Living Community Church officially “started” in January of 2015. At least, that’s when the logo and name of the church were decided upon. At that point in time, a group of people loosely connected to the vision of the church were meeting for Bible study at our home. We ran an occasional event with mixed results: Sometimes a small crowd would show up, sometimes only I would.
The church has grown since then in many different ways. We were successful at connecting with neighbors and forging relationships. New people came and joined, while others moved on. We grew slowly while God was choosing the right people to move this community forward. God has proven that he stands behind us as we build diverse communities that help people meet and follow Jesus.
By way of example: this coming weekend we will host a harvest festival at East Palo Alto Charter School along with Peninsula Bible Church. There will likely be well over 500 people there with dozens of volunteers. Our neighbor will bring the petting zoo he started in his backyard. The people of our community are serving by connecting people, welcoming them, managing parking, etc. All those things were made possible because God multiplied our small community’s efforts to draw people together in Jesus’ name – and this is just one of many examples of how God is using us!
We currently have 3 major events each month: A social gathering, an outreach/service project, and a night of devotion. Each event is an attempt to fulfill our mission by creating space for people to come “as they are”. Our hope is that each person can experience community with people who follow Jesus and get excited about what they see. Personally, I am overjoyed that we see God bringing people of different cultures, spiritual journeys, and socioeconomic backgrounds together at our events.
As a metric for where we are today, you could track our “short list”. These are folks who have a sincere interest in our programs and church. When we started, our short list was about 10 people. That list is now up to 50 people and grows regularly. I no longer wonder if people will show up to an event. Now, it is more a question of how many or from which community. As East Palo Alto continues to change, it will be interesting to see if God will bring Stanford students, Facebook professionals, homeless, and increasingly diverse people to our events.
Our biggest challenge to date is not growth or diversity, but engagement. People in Silicon Valley are incredibly busy with work, family, and other commitments. Those who want to come to our events come sporadically, making it difficult to build momentum or deepen community. This results in fractured community: one person who is coming semi-regularly will not have met another person who is coming semi-regularly despite our small size. As a church, we need to figure out how to assimilate people into our community when they come infrequently.
Another challenge we have is a shortage of workers. Our mission will ultimately be accomplished by those who make themselves available to God: be they broken people who have no experience or people who have a passion for doing ministry. We need to help people step out in faith to do the work of the Church. Everyone should be able to engage with socials that draw people together into communities. Many of our friends and coworkers want to serve and simply need an invitation. We want to be engaged in feeding their souls but will only get there through devotion to God’s words, prayer, and worship.
We will continue to grow organically but slowly through existing relationships if nothing changes. We are at the limits of organizational growth for what Rachel and Juan can do as individuals. Growth in the church going forward will come from other servants investing in the church in the following ways:
- Individuals who own the mission of the church and are able to draw others in
- An Administrator who can file 503c paperwork and manage finances
- A communicator who is sending out emails, reminders, Facebook posts, tweets, and website updates
- Event coordinators to help with socials and outreaches
- Small group leaders who have a passion for community and connection
- Children’s ministry leaders who help our children grow in the knowledge of God
- An operational manager who maintains the technical details for our website, phone, and emails
In terms of programs that would complement what we currently do: we as a community would benefit from having more consistent times investing in our walks with Jesus. A small group (or two) that works with people’s schedules would allow people to connect more deeply with one another. An increased frequency to our devotional night would help us follow Jesus in an intentional way. Impromptu get-togethers between people to encourage and walk alongside one another would help distribute the ownership for group health and discipleship.
When we reach a core group of 10 families/individuals who are committed to our vision, we will start meeting regularly for a small worship service. From there, we will begin preparations to launch the church. Launching the church is an exciting opportunity for people who are not following Jesus to get to know him through the launch events. Our hope is that many people who are not involved with worship, but who are engaging with various events, will meet and follow Jesus through the launching process.
Ultimately, we hope to start a church that brings people from all places in their spiritual journey together. This means inviting people who do not fit our definition of who should be at church. It means being ok with a messy community of people who desperately need Jesus. It means watching ourselves grow into maturity by God’s grace through steps of faith. We get to see God shine in the midst of us as He does the miracle of bringing a new church to life.