by Meredith Yackel
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (BP) — Nancy Elliott found herself crying alone in the nursery. She had attended Calvary Church in Englewood, Colo., since she was 14. Now, for the first time, they had no children at church on a Sunday morning.
“Not one child,” Elliot said. “I went into the nursery and started crying and praying to God to bring children.”
Little did she know her prayers were about to be answered in ways she didn’t expect.
After serving in youth ministry for several years in the Denver area, Mark Hallock felt God leading him toward inter-generational ministry.
“A lot of youth ministries are completely separated from the larger church,” Hallock said. “As I began to see kids graduate from youth group they eventually graduated from church because they were never connected with the rest of the body. I started to think about what it would be like to truly have an inter-generational ministry.”
Hallock and his wife Jenna began to pray and felt God calling them to a dying church they had heard of in Englewood, Colo., in metro Denver.
“I had been seeing church plants pop up, and I started to think about who was going to the declining churches, because God is glorified when dying churches come back to life.”
Calvary Church was established in 1952, in what was once suburbia. As the demographics of Englewood changed, like many churches, Calvary did not change along with the community. Over time attendance dwindled.
“I don’t think churches realize how quickly you can go from 150 to 30 people,” said Jeff DeClue, a longtime member and now associate pastor and elder at Calvary. “There was nothing different about Calvary from any other Southern Baptist church. It wasn’t that we weren’t passionate about the community — the community around us had changed and we didn’t know how to reach them.
“Sadly, I was tired,” he noted. “There was a big church down the road and I wanted to take my family and go where no one knew me. But Dave Elliot [Nancy Elliott’s husband] was really influential and said to me, ‘God is not done with this church. He put it here in 1952 for a reason.'”
DeClue decided that day to trust God for a greater plan. It was the same day that Hallock was meeting with the search committee of Calvary, and feeling God’s call to come and help revitalize the dying church. Although they could only pay Hallock a fraction of what he had been making as a youth minister, Hallock’s previous church committed to cover what Calvary could not afford for one year. The remaining 30 members at Calvary noticed change almost immediately after Hallock became lead pastor.
“Within the first month we seemed to go from 30 to 60, and then to 90, and we were over 100 in just a few months,” DeClue said.
“I am truly grateful that I have stayed and endured the hard times because now we have so many children we barely have room for them,” he said. “To see children run up and down the sidewalk on Sunday is just amazing.”
Hallock has now been at Calvary for seven years and they have continued to see growth. So much so, that they have planted six other churches in the Denver area.
“What is cool is that church planting was in the DNA of Calvary from the start,” Hallock said. “They actually planted three churches back in their heyday, and we were really just tapping into our history. We get to continue the story of that narrative.
“I love church planting, but my personal goal has always been to see churches replanted also,” Hallock said. “I want to see God bring dead things back to life.”
This year, Calvary has had their first experience in replanting a church not far from their Englewood campus.
“This church was just like we were,” Hallock said. “They knew they needed radical change. We met with them and reassured them that God wasn’t done with their church. We see them starting to grow now, which is really exciting.
“It is exciting to see what the Lord is doing through the North American Mission Board to replant,” he noted. “What a statement it is to a community when they see a dead, irrelevant church come back to life. God loves the underdog and when we surrender everything over to Him, He steps into our weakness. That is when He does some of the most amazing things.”
NAMB will host the National Replant Conference June 11-12 in St. Louis before this year’s Southern Baptist Convention.
“This gathering will connect those who are replanting with other replanters as we learn from each other how God is replanting dying churches across North America,” said Mark Clifton, NAMB’s senior director of Replant. “It is also to help declining churches explore next steps to finding new life and new hope.”
The event will feature practitioners who are successfully replanting dying churches, and offer resources and tools that have proven effective in reclaiming dying churches.
Want to learn more about church replanting? Visit the Church Replanters Blog at http://www.churchreplanters.com.
Meredith Yackel writes for the North American Mission Board.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com).
Baptist Press (BP) is the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention and provides news to the 42 state Baptist papers. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.