation’s number-one city for singles (images.forbes.com/2003/06/05/cx_dd_0605austin.html).

One person said that, though most people in north Austin are 35-to-45 and married with kids, “it has been my observation that there are many retirement-type communities in North Austin.  The communities that are directly across from the church are labeled ‘retirement’ communities.  They have no children living at home AND the majority does not attend church.  When we have invited some of our neighbors to church or to different events at the church, we are usually met with polite resistance.  What they have never said, however, is, ‘we already attend a church.’”

Education, Income and Vocation:  Most people observed that most of their neighbors were college educated, in a professional job, and therefore they “value organizations that appear to keep in step with current technology.”  Most people observed that their neighbors are “dual-income families.”

Despite his “upper middle-class income,” however, Austin Al is “living beyond his means,” “worrying about loss of his job due to industry layoffs” and “scared of losing his job because he's over 40 and everyone knows that people don't hire men his age, no matter their experience, because of insurance premiums.”  One person who’s had a lot of talks with frustrated “Austin Alices” over the years said this about “Al”:  “He feels unfulfilled in his career choice but can't change and is frustrated because deep down he'd like to feel like he was making a difference in this world but how?”

Another person wrote:  “Austin Alice, is many times a career woman with her own schedule.  She knew she always wanted a husband and children, but for some reason it seems difficult with her career going so well right now, too.”

Implications.  In the next two weeks, we’ll keep this going.  We’ll look at what you said about Austin Al and Alice’s lifestyle, priorities, viewpoints, and spiritual state.  But are there any “outreach implications” in what we’ve learned so far?

To prepare for this week’s “Discover Hillcrest” class, I asked my secretary to give me a print-out of all those who have visited in the last two months.  The list came to SEVEN pages!  I’m calling them all before Sunday (I’m on page 4 right now).  It turns out that roughly about 40 percent of my calls are to singles under 35, about 40 percent of my calls are to married couples between 35 and 45, and about 20 percent of my calls are to senior adults (married or widowed).  That tells me that our church is doing a pretty good job of attracting a wide range of people—at least for a first-time visit.  How are we doing at follow-up?  Are we doing a good job of giving these names to the right Sunday School class—and are those classes doing a good job contacting them?  In any church, only a fraction of visitors end up joining over the following months—how can we INCREASE that number?

Your e-mails mentioned two huge “groupings” right around the church:  senior adults and single adults.  Should this impact our choice of musical style—or styles—in worship?  Are there issues we could cover in seminars and topics that would interest those in these “groupings”?

A frequent theme in your e-mails was the financial stress Austin Al and Alice were under.  Would they come to a seminar on money management?  Should we include prayers for job-related issues in our various prayer times?  Could we teach the biblical principles and promises of stewardship in such a way that Al and Alice could be liberated?  How should we make appeals for financial support of our various causes while being aware of Austin Al’s sensitivity to the topic?

You mentioned that Austin Al and Alice are typically upwardly-mobile, educated, and reasonably well-off.  Does that reality impact their opinion of our property and building?  What impression does our “space” make on Al and Alice?

Food for thought.  Thanks for introducing me to your neighbors!  And thanks for helping me think about what we can do TOGETHER to reach them!


P.S.  Join us “OUTSIDE THESE WALLS” with Tierce Green, October 26-29.  Be praying now for spiritual renewal during this special 4-day event.  Tierce’s music and messages will target us as BELIEVERS, challenging us to reach “outside these walls.”  I’ll give you more information later, but start praying for renewal now!