Bayside Church is focused on helping everyone connect relationally.
When it comes to church growth, Randy Bezet, lead pastor of Bayside Community Church in Bradenton, Florida, says that it’s all in God’s hands.
“It’s God who grows his church. There isn’t a specific formula or one right way in doing this,” says Bezet. “In everything, we are simply stewards of what God has given us.”
From the beginning, leadership at Bayside has focused on relationships. “We don’t just want to be a friendly church,” he says. “We want everyone to have a friend.”
He goes on to say that in life, we all need people to walk alongside us, and the church should be a place for people to find that. That’s why Bayside places a huge emphasis not just on doing church or having a weekend service or events, but truly being the church and helping people relationally connect.
They also place a high value on the next generation by creating opportunities for them to grow and mature into the people God has called them to be. Whether it’s with youth events, small groups or kids’ services, a lot of resources are dedicated to helping their students connect with God and engage in relationships with friends in a safe environment specifically designed for them.
Bayside has eight different campuses across four cities, each location with its own unique personality.
“We are all one church, part of the same family, but we have learned that it’s not always a one-size-fits-all model that is best,” says Bezet. “What is best for us is to allow each of our campuses to adapt to the uniqueness of the community around them. That’s how we love and serve our communities.”
This year, however, racial injustices have been on the forefront of everyone’s minds as people all across the country have experienced deep hurt and powerful pain. Burnard Scott, East Bradenton Campus pastor, calls the racial tensions and sin of racism that are surrounding our county very real and extremely heartbreaking.
“I believe that what we are facing is not a political issue but a matter of the heart, and it is my heart to help lead and pastor our church to have a kingdom mindset and reflect the heart of Christ through it all,” says Scott, who maintains that it starts with each one person personally searching themselves and allowing the Lord to reveal areas that need to heal so they can reflect the image of God better.
“I have made it a priority to lean in and listen so that I can learn and empathize with my Black and brown brothers and sisters as well as create opportunities for our church to do the same,” says Scott. “I believe that it is when we start with ourselves that God will change us and then use us to be an agent of change to our families, our friends, our communities and eventually the world.”
Bezet admits that he’s always learning, especially during years like this one that has been full of challenging surprises.
“This year has brought me and our church leadership back to a focus on what real ministry is,” he says. When they, like most all churches across the country, were forced to suspend in-person services, it was a wonderful reminder that ministry is not solely about a service or an event.
“Those are all great things and are important parts of the church, but ministry is about people,” says Bezet. “It is people who matter most to God and should matter most to us.”
He is reminded of this simple but important truth as he reflects on the many stories in his congregation, each of which revolve around what God has done in the hearts and lives of the people and families he has brought to Bayside.
“It’s the stories of broken marriages coming to church and finding God, then choosing to walk through our growth track together and find healing, restoration and freedom in Christ and now living out their purpose and investing into others.”
BAYSIDE COMMUNITY CHURCH
Lead Pastor: Randy Bezet
Growth: +733 (7%)