Growing Through Servant Leadership
For the past five years, Bethel Church in Temple, Texas, has added more than 100 adherents annually and has quadrupled the number of kids participating in its children’s ministries. Simultaneously, Bethel has increased its volunteer core and added two campuses —one on the south side of Temple and another in nearby Belton — for a total average weekly attendance of 900.
Six pastors oversee the three campuses, led by Senior Pastor Elwyn Johnston.
“When churches get to a certain size, senior pastors sometimes lose touch, but Pastor Johnston hasn’t,” says Brian Hendrickson, Bethel’s children’s pastor. “He knows everybody.”
Hendrickson, who joined Bethel’s staff in 2011, credits the growth of the church, and specifically the children’s programs, to the leadership modeled by Johnston and practiced by staff members.
“Empowerment, autonomy, and encouragement are the keys,” Hendrickson says. Upon his arrival in Temple, Hendrickson inherited children’s programs for nursery through fifth grade children with about 85 regular attenders on Sunday, 25 on Wednesday evenings, and 17 leaders.
“Families were attending, but kids weren’t involved,” Hendrickson says.
Hendrickson quickly changed that by giving leaders more independence and plenty of support. Today, Bethel welcomes an average of 220 boys and girls across its three campuses every Sunday, and around 160 on Wednesdays. The children’s leadership team also has grown from 17 leaders to more than 100, made up of 20 teams of five leaders each.
“This provides a lot of load sharing,” Hendrickson says. “There’s no guilt when someone needs to take time off.”
Mark Entzminger, senior director of AG Children’s Ministries, agrees with Hendrickson’s children’s ministry philosophy of placing an emphasis on trained and empowered volunteers.
“Hendrickson believes the strength of a kid’s ministry program is a reflection of the strength of the volunteers,” Entzminger says.
For Sunday children’s church, Radiant Life curriculum is used alongside a kid-friendly lesson based on Johnston’s message. This is designed to allow families to discuss what they heard at church, Hendrickson says. On Wednesday evenings, Royal Rangers and Mpact Girls curriculum are used for boys and girls.
Hendrickson and the team are also developing a Connecting Point (CP) for kids that coincides with the same class for adults who are new to Bethel. CP will teach first through fifth graders what Bethel is about and how they can get involved.
While the children’s ministries have flourished, so has the rest of Bethel.
“We ran out of space on Sundays and knew we needed to add on or branch out,” Hendrickson says.
In 2013, Bethel’s first multisite location opened in Belton, a community about nine miles south of Temple.
Back in Temple, Bethel was operating an outreach on the south side of the city near a government-subsidized community. When leaders looked closely, they realized those attending the outreach’s services already referred to it as church.
“It just took us a few years to start doing the same,” Hendrickson says. Thus, in April 2016, Bethel officially launched a second multisite, Canyon Creek, in Temple.
Bethel’s campuses in Temple and Belton continue to expand, and adherents don’t just attend, they get involved. Hendrickson again gives credit to inclusive leadership and staff empowerment.
“We’re a service-oriented church and we’re focused on developing our leaders more,” Hendrickson says.