Progress of Our 90-Day Objectives

Pastor Eric Thomas opened the March 12 Campus Catalyst Town Hall Meeting with prayer and a recap of our church’s current situation. Of course, the VDOT highway construction is presenting some obstacles to our church (construction zones close to our building, loss of parking, increased traffic on highways, etc.). However, we believe that because we are people of faith, these changes are not accidental or a twist of fate, but rather something God has orchestrated for the good of this church family and the good of the mission God has given us as the church. So then, we rejoice in this part of the journey God has given us.

In light of these changes, our Vision Team created “First Norfolk Advance,” our ten-year ministry strategy. This includes our one-year goal and 90-day objectives, which Pastor Eric discussed during the evening’s meeting. Although church leadership does not have all of the answers right now, they are working on next steps and will share news as they are able.

First, Pastor Eric addressed the difference between a church plant and a campus since there has been some confusion on the matter. Part of our ten-year vision is: “starting ten campuses in Hampton Roads and planting twenty new churches around the world.” These are two distinctly different things. A church plant is an autonomous, independent church. We partner with church planters as they pursue their vision for that community, such as our current church planter partnerships in places like Montreal and South Dakota.

A satellite campus is where First Norfolk will start a full church service and “mission center” in the neighborhoods of the seven cities of Hampton Roads. Our goal is 10 satellite campuses that are tied to First Baptist Norfolk in the next 10 years that cover much of the seven cities. These satellite campuses are an extension of and will be tied to First Baptist Norfolk.

Our first satellite campus will be a bit different than the ones to come. Right now, because of the VDOT highway construction, it is a challenge to reach new people at our current 312 Kempsville Road location. Visitors may be put off by the limited parking or seeing large construction equipment all around our building. Pastor Eric stressed that we must remember our mission as a church is always to reach new people. Because of the longevity of the construction process, the Vision Team and staff believe it is important to start a new campus in 2017, which will help us reach new people with a greater ease.

For the past several months, leadership has been pursuing a location for the new campus. Pastor Eric said they are very close to being able to share the new campus location they are discussing. He also said in his research, he found the exciting statistic that on average, 28% growth in reaching people happens during the first year of a satellite, and about 20% growth in the second year. That would be “astronomical” for a church of our size.

Second, Pastor Eric discussed the 90-day objectives (Jan. 1-March 31). We have made great progress on some of these, while others still have steps to go. Here is the status of each objective:

  1. Develop Leaders

This objective was to not only develop leaders for a new satellite campus, but within our church. Phillip Herring, associate pastor of education, and team developed a “leadership process” training that just finished its pilot program that included 32 people. After some evaluation and fine-tuning, they will begin to train others in the church through this leadership development pipeline.

  1. Select Campus Location

Negotiations are in the works for our satellite location. The team is being intentional to seek what doors God is opening. The original goal was to launch the new campus the week after Easter, however, God is moving on His own timeline. Pray that God opens the door to the right opportunity so that we as a church can fulfill the mission He has given us — to see more people in Hampton Roads come to faith in Jesus Christ.

  1. Develop Communication Plan

Steve Harper, minister of media and communication, and a team are working on this. Currently this blog is a main way to communicate updates, but there will be more avenues of communication in the future.

  1. Select Leadership/Core Team

Initially, because our timeline was to launch the new campus the week after Easter, we had the objective of identifying the leadership core team by Feb. 5. However, since the launch has been delayed, the core team has not yet been identified. Pastor Eric said some people have already told him they feel called to be on mission at the new location. We need to continue praying that more people would feel called to go and serve in the new campus. The 21 Days of Prayer initiative was a good beginning, but we need to enter into another season of prayer over the new campus and its leadership core team.

These first 90 days are coming to an end on March 31, and our staff is developing objectives for the next 90 days. We will let you know of those new objectives through our blog and other Campus Catalyst meetings.

After answering questions from the crowd (the answers to many of these can be found in our Campus Catalyst FAQ in this blog post), Pastor Eric closed the meeting by asking for prayer on these specific requests:

  1. Pray for God’s glory to shine through us to the seven cities.
  2. Pray that hundreds of people far from God would be saved during this journey.
  3. Pray for the Campus location.
  4. Pray for VDOT negotiations.

Our 2017 Ministry Plan

On Sunday evening, Dec. 11, church members gathered to discuss the proposed budget for the first six months of 2017. In the past, our budget has been for the entire year, but there are two main reasons we are breaking our budget into two six-month segments in 2017.

First, we want to be able to adjust our budget easily. By breaking our budget into six-month time frames, we are forcing ourselves to sit down and reevaluate our budget again soon. This will be crucial in 2017 as we face big changes due to the VDOT highway construction project and launching our new satellite campus (read more about our recent Campus Catalyst updates).

Second, breaking our budget into two six-month segments will give us an opportunity to emphasize stewardship, and hopefully mid-year we can encourage more people to be involved in our budget.

In the past, we presented our proposed budget in a spreadsheet-style format, but this year we wanted to tell the story of what we are doing with the budget — not just simply present the numbers — so that we can inspire people to begin or take the next step in their stewardship journey. We want to show you how First Baptist Norfolk is using these resources to make a Kingdom difference here and around the world.

Please look through, download, and/or print our 2017 Ministry Plan (January-June) Booklet. Church members will vote to approve this proposed 2017 budget on Sunday, Dec. 18, in all worship gatherings. To take the next step in your giving journey, register for online giving or text-to-give at


A Look into Next 90 Days and the Next Year

After the Campus Catalyst discussion, the evening closed with a time of prayer for our church’s future and our staff, and those present then shared Communion together. Pastor Eric tweeted that the evening “was one of the most anointed times of prayer and Communion I have ever experienced. I love our church.”

During the Nov. 27 Campus Catalyst Town Hall, once again Pastor Eric Thomas opened the meeting with this passage of Scripture:

“This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:23-24)

Although the changes to our campus due to the VDOT highway construction project are presenting challenges, we believe all of these changes have been orchestrated by God. This is what God has given us, and we need to take the perspective of the verse above and “be glad in it.”


First, Pastor Eric discussed the one-year goal for 2017, which is part of “First Norfolk Advance,” our ten-year ministry strategy. Between January and December 2017, we will launch a campus in our multi-site strategy. This campus will be linked with our current location in terms of budget, polity, staff, and technology.

One of the main reasons for launching a new campus soon is because of the current parking restrictions due to the highway construction. We have lost 361 parking spaces, and the parking we currently have limits our church growth and the advance we believe God wants us to pursue. Once a church reaches 80 percent of their parking capacity, their growth is hindered. Although yes, we have borrowed parking lots, we can only borrow parking for a season — it is not a long-term solution that allows for church growth. We believe a new campus is the best approach we can take to solve this issue.

Statistics and research from other churches show us that on average, the year a church starts another campus, they experience 28 percent growth in that multi-site, and 20 percent growth in the second year. Because of this anticipated growth, we need to make sure we have the right pieces in place to be able to move forward with that strategy, which leads us to our objectives for the next three months.


Our 90-day objectives for Jan.1-March 31, 2017 are as follows:

  1. Develop Leaders: Create a leadership development process. First group by Feb. 28. Second group by April 9.

Phillip Herring, our associate pastor of education, is developing a leadership training process for First Baptist Norfolk. We want everyone to be a part of this process, but we will take our staff through it first, and they will finish the training by Feb. 28. The second group will be volunteer church members that God has called to be a part of the new campus so that we can have a leadership core prepared to serve at our satellite location.

  1. Select Campus Location: Call the church to join in a prayer journey for God to open door of opportunity for a campus location.

We do not yet have a location for our satellite campus — we are dependent on what God opens up for us. However, we are considering Virginia Beach or Chesapeake, since this is where the majority of our members reside, and our new location will accommodate growth. We are looking for a location we can lease for a period of time and develop a full ministry there. Future satellites may be in locations where we do not have a presence of many current church members.

On Jan. 8, we will begin a prayer journey together as a church for this new advance. First, pray that God would open the door for the right location for our satellite campus. Second, pray that God would call out individuals and families to be a part of that location.

  1. Develop Communication Plan: Develop a compelling communication plan to tell the story of First Norfolk Advance to the church and community.

We need to communicate these big changes within the framework of our body of believers: how we’re doing, what we’re doing, etc. This blog is going to be important source for updates going forward. An unexpected outcome of the highway construction is that now that the trees are cut down, our church is very visible from the interstate. What a window of opportunity to be seen by many at this crossroads of our Hampton Roads community!

With the trees cut down, our church is now highly visible as you drive by on the interstate. (Photo by Brent Wilson)
  1. Select Leadership/Core Team: Beginning Jan. 8, call the church to pray that God would call out individuals and families to go on mission to a new campus. Have initial leadership and core team in place by Feb. 5.

We ask that you pray and ask God if you should become a part of our new campus. We will be multiplying our leadership in order to facilitate this new location, but we are not multiplying our staff. This embodies Ephesians 4:12, which speaks of equipping the saints for the work of ministry — this means our church members. However, we will not be “recruiting” anyone for the new location. We are trusting God to orchestrate who goes and who stays at each location.

On Jan. 8 — or even before — please join us in praying for our First Norfolk Advance.

The Challenging and Exciting Future Vision for Our Church

The areas in red will be unavailable for parking due to the VDOT highway construction.

On Sunday, Oct. 30, Pastor Eric Thomas led another Campus Catalyst Town Hall meeting to present the 10-year vision, three-year initiatives, one-year goal, and 90-day objectives for First Baptist Norfolk to the church family.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has taken possession of a large portion of the church’s property to begin construction on their highway project. Approximately 40 percent of the church’s 350 paved parked spaces will no longer be available. Additional parking is available at the Cross Roads Center, the HRT Tide Lot, and Fortis College at Interstate Commerce Center, but as Pastor Eric said, you cannot grow a church on borrowed parking in the long haul.

This VDOT highway project has challenged us in how we as a church thrive rather than merely survive over the next decade. Pastor Eric read this verse to open the Town Hall Meeting:

“This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:23-24)

VDOT has presented a challenge to us, Pastor Eric said, but we believe God has sovereignly orchestrated these events so that we could pursue the mission He’s given and the glory He deserves.

The Vision Team was comprised of the following twelve people: Kevin Beardsley, Geoff Hemphill, Phillip Herring, Michael Little, Michael Molzahn, Jenny O’Neal, Carrie Owen, Wayne Parrish, Ryan Rickman, Van Rose, Patty Senter, and Lance Walters. As they began to meet eight months ago, they came together with a “blank slate” to prayerfully seek where God was leading the church. God grew this team together to embrace the vision He had given them.

Ten-Year Vision

“Over the next decade, First Norfolk will raise up hundreds of leaders who will take thousands of people on a courageous adventure of hope. Fueled by power of the Holy Spirit and His Word, we will develop a team transformed by Jesus to radiate His rescuing light into the world. We see our members, like a fleet of lightships in dark and turbulent seas, illuminating the way to peace. We see people captured in the menacing waves of misery finding refuge in the hope that Jesus alone offers through the life-giving love and kindness we shine toward them. We see neighborhoods throughout the seven cities of Hampton Roads transformed by the light of hope we share. We see 1,500 life groups with 15,000 missionary followers of Jesus pulling people from the ocean of hopeless loneliness. We see lighthouse stations with platoons of people starting ten campuses in Hampton Roads and planting twenty new churches around the world, shining the light of truth and hope for those buffeted by the storm.

The two greatest elements we believe we are called to are to pursue God’s presence to fulfill His mission in Hampton Roads and around the world, and be developers of disciples. Currently, our church has 120 LIFEgroups and nominally between four and five thousand members, so this is a “very extravagant” vision, Pastor Eric said. However, members of the Vision Team shared with the church how the Holy Spirit came over their group and clearly directed their path.

We need this vision, shared Michael Little — we have a world to reach, and we have a God to please and serve.

This vision calls us to certain steps, which are laid out in the three-year initiatives, one-year goal, and 90-day objectives:

Three-Year Initiatives

  • Empowered Living: We will passionately pursue God and become overwhelmed by His presence so that we live like Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Multiplication: We will launch our second campus with clearly defined, reproducible markers for the next eight campuses. We will plant three new churches globally.
  • Increased Leadership Capacity: We will increase our leadership capacity for future multiplication with 10 percent increase across ministry areas and 20 percent increase in multiplication leadership core.
  • Generosity: We will consistently develop and live a culture of generosity, celebrating the beauty of the gospel through giving. We will increase givers by 20 percent and giving by 25 percent.

One-Year Goal

First Norfolk Advance: Between January and December 2017, we will launch a campus in our multi-site strategy.

90-Day Objectives

  • Develop Leaders
  • Select Campus Location
  • Develop Communication Plan
  • Select Leadership/Core Team

Although we do not have all the details or answers yet, we believe we need this vision in light of the highway being built right next to our church. Pastor Eric noted that when the fire took our previous building in downtown Norfolk, the church family was filled with faith and trusted the Spirit of God in the move to our current location. It was tragic, but it moved us to better days.

Pastor Eric said he believes what God is doing is along those same veins — God is using the VDOT construction project to propel us to even better days

This is the beginning of our journey together as a church. There will be more opportunities to ask questions and have them answered in the coming days, and we will continue to have Campus Catalyst meetings to communicate important information.

Please be in prayer for our church and this vision God has given us to better pursue His presence and make disciples in Hampton Roads and around the world. Pray that our hearts would be united as we face this challenging and exciting future together.

“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.” (Psalm 86:11)


Campus Catalyst Town Hall Recap

This rendering represents what the flyover may look like, once completed, in relation to our church building.

The Campus Catalyst Town Hall on Sunday night, Aug. 28, provided details and updates on the VDOT highway project. Pastor Eric started the special meeting by first looking to Scripture:

“Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.” – 1 Chronicles 28:20 (ESV)

As VDOT builds an interstate flyover during the next few years, the construction process will impact our campus. Though there will be challenges for us as a church, it is also an opportunity to see how God is calling us in this moment to accomplish His mission in Hampton Roads and around the world.

Here are some quick facts discussed in the meeting:

  • The Maintenance Building contents have been moved.
  • The new HVAC system should be completed by mid-September.
  • The church’s attorneys are negotiating easements with VDOT.
  • The Detail Team is working on parking strategy.
  • VDOT will be putting up fences for the construction areas in October or November.

In addition, here is our process for handling these changes:

  • The Detail Team is working on proposals for immediate needs.
  • The Vision Team is developing 90-day, one-year, three-year, and 10-year plans.
  • Church attorneys are negotiating with VDOT.

Please pray for God’s favor as our attorneys negotiate easements with VDOT, and that they will find the best solution for our church. Pray for our Detail Team and Vision Team as they continue to develop plans and strategies moving forward.

Although these changes will require us to make some sacrifices, Pastor Eric said he believes what we’re about to go through is going to make us a healthier body of believers who can accomplish God’s mission.

Our next Campus Catalyst Town Hall meeting will take place in September (details coming soon).