In 2005, the board of elders considered some critical issues such as the possibility of expanding the church, researching who actually owned the property under the fellowship hall, the local congregation or the American Baptist Churches (ABC), and examining our affiliation with ABC. After much consideration and prayer, the elders decided to discontinue monetary contributions to the ABC and begin a separation from that organization. In 2006, a team of willing and diligent servants continued to research the ownership status of our church property at the request of the elders. Their work was thorough and timely as we considered our future relationship with the ABC and facility expansion.
Barbee Stanfield spearheaded the renovation of the downstairs classrooms to accommodate our changing needs. An anonymous donor gave $9,000 for the project and the congregation approved additional $10,000. The middle wall in the old nursery was removed and this became the toddler room. The nursery was moved to the west side.
Under her leadership, the L.I.F.E. Groups (Living in Faith Everyday) also began. This small group ministry provided a way for the congregation to get to know each other and to grow together in knowledge of the Lord. A faithful group of leaders hosted and led groups in their homes or at the Senior Center on a regular basis.
A workshop rotation Sunday school model was begun, and on September 25, 2005, Hiz Kids Kingdom come into being. It presented and enthusiastically received as a positive way to motivate and teach our young children Bible truths. Around this same time, space was reallocated for a coffee house downstairs, and it was called Common Grounds Coffee House. This became a meeting area for middle school and senior high students. Barbee also began a new ministry for senior high students on Sunday mornings called Student Impact. It provided an opportunity for students to develop their leadership skills and grow in their faith while making a positive impact on others.
Another position was added in the fall of 2005 to help transition through a growth period of our church. Ed Ahlum was hired as a part-time Director of Leadership Development, and his duties were to lead training and discipleship sessions for developing leadership roles within the church, coordinate and oversee the L.I.F.E. Groups ministry, develop a men's ministry, plan and implement leadership retreats, and fill the pulpit occasionally. Ed helped the church transition through this period of growth for six months.
During this time, Dr. Steeg and the church leadership determined we had a need for an associate pastor. A search committee met and called Scott Iken to fill that position. Pastor Iken was ratified by the congregation on November 20, 2005. Scott was previously the young adult pastor of South Suburban Christian Church in Littleton, Colorado. His wife Pam, daughter, Addi, and sons, Seth and Reis, joined him in his ministry when he arrived, and after a couple of years daughter Sadie was born.
Associate Pastor Scott Iken began a new worship service, Monday Nights @ FBC, which included an upbeat worship band and teaching in a coffeehouse atmosphere, primarily for young adults. This service brought in people who previously were not connected to a church. He also started a couples' study for growth in understanding of God's design for marriage. The band sought opportunities to reach out to the community, and played at venues in the community and even in other states to reach out with the love of Christ.
During this time there were many youth activities and projects including a retreat at Turpin Meadow Ranch, trips to Dare 2 Share and Acquire the Fire, Hill Climb parking and other fundraisers for a mission trip to the Gulf coast.
The L.I.F.E. Group ministry continued to develop in 2006. Small group leadership members attended a seminar in Casper. Work continued on researching, development, and training for this vital ministry. The ministry grew to 10 active groups throughout the valley, including Moran, Victor, Idaho, and Alpine, as well as at the Senior Center. The leadership of the church strongly encouraged persons attending church to consider being part of a neighborhood small group. The goal of the small group ministry is spiritual growth which is facilitated through fellowship, worship, discipleship, evangelism and service.
The reality is that times have changed in recent years, necessitating implementation of a child protection policy for the nursery and toddler room. This made is a requirement that anyone working with children in any capacity at First Baptist Church have a mandatory application and background check on file. Attendance at child protection safety classes became a requirement for any volunteer.
Throughout the life of the church, fellowship events brought members and friends of the church together to cultivate caring and relationships within our church body. Events that have become tradition every year include the Easter Breakfast, Bar J Crisis Pregnancy Center fundraiser, the annual church picnic, Buzzard Breath Chili Cookoff, and Christmas hayride, caroling, and dinner. The first Harvest Carnival began in 2006 as an alternative to Halloween, and as an outreach to the community. Everyone was invited to dress in costume and join in fun for the whole family. The response from the church and community was wonderful.
The Front Line Ministry began in 2006 to greet and minister to those attending our church. These faithful servants embodied our mission statement "With all we are...loving God and loving people through Christ." In addition to greeting people at the Sunday services, Front Line ministers hand out bulletins, escort visitors to the nursery or classrooms, answer questions, collect offerings, and serve communion.
God showered blessings on His church by growing the congregation as individuals in our love for Him, and as a church body in numbers. A building team formed in the beginning of 2007 in response to what God has been doing in our congregation. The elders and the building team researched and prayed about teaming up with Building God's Way, a company out of Ogden, Utah. BGW developed a preliminary set of plans from the ideas and needs reported by the elders. BGW did a financial analysis for First Baptist based on information supplied by the church treasurer. A building fund drive began to enable remodel or expansion of the church due to our increasing membership and attendance. The small house the church owned just east of the sanctuary was demolished in anticipation of expansion. It had served as a parsonage, rental, youth gathering place called "The Pad," and storage space.
To help the church transition to supporting career missionaries who we know personally and pray for regularly, First Baptist created a missions ministry team in 2007. The team developed an official missions policy: "We believe that lost people matter to God, and therefore matter to us. We believe that we were made for a mission and thus want to impact the world with the love and message of Jesus Christ." They created an application for missionary support as well. They continue to review funding requests, determine career missions worthy of support and at what level, and communicate to the congregation updates on the missionaries. They diligently pray that we make our resources, both of time and money, available to God's leading.
In August 2007, Jeff Gaertner joined the staff as the Pastor of Student Ministries. He and his wife, Heidi, daughter, Landry, and son, Dawson, moved here from Enterprise, Oregon where Jeff was the youth pastor at First Baptist church there. He began his youth ministry in Jackson by getting to know students, preparing a ministry staff team, and planning a course with the scope of our vision and mission.
Pastor Gaertner established a tweeners ministry (4th and 5th graders) in 2008 called Hiz Kids 252. He developed a volunteer dream team staff to help him with the student ministry. He implemented sponsorship of two impoverished Ugandan children through Compassion International. Among many service projects, the youth helped build three homes through Habitat for Humanity in 2008. Six student scholarships were given in 2008 and 2009 with Old Bill's Fun Run discretionary funds.
The high expectations for the progression of the building campaign weren't realized in 2008 because the economy dealt a severe blow to our country and our community. This financial downturn left many wondering about the security of homes and jobs in the future. We were forced to reconsider the impact and scope of our vision. The church had successfully raised one-half of the $80,000 specific to Phase I of the renovation. Pastor Steeg said "It is a poignant reminder of the Lord's words that our confidence is not in the things of this world but the eternal blessings of our standing in Christ. The timing of these economic struggles necessarily forces an evaluation of our desire to engage in a building program."
The AWANA program flourished. The church decided in 2008 to hold AWANA in conjunction with the worship service on monday nights.
In October 2008, the Lord led Barbee and Tom Stanfield to a new ministry in Denver, Colorado called Open Door Ministries. The Stanfield's generously offered to sell their home to First Baptist Church at a reasonable cost so we might secure a parsonage for the pastoral staff.
The year 2009 brought about an event that would affect our church family in unimaginable ways and required us to trust in the Lord's grace and providence. On March 31, Pastor Jeff Gaertner was killed in an automobile accident while on a retreat in Oregon with youth from our community and from his previous church home in Oregon. We had to come to terms with why this happened to someone who was in the prime of his life, with a young family, and serving the Lord so effectively and faithfully. In addition, most of the youth in his truck were injured, a couple of them seriously.
Pastor Steeg guided and steered the church family through this rough time with his wise council, strong faith, and biblical truth. He reassured us, Jeff's family, and the injured students that God was in charge, and that he had a plan for us. Though filled with grief, we continued on with the tasks at hand. The church family reached out to Heidi, Landry, Dawson, the students who were involved in the accident, and the youth who were so affected by the loss of Jeff. Dedicated volunteers continued the ministry for which Jeff was so passionate. In June, Heidi and the kids felt God's calling to return home to Oregon and family.
The year 2009 saw expenditures from the building fund for new carpeting in the sanctuary, stairs, hall and offices; chairs for the sanctuary, carpet and vinyl for the Fellowship Hall and kitchen, and tile and slate for the entryways. The pews were removed and chairs purchased to allow for more multi-purpose use of the sanctuary as needs increased with the church's growth.
As part of their ongoing ministries, First Baptist Church provided music and a message for worship with the residents of the Living Center at St. John's Hospital on the fourth Sunday of each month. L.I.F.E. groups and other volunteers provided an evening meal on the third Thursday of each month at the Good Samaritan Mission. A week every June has historically been designated for Vacation Bible School, and in recent years, dedicated leaders and volunteers have made it an outreach priority. The number of children attending from the community and reached for Christ has been phenomenal.
The Missions Team responded to needs in our community by committing to providing food for the Jackson Food Cupboard. They were in charge of getting food contributions from our congregation to help with this community need. They also responded to special needs of missionaries through their discretionary mission fund, and continued to bring the missionaries we support to speak at First Baptist.
Both Pastor Steeg and Irene sensed a calling from God to take care of family health concerns and their elderly parents. Dr. Steeg decided to retire from active ministry in August. A wide range of thoughts and emotions were evident at the reception which was held in their honor. It was sad to see the Steegs leave after experiencing their vital and encouraging ministries, leadership, and friendship, but there was hope for the Lord’s leading in their lives as well as for the future of our church body.
Scott Iken took on the responsibilities of the senior pastor, preaching on Sunday mornings, and continuing with his ministry of music at the early Sunday service and Monday Nights. The elders agreed to fill the pulpit twice a month.
Concern was ongoing for the youth who were involved in the Gaertner accident. A fourth of July fundraiser “Frankfurters for Family” benefited a student who was injured in the accident. The church moderator, Bill Raimer, represented First Baptist Church at a mediation hearing in Enterprise, Oregon on July 11, 2009. In September, the mediation proved successful and settled all insurance matters regarding the Gaertner accident without the need of a lengthy and costly court hearing. Ongoing prayers went out to all the families involved the God would continue to heal the wounds, both physically and spiritually.