12 Apr It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Devin and I came to Abundant Life Church in Birdsboro in the beginning of 2014. The church had been in existence for about twelve years, but was now struggling in a number of ways. Attendance was very low (around 40), the building was in desperate need of updating, and many of the once thriving ministries had lost their steam. Now four years later, because of God’s grace, consistent prayer, strong leadership, a faithful core of laborers, and wise financial restructuring, our small church has been revitalized. Four years ago, our church wasn’t very involved in the community, but now there are so many ways people can get involved and serve, and really make a local impact physically and spiritually.
Loving Loud in the
When we arrived in Birdsboro, one of the first things God led us to pray for was unity with other churches, and He has answered that prayer while teaching us how to reach out and make valuable connections with other local churches! A major aspect of our community impact is our partnership with other churches in the area that share the same Gospel-driven mission; I don’t think there is any one outreach that our church does 100% exclusively. Our weekly children and youth ministries impact many unchurched families. A handful of those families have started attending our church, and many of them are still building a relationship with us through their children. We host an annual community VBS, and again, a handful of the volunteers are from other local churches.
Our church also serves a few times each year at our town’s “Community Table” which provides a free sit-down meal for anyone in need. We provide the dinner, serve the people, and have opportunities to sit and listen to their stories. We partner with our local fire department and hold an annual community egg hunt which has grown to become a very large well-attended community event. Each Christmas, we support the town’s Christmas celebration by providing the live music and giving out free concessions.
We partnered with three other churches and held a one day event in the park last summer called, “Love Loud.” Close to 1,000 people benefited from free haircuts, health screenings, groceries, lunch, family portraits, and much more! We hope to make this an annual event because the families in our community really need this kind of love and support! We have also helped to start a “Celebrate Recovery” ministry, again partnering with other local pastors and lay leaders to meet a major need of those with addictions.
After being at Abundant Life for about a year, we launched a “Rebuild Project” to update our building. Devin set a goal of about $70,000 to raise for the renovations, however, we would need volunteers to do a lot of the labor. During this time, a young man started visiting the church. This young man was a plumber, and when he heard that we needed new toilets installed, he volunteered to help. It was during those late nights of bathroom renovations, working side by side with Devin, that this young man had the opportunity to really share his story. Because he felt needed and was given opportunity to connect with other Christians, he began to realize God’s purpose and calling on his life. He began to be involved in discipleship opportunities, and he and his wife invited God’s healing power into their lives and marriage. Both of them have since gone through our discipleship “growth track” and are actively serving in ministry. They both went on their first mission trip this past summer and are continuing to grow in their walk with Jesus!
Our Turnaround Steps
- A weekly prayer meeting with a handful of faithful members
- We consistently sought God for wisdom each week and asked in faith for big things. It didn’t matter that there were only about ten people coming out to pray each week. What mattered was that we were faithful, and we prayed with faith.
- A small core of faithful laborers
- We invested in a core of volunteers who had a heart to serve and who were supportive of the new leadership.
- Patience to learn and strengthen the existing church culture
- We did not make any major changes in the first six months, instead we focused on preaching God’s Word, seeking God for vision, and building relationships with the people.
- Financial restructuring
- Devin’s accounting background was an asset as he was able to make some major changes to spending so the church could steward their money in a much wiser way. Devin has been bi-vocational as an accountant and just recently went full-time at the church.
- Casting fresh vision
- Sharing a new vision and new goals with the church helped people know where we were headed and that they were needed for the journey! In our case, our building remodel project greatly contributed to the growth and involvement of attendees.
- Wise counsel from others
- We asked for advice and guidance from many wise leaders outside of our church. One of the best pieces of wisdom we received in regard to the revitalization process was, “It’s a marathon, NOT a sprint.”
Abundant Life Church