REPLANT BRINGS CHILDREN BACK TO DYING CHURCH
Meredith Yackel – North American Mission Board
ENGLEWOOD, CO (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,” said Elliot. “I went into the nursery and started crying and praying to God to bring children.”
Little did she know God was orchestrating a plan larger than she could ever imagine.
After serving in youth ministry for several years in the Denver area, Mark Hallock felt God leading him toward intergenerational ministry. “A lot of youth ministries are completely separated from the larger church,” said Hallock. “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.”
Members of Calvary Church, a church replant in La Junta, Colo., gather for corporate prayer following a worship service. The church is a replant of Calvary Church in Englewood, Colo., itself a church replant. The Englewood church has helped replant six churches in the metro Denver area. (Photo courtesy Calvary Church)
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 long-time 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. 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 they could not afford for one year.
The remaining 30 members at Calvary noticed change almost immediately. “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,” said DeClue. “It is really scary when you have a few pastors who aren’t really what you thought they were going to be,” said Elliott. “They come in and just want to change everything, but Mark wasn’t like that. He is just so humble. “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. 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,” said Hallock. “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 as well. 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 the Englewood campus as well. “This church was just like we were,” said Hallock. “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 NAMB to replant. 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.”
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) will host the first-ever National Replant Conference June 11-12 in St. Louis before the Southern Baptist Convention this summer. “This gathering will connect those who are replanting with other replanters as we learn from each other how God is replanting dying churches
Nancy Elliott leads a craft project during Sunday School at Calvary Church in Englewood, Colo., a church replant. Elliott was heartbroken when the former declining church saw children stop coming to their services. Through the replant process, the church has revitalized and is growing, including the addition of new families with children. (Photo courtesy Calvary Church)
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.
Learn more about the conference here and register for free.
Want to learn more about church replanting? Visit the Church Replanters Blog here.