by Jim Stolt
PLYMOUTH, MI – One of the most difficult things to do in an established church is to bring about significant change. But God, (I love those words!) has changed us as a church, revived us and has enabled us to completely change our focus. All of it started at a Midwest Advance Summit Meeting in 2018. We were without a pastor and I was the Youth Pastor trying to keep everything going. God worked in my heart during those sessions and began to open my eyes to the fact that we as a church were going about everything the wrong way. We were trying so hard to get people to come to us when what we needed to do was focus on sending our people out of our walls and into our community. I shared what I had learned with the elders, and we began to pray through how we could change.
At the same time, our church was actively searching for a pastor. Though numerous people asked me to consider taking the position, I really wasn’t interested because I was loving youth ministry and was still in seminary. In due time, God worked on my heart, I quit running from Him and I submitted my resume. The search team was ecstatic, stating that that was what they had been praying for the entire time. That following May, I was elected as the new pastor.
Over the next year, the elders and I began to roll out a plan called Faith Lift to completely change the structure of the church and its purpose. Some of it had been developed in theory but we moved it into reality. We changed the name of the church from Praise Baptist to Praise Community to reflect that we were there to bless the community and make a difference in it. We also reworked our branding by creating a new website, creating a logo and starting intentional social media interaction. We restructured our church into 7 branches so that every ministry fell under a branch and had leadership over it. We became much more outreach focused, and worked hard to develop ways to bless our community and to get into neighborhoods.
At the same time, we also started a Face Lift which would bring our foyer and sanctuary out of a 1970’s vibe and into a more modern feel. We decided to use a good percentage of our savings from the sale of property to make significant changes to move forward instead of using it to stay at the same place.
During the most intensive point of construction, we concluded services for a month and instead held workshops on spiritual gifts and how to use them. Our goal was to have every person take a spiritual gift inventory test, and then help them to get plugged in to a ministry.
We had a grand reopening on November 3, 2019 and were up and running as Praise Community Church for a few months before COVID-19 hit. Since then we have rolled with the punches and have focused on our online presence and connecting through social media. Like every other church, we are looking for ways to connect with our community while dealing with the restrictions and apprehensions that come with COVID.
God has been so faithful during all of the change and throughout the pandemic. The people of the church have been so supportive throughout the entire process and have remained flexible making it all possible and exciting.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim Stolt has been in full-time ministry for twenty years in youth ministry, music ministry and pastoral ministry. He has been the Senior Pastor at Praise for almost three years. He and his wife, Karyn, have been married for 23 years and have two children, Jacob (19) and Sarah (17).