Reverend Thomas R. Farrow, Jr., Pastor
A Word from Pastor Thomas R. Farrow, Jr.
September of this year marked two years that I have had the high and holy honor of serving as pastor of this great church. Reeder is now home for me and my family, and we could not be more excited about how God is moving in this ministry. I want to offer just a personal word of thanks for the myriad of ways you all have supported us throughout this transition. We are blessed indeed.
Those who know me know that I take serious the call to preach and to pastor. Likewise, I take seriously the call to prepare. I once read somewhere that the theological climate of the church is unlikely to rise much higher than that of its leadership. This suggests to me that if I am to serve the Lord’s church well, I must make every effort to develop my skills in ministry. This is why, after prayerful consideration, I decided to return to school to work on my Doctorate of Ministry. More recently, I applied to participate in a grant-funded program, organized by the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Society, called “Flourishing in Ministry.” This three-year-program is for pastors under the age of 40 and will entail three intellectual immersions and two international immersions. Please keep me in prayer as I take advantage of opportunities to make my “calling and election sure.”
I recently read a book by L Gregory Jones and Kevin R. Armstrong entitled Resurrecting Excellence: Shaping Faithful Christian Ministry. This book offers a deeply Christian understanding of what excellence in ministry looks like and bears wisdom not only for preachers and church leaders, but also for all those who care about the church and seek to live faithfully as disciples. It so inspired me that I recommended it to our General Board for 2019. I also want this to be our theme as we go into the New Year. Once we resume Tuesday Night Teaching (1-8-19), I look forward to sharing insights I have gleaned from this book and exploring how we can embody at Reeder “a more excellent way.”
Most everyone should be aware by now that my greatest desire for RMBC is that we might have a larger missional footprint. It is my contention that the church does not exist solely for itself but there must also be a component of the church that reaches out into the broader community. In that vein, this year we partnered with AARP to provide free tax preparation for persons with low to moderate income. The average gross income of persons we served in 2018 was $21,037. Our volunteers prepared over 800 returns, saving people an average of $300 in tax preparation fees. In addition to the impressive number of returns prepared, we passed our IRS audit with a score of 100% compliance. We look forward to offering these services again in 2019. More information will be forthcoming.
This year we raised thousands of dollars for global and local missions. In June, we hosted Dr. David E. Goatley for our Missions-Focus Weekend. At the time, he was serving as the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Society. Dr. Goatley led a workshop on that Saturday and preached that Sunday. Shortly thereafter, we sent Min. Tara Gibbs, our Director of Education Ministries, to Jamaica, where she, along with a team of young adults from around the country, taught Vacation Bible School. Min. Gibbs actually wrote the curriculum that was used. Upon her return, she gave an insightful presentation on how our donations were used to offer help and hope to the community.
In September, we were recognized by the General Baptist State Convention of NC, Inc., for our efforts in transporting over 10,000 bottles of water to severely affected areas in North Carolina after Hurricane Florence. We made multiple trips per week to Scotland County, Hoke County, and Duplin County, taking pallets of water. We received donations from other churches and interested persons; however, the lion’s share of contributions came from members and friends of Reeder Memorial Baptist Church.
In October, we hosted a Community Day. We held a blood drive, planted more than 70 fruit trees, provided boxed lunches for everyone, plus we had special activities for kids. It was truly an amazing day. In October, we also participated in a Habitat for Humanity build. We contributed money and people power to build homes for two families. Twice this year we volunteered at the Urban Ministry Center in uptown, where we helped serve lunch. During our most recent visit, we distributed scarves made by church members. Bernita Jeter has offered herself to lead an initiative we call “Knitting for Our Neighbors,” where interested persons learn to crochet by making scarves and afghans. The scarves are given to homeless people around Charlotte. The afghans will be gifted to members living in nursing facilities.
Our 8-acre-campus consists of three separate buildings: Our church, a funeral home, and a house. The house, which is the first thing you see when you turn onto our property and look right, has historically been referred to as the RMBC Operations and Conference Center. In April the church agreed on a name change. We took off the old lettering and replaced it with “Reeder Memorial Missions Place.” In addition to changing the name, we have sought to repurpose the building to be a dedicated space for missions. It currently houses our Food Pantry Ministry and Community Support Services such as Alcoholics Anonymous. After much consultation and prayer, we have decided to add another area of service. The General Board recently agreed to use one of the rooms for transitional housing. We have put together guidelines and policies that are available upon request. We are in the process of moving in our first guest. The Food Pantry will continue to use Missions Place during the regular designated hours. AA will also continue to use Missions Place for monthly meetings. Other church ministries will only use Missions Place sparingly.
We have a garden and an orchard associated with Missions Place. These fruits and vegetables will be used to supplement our pantry. In prior years, people have contributed faithfully to our Food Pantry. We have customarily designated a line on our budget and our offering envelops for that purpose. As a consequence, we have been able to feed upwards of 3,050 people this year, representing 1,148 families in and around Mecklenburg County. The church has designated funds to assure that serving the community through our pantry is something we will continue to be able to do. Moving forward, however, you will no longer see Food Pantry on your offering envelop or your online form. The name will now say Missions Place and funds designated to Missions Place will support all of the ministries associated therewith. Because we are expanding the ministry, we encourage you to consider giving a special offering to Missions Place. We have the essentials; however, there are larger appliances such as a washing machine and dryer, a stove, and other items that still need to be purchased. In addition to member contributions, our Men’s Ministry will be organizing a golf tournament in 2019. Funds from the tournament will likewise be designated for Missions Place. More information will be forthcoming.
We are fortunate to have a very committed and competent staff of three in the office. The church office is open four days a week; however, the demands of our work usually necessitate six to seven days of work. We also have one regular office volunteer, Willa Cline, who serves as our Food Pantry Liaison. Her contribution cannot be overstated. As we have been thinking about the needs of the church and the complexity of our ministries, it has become apparent to us that our church is to some extent understaffed. Consequently, we will be issuing a clarion call for regular volunteers. We are re-writing job descriptions and thinking about areas where we could benefit from the assistance of others who have the time and the passion for the work of the church.
One of our goals in 2018 was to reduce the church’s debt; namely the mortgage on the funeral home. I am happy to report that this year we paid an extra $25k towards that end. Coming into the year, we owed $228,403 on the mortgage. Currently, the balance is at $190,850. Since aggressively paying on this loan saves the church money on interest, debt reduction is a goal we will carry into 2019.
We are in the process of developing existing ministries and organizing new ones as needed. A few new ministries you will be hearing more about include our Social Justice Ministry, Men’s Ministry, and Garden Committee. Persons have already been tapped to lead these ministries and activities are currently being planned. Look to hear more about these ministries early in the New Year.
Trust in God
Minister Tara Gibbs, Director of Education Ministries/Administrative Assistant
Can you believe that I’ve been serving Reeder for almost 2 years now? Time has flown, but I attribute most of that to how you have received me as one of your own. Reeder is not just my job but you are my family. I’m grateful for all the things we’ve done in terms of our Administrative Offices and the Christian Education Ministry in 2018.
First, I thank you all for following the procedures we put in place to help our office run efficiently. I anticipate that the majority of the procedures will remain as is for 2019 and the office will present any major changes to members and ministry leaders with ample notice. That said, I kindly remind you all to continue to turn in your forms by the appropriate deadlines. When in doubt about a deadline or procedure, please do not hesitate to ask. Next, I am excited to handle our primary website management duties. We have a professional site that is functional and stays up to date. It is a quick and reliable source for many of your questions and concerns.
Christian Education 2018
Black History Month: The theme for 2018 was “Faith in Our Future.” This theme highlighted our young people and we certainly enjoyed uplifting their talents and gifts. Every Sunday in February, we highlighted two young people at our church and how they are making history today. They included but were not limited to vocal performances, musical instrumentation, volunteering, art, spoken word, and creative history presentations. It was a wondrous success. In 2019, we’ll celebrate the theme: “Leading Ladies,” and highlight Black women, past and present.
Lent: The Lenten Season began in February as well. This year we recreated the Stations of the Cross walkthrough that was very popular last year. The walkthrough is an interactive reminder of the last few moments of Jesus’ life and provides a few nuggets of wisdom for us to take with us into Easter. Many participants shared how they were moved by the imagery, activities, and music.
Taboo Topics: Workshops earlier this year included topics such as Suicide, other Faiths, Divorce, and Foster Care. These one-hour workshops featured local experts who volunteered their time to teach us and answer our questions. I’m thankful that these workshops are teaching us how to handle these relevant issues as Christians. Taboo Topics will continue in 2019 and I’m always taking suggestions for the topics you believe are helpful.
Village HeartBeat Mini: In conjunction with the Health & Fitness Ministry and to continue the spirit of competition, we held a variety of classes at no cost for church members. The classes were circuit training, powerwalking, yoga, and line dancing. Participants had a lot of fun, learned easy ways to get active, and fellowshipped with one another.
Teen Time: In order to address the needs of our teenage members (13-18), we began a bi-monthly Teen Group. Every 2nd and 4th Sunday, Min. Gibbs and Min. Burris met with the teens to discuss topics relevant to their lives, fellowship and provide insight into living their Christian faith daily. In just a few short months, we packed and donated over 60 stockings to children at a local domestic violence shelter; won a basketball game against Ebenezer Baptist Church teens; covered topics like Why are we Christian, God & Social Justice, the Bible, Heaven & Hell, and the Trinity. I look forward to seeing this ministry flourish as we prepare for college tours and more events in the Spring of 2019.
Tuesday Night Teaching Kids: Our TNT Kids is not even two years old and we have grown from 4 to 15 attendees. In fact, we now have two classes separated by age. We have covered a variety of topics including Facing Fear, New Beginnings, Being a Hero for Jesus, Being Grateful, Healthy Relationships, and Bible Favorites. Our ministries blessed our kids by serving them a healthy dinner each month and our volunteer teachers kept the lessons fun and interactive.
Vacation Bible School: This Year’s Theme Was “Exploring God.” This year, instead of purchasing curriculum, I designed the basic layout and empowered our amazing volunteer instructors to create unique and engaging lessons. With their help, we had classes on gardening, sports, drama, and music. Our attendance was almost double the numbers from last year! Each class worked toward a final presentation that had authentic and real world connections. We had an awesome time and students even expressed that this was their favorite VBS!
What’s to Come for Christian Education
I have a great schedule planned with opportunities to learn and grow so don’t miss out!
Kwanzaa-Dec 26th. 2018
Taboo Topics: Homelessness, January 14 @ 7pm
Black History Month “Leading Ladies” -Guest Preacher, Feb 24th
Taboo Topics: Patriarchy, February TBD
Teen Ministry, Spring College Tours, March TBD
Deborah M. Wilson, Church Administrator/Missions Place Coordinator
First allow me to thank you for the gracious welcome you have extended to me. From the first meeting with Pastor Farrow, to other members of staff and officers, you have been nothing but kind and supportive and it means more to me than words can express.
Since I am relatively new to the Reeder family; I thought I would take time to share a little about me. I acknowledged a call to ministry almost twenty years ago and have since earned a certification in Church Administration through The Church Network (formerly the National Association of Church Administration), a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at East Carolina University and most recently a Master of Divinity with a concentration in Christian Education from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. I have also served as Church Administrator at three different churches; sixteen of those years with the same congregation. I have also helped several local congregations without full-time staff in the area of finance and administration through contracted or gratis services.
From those experiences, I can truly say: There are no two congregations that are the same. Yet, for me, each experience has provided a wonderful opportunity to learn and be better equipped spiritually to serve. I admit, learning sometimes took place in ways I would not have imagined or desired, but I also “wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.” In fact, I’ve come to embrace every twist and turn as either preparation, protection or both. I share this to say, I fully expect doing ministry in this setting will also be unique. Still, I am grateful God allowed our paths to cross and offer praise in advance; knowing that we have been afforded a unique opportunity to sense together what God is up to and to then choose how we can join in.
My role at Reeder will be a dual one. One area of responsibility will be serving as your church administrator. My philosophy is mission drives administration, so as I work in this area of ministry with the Pastor, staff, Trustees, Deacons , members and other volunteers, my focus will be to provide leadership in resourcing ministry. At the same time, I will do my best to inform and ensure what we do is in compliance with regulations that affect the church and non-profit entities. As coordinator to the Missions Place, I look forward to working alongside the faithful volunteers who roll up their sleeves day in and day out to serve in this important ministry of compassion. In both areas, I commit to exercising good stewardship over the resources God has entrusted to us and also to using those resources wisely to make the most kingdom impact possible in this community and beyond.
Top priorities for 2019 include joining in with you to collectively discern how we can best live out our theme of Resurrecting Excellence. A book, by the same title, is recommended reading by Pastor Farrow. If you do not have a copy of the book and you are involved in ministry here or desiring to learn more about how to faithfully serve through our congregation, I highly recommend you get a copy of the book and study along with us.
Another short-term priority is to rollout information within the first quarter of 2019 that will help us more efficiently use our software management system (ShelbyNEXT). There are features yet untapped; including a social media component with a downloadable ‘app’ that promises to benefit ministry teams and individuals as we connect and communicate for ministry wherever there is an Internet connection. We will be counting on you to help us update and maintain accurate information.
After the New Year, I will be at the church Monday through Thursday, typically, from 10am until 6pm. There will, however, be some adjustment in scheduling to accomplish needs of ministry that will occur outside of regular hours. Please feel free to stop by and introduce yourself. I look forward to getting to know each of you better as we serve alongside one another. Again, thank you for the warm welcome. Reeder feels like home!