When a church grows from a dozen regular attendees to over 200 in just six years, the change is monumental. But when that church is in a town with a population of only 600, it can be transformational for the town itself.
Throw a devastating fire into the mix, and a picture of God’s grace working through a fellowship of believers who are committed to sharing His love with their neighbors is evident.
In 2010, Pastor Amos R. Self and his wife, Melodee, responded to a call to help get what was then called Verndale Assembly of God in Minnesota back on its feet after a time of hardship. A name change to Family Life Church came a year later. The new leadership and new focus helped a healthier congregation begin to emerge, according to Tahna Rurup, who serves as FLC’s communications director.
“Our new name says it all,” Rurup says. “The church really is a family. When someone comes for the first time, they’re greeted like a long-lost relative.”
However, just when it looked as though the church’s ministry had stabilized, faulty wiring installed during an upgrade to the sound system started a fire that burned the 80-year-old building to the ground. Two weeks earlier, the church held a communion service outside and leaders pondered how the building might be expanded because all 90 available seats had been maxed out.
While Family Life Church held services in a school, church leaders began looking for a new building in which to worship. A 28,000-square-foot rafter factory had been empty for five years and looked promising.
“We did a prayer walk around the building for seven days and asked for God’s will,” Self says. “People told us it wouldn’t work, but we voted unanimously to buy it for $220,000!”
With 80 percent of the remodeling work done by volunteers, Self says Family Life Church managed to stretch the insurance settlement so that virtually the entire building was paid for in cash.
“People in the church gave up a lot of evenings and weekends,” Self says.
Family Life Church started to grow numerically while meeting in the school. The increase in attendance has coincided with FLC reaching out to the community in ways such as building a playground in a town park, purchasing flashlights for each firefighter, and donating a stun gun to the police department.
By the time of the July 2013 relaunch, a little over 100 people showed up on an average Sunday.
“Since then, our church has doubled again in regular involvement and attendance,” Self says. He explains that a major factor in the church’s growth has been a shift in focus.
“We intentionally target a younger audience, from ages 18 to 28, and we have more than 50 kids in our children’s ministry,” Self says. He notes that nearly every week someone in a Sunday morning service makes a salvation commitment to Christ.
In March, Family Life Church began operating and staffing the Verndale community food shelf out of its new facility, serving more than 60 families and giving out around 3,650 pounds of food every month.
“The last almost four years has been a crazy amount of work and crazy transformation in the church,” Self says. “People have responded positively. We learned the value of hard teamwork.”
“We have a volunteer base that is absolutely amazing,” Rurup says. “These people are here for the long haul.”
Source: AG News