In September of last year, Maple Street Community Church opened its doors. But we opened them, only after we closed the doors to St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. St. Mark’s had been in existence for over 30 years, but attendance declined to about 35-45 people on Sunday. So, in the spring of last year, the leadership team considered the commission of our Lord, to “go and make disciples”, and realized as a church, it wasn’t “going”. For years, they hoped people would “come”, but they weren’t. In fact, only 10 visitors came to the church in the previous 12 months, and all of them were Lutheran, and none of them stayed. The average age of the church was 65+, and most who attended struggled to find the energy for anything more than attending the Sunday morning service.
The leaders determined that something needed to be done. There was a growing conviction that maintaining its identity as a Lutheran Church would limit the accessibility of the church to the general community. So, months of prayer and planning ensued. Focus was centered on our Lord’s commission to “go”, as well as other NT principles for church “form” and “function”. We embraced the “Neighborhood Initiative”.
The leadership team read it, enjoyed an all-day session with Lynn and began to move forward with individual plans for loving our neighbors. Admittedly, the process seemed to move slowly since the church was also going through a massive shift in identity, theology, liturgy, etc. After several months settling in to our new church “home”, we began to think more aggressively about how we might engage with our community. Two plans were put in place. One was to participate in our local town’s “Hayden Days”. The second was to offer a Kid’s Bible Camp to children in our surrounding community. These were well-received, and provided a great learning opportunity for our members to see how easily they could connect with their neighbors! We needed to find ways to model this for them.
As we have continued to pray, find ways to love our neighbors and look for other ways to “go”, we have seen our attendance on Sunday double in the past few months. Another blessing has been the impact our growth has had on the church that shares our building. Their pastor approached me to see what we’re doing and I encouraged him to read “The Neighborhood Initiative”. After reading it, he asked for six more copies to give to his leadership team, and they have decided to implement it as a part of their outreach strategy. Additionally, their pastor asked if I thought it would be good to meet with his pastoral networking group to begin praying together for our city! This is very exciting and we’re looking forward to how God will work through this. We await the next chapter…with pen in hand.
Pastor Jack Nemeth
Maple Street Community Church
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho