The decision was made earlier in 2007 that our church, First Baptist Church Jacksonville, would begin moving toward the start of a K-12 school at our downtown campus. This idea was presented in the Vision Sunday in February 2007 - and it was given a whole "bullet point" in the Vision Sunday brochure. No evidence was presented at this point that any marketing studies were conducted as to the need for additional Christian school space in the Jax metro area, or potential market demand for a Christian school located downtown.
Furthermore, Mac Brunson has not kept the congregation posted on the progress in starting this school, except to mention in his sermon on September 30th to say that many people on a committee were working toward opening the school in the Fall of 2008. If the start-up of this school is going to be paid for from the budget of the church, Mac would do very well to take occasion in making announcements every so often on Sunday mornings about the progress made in the school start-up. One brief mention in a sermon in 7 months time doesn't cut it.
Mac probably doesn't know this, but the thought of quite a few "common folk" in the congregation is that this school will not be helping any but the very rich in our congregation, and perhaps will reach as a ministry some of the very rich in our community. If the tuition costs will be anything similar to the First Baptist Academy in Dallas, the tuition cost will range from $9000 to $10,000 for one student. Survey the families at FBC Jacksonville who might be able to afford this tuition, or even half of it...there won't be very many in our congregation.
Mac very much believes in "church marketing" as he uses the "A-Group" church marketing firm; so one would hope that the starting point in the FBC Jax school project was first doing the necessary research answering the questions:
1. Is a Christian school needed in Jacksonville? Is there an expected lack of space in the current Christian schools serving this area?
2. How much demand is there in the Jax metro area for a Christian school located downtown?
3. How many members will be able to take advantage of the school?
4. What will the cost of this school be during the start-up and what financial effect will this have on other ministries in the church?
The question of: SHOULD FBC JACKSONVILLE BE IN THE BUSINESS OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION is one that needs to be seriously considered by wise men and women who are familiar with Jacksonville education, Christian education, and who have no preconceived bias TOWARD starting a school. Its very reasonable that Mac would want a Christian school at FBC Jax. He had one at Dallas. He believes very much in Christian education. But its not his dollars that will be financing it, it will be "God's money" donated by members of the church. So we certainly hope that before we launch into starting a Christian school we first have done the research to make sure it makes sense in every way for our church to move in this direction.
OK, I'll cut to the chase: after observing Mac Brunson over the past year, I don't trust his judgement alone in making the decision to start a school at our church. I hope that serious men and women have not just started planning for the school, but that they first debated the concept and studied market research to see if its even a worthwhile project. If so, can the congregation be told? Church, please speak up and don't be silent any longer if you share similar concerns. Yes, the pastor complains about emails, but that is the only way to let them know.
P.S. Keeping the congregation informed on status of projects, direction of the church, special events, is definitely not a strong suit of Team Brunson. The "LifeLines" weekly publication hasn't been published in over 2 months (and the old version is still posted on the website!). As I said we have heard almost nothing about the school, and now we see that our church is sponsoring a major Pro-Israel fund-raising event for a hospital in Israel....that might be a fine idea, but why does the church only find out about these things from the church website? For a church and pastor that uses a church marketing company, you would think we would do a better job of communicating to the members of the church.