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New First Baptist Church pastor focusing on helping church and community

New First Baptist Church lead pastor Craig Morris (left) is pictured with assistant pastor and youth director Adam Zappetta. Jordan Willi / RiverTown Multimedia

After coming on staff in June, and giving his first sermon as lead pastor on July 2, First Baptist Church's Craig Morris feels like things couldn't be going better at his new church.

"My style of preaching is a little shorter; more direct, to the point and with a focus of what the message is," Morris said. "I just go right into the Bible right from the beginning, but then I'm also very big on the practical steps of how you will live that message out when you leave here. So, it is not just sticking with theology, but also about live transformation and how your life will look differently based on what you hear."

With a new pastor have come several changes at First Baptist as well. Morris and the church staff worked hard during his first couple months to revamp the Wednesday night schedule for teens, as well as making changes to the Sunday schedule, including adding a second service.

"It has been crazy busy transitioning into all the fall stuff. We just got all of our Wednesday night schedules rebooted and also did a reboot of the new Sunday schedule," Morris said. "All of those changes we've made have been focusing on reaching families and making it easier on them."

According to Morris, the young children and teen programs on Wednesdays used to be at separate times; however, the church recently changed the two programs' start times in order to lighten the load for parents who have multiple children attending different programs. Not only was a second Sunday service added to the church's schedule, but the times have also changed, with the first service starting at 8:45 a.m., and the second starting at 10 a.m. A kids' program was also added for nursery to fifth grade children to give them something to do while their parents attend church.

"We want to give people multiple options, so if there is one that doesn't work for you, there is still another option," Morris said. "We are also streaming all of our messages live on our Facebook page. So if you can't make it out, you can still watch."

Morris, who is married with a two children, spent the last three years owning a business in Florida and worked as a youth pastor in Minnesota before taking the job in New Richmond.

"The biggest transition has been working with other people's schedules as opposed to just running my own schedule," Morris said. "That has been the biggest thing, coordinating and scheduling meeting times with other people."

Although Morris applied for the First Baptist position early in the hiring processes, he pulled his name out of contention because the move didn't feel right at the time. However, after a few more months of thinking about the job, he changed his mind and moved his family to New Richmond.

"It was the combination of some of the things God was doing in our life. We were doing the business, making a living and it was good. But at the time I was a volunteer youth pastor at our church there and found that I was lacking some of the fulfillment," Morris said. "It was fun selling things, but what do you accomplish at the end of the day. It was some of that longing to find other ways to do more and have a bigger impact on more people."

In addition, Morris also felt like New Richmond was a community in need and could use his help as a pastor.

"I had friends here who were saying that New Richmond could be facing some transition and has some drug and poverty issues. I felt like I was in a place where I could help the people in this town who wanted to help those other people, make that transition to realize that the town is going to change," Morris said. "However, God's goodness stays the same regardless of the circumstances. I wanted to maybe be that voice, coming from a larger area and having worked with a more diverse population — both economically and socially — to share my experiences and say that we can still reach out to people who are different than us."

One of Morris' biggest focuses as pastor will be trying to connect with adults ages 21 to 35 who are just about to graduate and are in the early stages of adulthood.

"We want to try to find ways we can serve the people of the community in that age range," Morris said. "A lot of churches don't really know what to do with that group, so we are working to provide quality kids ministry. We want that to be a priority, not an afterthought. It is important for me personally because I have younger kids as well."

Morris also hopes to encourage more people in the church and community to volunteer and serve.

"We are not a perfect church. We are learning and growing. But we want to be a church that serves the community," Morris said. "We are working to get some of the structure in place to do that better than we have done. My dad did a lot of serving the community himself, but it didn't really translate to tons of other people following. We want to take that and not just have it be things I do, but things we all do and we can all accomplish. We want to take the example my dad started and say we all want to do that."

For more information on the First Baptist Church of New Richmond, visit, email, call 715-246-2700 or visit the church's Facebook page.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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