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New worshiping community, “little church” connects with young adults

Pub trivia and theology nights help bridge gap to those disconnected from traditional church

March 11, 2013

Mobile phones provide  images of light

Mobile phones provide images of light on Pub Theology night. The WordHouse creates spiritual space in a public places for those disconnected from traditional forms of church. —The WordHouse

Louisville

Jeff Richards, pastor of The WordHouse, began building a Christian community for young adults in November 2009. A graduate of San Francisco Theological Seminary, he was talking with friends about their disconnection from the traditional forms of what church looked like and their desire to do church in a new way.

“We really wanted care for one another,” says Richards. “We wanted to eat a meal together, to worship, to wrestle with Scripture, to engage the text in a way that had meaning to what was going on in our lives.”

The small group of friends began meeting weekly in people’s homes—and monthly for Pub Trivia and Pub Theology nights. Each event created spiritual space and had a slightly different pulse. Trivia night is for home worship in a public place, to mingle and hang out with folks in the community. Theology night is solely for conversation, geared toward the spiritual-but-not-religious and religious types to find commonality. “Where we get to hear what is on people’s hearts,” says Richards, “to share and hear about each other's hurts and pain, and  joys and happiness.”

As The WordHouse engaged with people who had different theological understandings, they began to develop a particular mind-set. “Increasingly we were open to God’s Spirit and presence,” says Richards. “We began to see more clearly how God was still at work in our lives.”

In August 2010 The WordHouse took on a more organized community feel.  Richards, who lives closer to downtown Sacramento, began worshiping at Faith Presbyterian Church, located in a suburb south of the city.

“As we got to know Jeff, we increasingly became excited about what he was doing,” says associate pastor Jim Zazzera. “We saw this engagement of life and faith in the activities of The WordHouse nights as reflecting the radical hospitality of Jesus. He was reaching people who are questioning, who have doubt, who were wondering about life.”

Part of The WordHouse hanging out after a Pub Trivia worship gathering. Jeff Richards, pastor, is pictured second from the right. —The WordHouse

Seeing God at work through The WordHouse—led Faith Presbyterian Church to say yes when Richards approached them about being a partner congregation for this new worshiping community.

“Our congregation resonated to the kinds of questions people were asking at The WordHouse,” says Zazzera. “We’d been praying about ways to bridge the distance between the world and the church. We saw this as an opportunity to support their mission efforts to bring Christ to our changing culture.”

By summer of 2012, The WordHouse had formed two communities of ten people each, one downtown and one in the suburban area where Faith was located. Describing themselves as “little church,” they began to envision forming communities all around Sacramento. “We’ll meet in homes, coffee shops, and anywhere else God calls in the world,” says Richards. “We’ll tether these groups together by participating in serving our community and in the discernment and leadership of The WordHouse as a whole.”

Richards believes this is where people will connect through a common passion for mission and ministry. “Here in the capital of California, you are involved emotionally in making life better, without trying to be,” he says. “There is a need for all kinds of ministry. Currently we are working together to serve disadvantaged youth, as well as families struggling to stay off the streets.”

In February 2013, The WordHouse received a $7,500 New Worshiping Communities “Seed” Grant from mission program grants, a ministry of Church Growth in the Presbyterian Mission Agency. The grant was one of fourteen funded since November 2012. “We are excited and thrilled,” says Richards. “Suddenly, we are not alone in what we are doing or thinking.” 

It’s how The WordHouse felt when they heard about the 220th General Assembly’s (July 2012) churchwide commitment to ignite a movement that will result in the creation of 1001 new worshiping communities in ten years. “We are so encouraged to know the church at large is remembering the ancient house churches Paul talks about in Scripture."

  1. Right on Jeff! It was so good to work with you at Westminster Woods and I can't help but feel that that experience of community somehow helped/helps this new ministry journey. You are the right person at the right time and I hope this fills your soul and your call as much as I know it fills those you are reaching. God bless you! I will pray for you and please let me know how I can help!

    by Brian Frick

    March 18, 2013

  2. Thank you for missional vision. I am preaching at a Methodist church on being a missional church and the example of The WordHouse is a great example of local mission. Thanks to Faith for their willingness to enter into ministry with you. Blessings, Leon

    by Leon Thompson

    March 14, 2013

  3. Thanks Jeff - Great to talk with you. Isn't it great to know that the Light of Advent is always with us -- in the places we consider sacred and also in public places?! Joy. Paul

    by Paul Seebeck

    PC(USA) Staff

    March 12, 2013

  4. Thank y0u for writing this article about our missional community, Paul. I am grateful we are "finally" more closely tied with the church of my upbringing, subsequent years of service and my preparation for ordination as Teaching Elder. A quick note of clarification: The phone candles you see were actually taken during Advent a little over a year ago. While we're not a traditional mainline church, we certainly haven't thrown out all church practices with the proverbial bath water. Grace & peace, Jeff Pastor of The WordHouse

    by Jeff Richards

    March 12, 2013

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