As network catalyst, Rafael Murillo is helping North Florida churches prepare for growth and change

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NORTH FLORIDA–Rafael Murillo wants to help pastors and churches in North Florida to be able to help and learn from one another as they seek to make a difference for Christ in their communities.

That is part of his task as he serves these Southern Baptist churches and pastors in his new role as network catalyst for the North Florida Baptist Network.

Murillo hit the ground running after starting in January, striving each week to meet and talk with as many pastors as possible, and doing some fill-in preaching on Sundays. But it’s a sprawling, mostly rural area that includes more than 30 churches spread over seven counties that incorporates Hamilton, Baker, Union, Columbia, Suwannee and Gilchrist counties, as well as part of Alachua County.

“We want to do some networking among the different churches so we can learn from one another and work together for the kingdom,” he said. “We’re trying to see how we can partner together, but that’s a little challenging because the churches are so spread out.”

Preparing for growth/change

Lake City, located where I-75 and I-10 intersect, is considered the hub of this area, and that is where his office is located. The area is expected to continue to grow, and he’s working with the churches to prepare for changes that come with growth and an influx of people. But he’s learned that not everyone considers change to be a good thing.

“Change is a hard sell,” he said. “Part of my job is how I can prepare churches for changes that are coming. I am understanding and respecting their past and present, but also talking to them about making impactful changes.”

Rather than even using the word change, Murillo often uses questions like “Have you thought about doing this?” or “How can we innovate?”

Learning from each other

Murillo has already scheduled the first networking opportunity in March, modeled after “Dine and Learn” events he did in Texas, where he served as director of missions for the past 10 years. This is where he invites pastors and church members to share a meal and hear from a guest speaker.

Two popular topics that generated high interest and attendance in Texas included blended families and second parenting as well as mental health.

“No matter how big or small your church is, these are some issues that every church is confronting right now,” he said.

The bottom line is, ‘How we can help each other and learn from each other?

Rafael Murillo network catalyst, North Florida Baptist Network

“The bottom line is, ‘How we can help each other and learn from each other?’”

One pastor in this network has a successful strategy his church uses to welcome and retain first-time guests. By connecting him with other pastors, more churches can use the same strategy to impact guests in a positive way.

Another word he doesn’t like to use is meeting, because seriously, who really likes meetings? So instead of the annual meeting, members can look forward to the annual gathering. He also plans to do a retreat and conference for pastors’ wives, a popular event his wife has led in the past.

Always looking to improve on what he’s doing, Murillo sends out a survey to all who attend the events and gatherings he holds so he can gather input from attendees and find out what they liked and didn’t like or what suggestions they have for future events. “This enables us to find out what is in their minds and in their hearts and how we can serve them better,” he said.

Murillo is even looking to use different methods to communicate with pastors and churches in this network. Rather than just emailing or texting information, he’s sending postcards and letters to his pastors. “Who gets personal letters these days? It’s unheard of. We’re going to send out something small and simple, something unique, and I think some of these guys will appreciate it.”

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