Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of stories about congregations engaged in significant outreach and evangelism ministries, reflecting the General Assembly’s commitment to “Grow Christ’s Church Deep and Wide.” — Jerry L. Van Marter
Most outreach programs are started by established churches looking for ways to serve their communities, but in Elk Grove, Calif., a new church development is taking a different approach.
New Hope Presbyterian Church — part of Sacramento Presbytery — formed in February, and while a core group has been established, the church has had a rather ambitious plan in mind to spur growth from the beginning.
New Hope is in negotiations to rent a storefront property. The church expects to have the final word from the presbytery on its proposal by September, and if all goes well, it expects to move in this fall and set up shop. Literally.
The next step for the Rev. John Snyder, pastor of New Hope, and his members is to open a resale store in Elk Grove. Although there are only about 40 members at the moment, Snyder is not worried that the project is too ambitious for them.
“There may only be 40 members, but they are all good, committed volunteer types,” Snyder said.
He’s basing the idea on a store his wife, Shirin, helped found 20 years ago that is run by a church in Carmel, Calif. The church will accept donations of items that will sell for a low price. The money from the sales will be used to fund the church and its ministries. Snyder said that the store in Carmel, which also started small, now generates about $750,000 a year that is used for mission work.
Snyder also anticipates using the property for ministry offerings like Bible studies, English classes or small groups after hours.
Yet neither the revenue from the sales nor the space is the primary focus or the real reason Snyder planned this project. The Rev. Rolfe Granath, temporary associate presbyter for Sacramento Presbytery, understands exactly what Snyder has in mind.
“Resale is huge right now in this economy. It’s very popular,” Granath said. “But it can be more than that. It can be a springboard to get to know the community and find out what their needs are so you can provide for them and then eventually bring them into worship.”
Snyder understands that in order to really serve the community and establish a place and a need for New Hope, he first needs to understand who the community is and what it needs. He knows the best way to do that is to meet people — and the store will provide an opportunity to do that.
“We can find out who the local community is when they come in to shop at the store,” Snyder said. “Then once we know that, we can find out what the needs are and address them. The idea is to be there for them.”
Snyder knows that numbers are often used to evaluate growth, but he also understands that at this stage, numbers are not where his primary focus needs to be. He believes the first step is to establish relevant ministries, and the resale store is the initial offering. From that starting point, Snyder can expand and develop ministries and offerings that are needed and appealing to the community he serves. Numbers will come later, when needs are being met.
“You need to make that connection with the community,” Snyder said. “Our store is going to be that beginning touch with this community. Once you’ve established that, then you can evangelize and bring people in to worship.”
Toni Montgomery is a freelance writer in Statesville, N.C., where she also serves as church secretary for First Presbyterian Church.