While I was in San Antonio for the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting I was approached by Don Hinkle who is the editor of the Missouri Baptist Convention paper entitled “The Pathway.” Hinkle asked me if I would be interested in working with The Pathway as a contributing author. I’m always excited to have opportunities to expand my ministry and I’m also thankful for the privilege of being able to highlight what God is doing among the churches of Northwest Missouri, and so I said yes to Hinkle’s offer. My first article is a short article on the exciting ministry of Fairport Baptist Church. It appeared in the latest edition of The Pathway and the original can be found here. I’ve posted the article in its entirety below.
Location doesn’t matter in Fairport
By Micah Fries
FAIRPORT—Church growth experts have told us for some time now that “Location, location, location” is a significant key to experiencing church growth.
To a Missouri Baptist church in the northwest corner of the state, that advice seems almost laughable. Located just seven miles north of Maysville, Fairport Baptist Church, led by Pastor David Kaster, has watched in amazement as God has blessed them with vibrancy, life and growth.
Kaster said with a laugh that they are “seven miles from the middle of nowhere.” Yet over the past seven years, in spite of what many would see as a handicap, God has taken the church from a hurting, small rural church of about 55 people to a vibrant, growing congregation of 150. While that, in and of itself, is remarkable, what’s even more amazing is that all of this has happened as Fairport is located in a town which has a population of just 50. In fact, according to Kaster, the combined congregations of Fairport Baptist and the other local Baptist church, First Baptist Church of Maysville, make up over 20 percent of the total population of the immediate area.
Kaster attributes the congregation’s growth to a heart for their community and a passion for students. When Fairport extended a call to Kaster in 1999, the church had recently experienced a troubling series of circumstances that cost the church a significant portion of their membership and left the church looking for direction.
“We recognized that it [Fairport Baptist Church] had to experience healing first,” Kaster said. “We had a series of meetings, and I spent a lot of time talking to the deacons saying, ‘We need to get back to what God wants us to do.’ So the first year we spent just trying to bring some healing to the congregation.”
After that time of healing, Kaster sat down with the church leadership and asked them to look at what the church was already doing well. After some reflection, the church recognized that they had a heart for children and enjoyed reaching them. This heart for students, according to Kaster, is a key piece to turning the church around.
“About 2001 we introduced an Awana club to the congregation. That proved to be a really important thing that we did. Children’s ministry was the strength of this congregation, always has been, and we envisioned then that we would grow up a youth group.”
He said 15 years ago there was only one child in the congregation. Today they regularly have 70 in Awana and more than 50 in Sunday School. Their youth group also grew to where more than 65 were attending, and the church knew it had to call a youth pastor—Bob Griffin.
Kaster said he is blessed with volunteers who consistently do more than they are asked to do. Some take breaks from their service, sometimes lasting a year, but they generally come back and ask for more to do.
Fairport had to admit it was outgrowing its sanctuary. The deacons came to Kaster in 2005 and told him so. With steady and consistent growth over a long period of time, the growth was viewed as legitimate and lasting, so plans for a new building led to the church breaking ground in July of 2006.
The new facility will have a 300-seat auditorium as well as an education wing that will be twice as large as the previous one. They moved into the worship center in December of 2006; the building is slated for completion this month.
Kaster rightly acknowledged that God deserves the credit for the unusual blessing that He is giving to Fairport Baptist Church. As such, God will determine the church’s future.