Feb 21, 2018


Recently I was asked to put together some information about Connection Church - an amazing congregation I was the Lead Pastor of for ten years.

I've never taken the time to do this, and it honestly felt a bit weird. But... it also felt amazing.

I'm putting this here just to put it out there. To God be the Glory... and to people be the story.

In 2007:  (the Recession hit us hard, so we hit back hard)
- We led at least 15 people to Jesus
- We collected blankets to pass out to the homeless in Cleveland ("Shirt Off Your Back")
- We raised money to take care of 25 kids in Africa for a whole year (school, food, church)
- We began networking other local churches together
- We took part in ministry to the local jail, bringing Bibles to all the prisoners
- We did a food drive for a local ministry
- We did a book drive for a city literacy agency
- We co-hosted the renewal of wedding vows through a partnership we helped forge called the Medina Marriage Coalition
- We ran a concession stand at Reagan Park baseball fields
- We hosted a Back To School Fest for the whole community at Regal Cinemas, helping 24 area kids with bags of school supplies
- We held our first VBS co-hosted with another church
- We held a 24 hour prayer vigil
- We moved out of a movie theater and into Warehouse space
- We made Christmas better locally for 14 kids / 5 families through Adopt A Family
- We made Christmas better globally through Advent for Orphans (providing a full year of care for an orphan and resources for the house he/she lives in)
- We did “Operation Christmas Child” (shoe boxes of gifts for kids in Third World countries)
- We were in the newspaper 6 times

In 2008:
- We led at least 25 people to Jesus.
- We relocated to our second building, leaving the Warehouse for larger space down the street
- We hosted Learning Communities at local restaurants (Panera, Donatos) and the library to invite people to study with us
- We had live animals in our new building on Christmas Eve and gave out cash to our attendees so they could use it to be a blessing to others. In doing so, we made the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (and two other notable papers locally).
- We renovated a returning soldier’s home, and again the news thought we were up to something good.
- We threw a “land cruise” in a neighborhood for a church member who had cancer… we turned a cul-de-sac into multiple ports with ethnic food and more.
- We established our network to invest into local networks and global ministry: The first 10% that we received financially would now be sent right back out to be a blessing to other ministries.  This included endeavors that work with unwed mothers in crisis, or local teens in need of a connection, or marriage initiatives across church lines.
- We began partnering with Gospel Harvest Ministries so they could build a church structure and feed its people during a hard famine… one they are still in.
- We did “Grow & Go” all summer - after taking part in a regular Sunday service, we then went out on a different serving project each week to bless people with random acts of kindness.
- We started a monthly food pantry ministry called Connection Cupboard,

In 2009:
- We led at least 15 people to Jesus
- We grew our Lead Team to seven members
- We officially paid down $60,000 in debt from the church's first/launch year
- We again were on the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Christmas for our services and giving away money on Christmas Eve
- We initiated local support and awareness we’re raising for Haiti
- We fed over 40 families through Connection Cupboard Food Pantry
- We hosted a massive VBS that drew in kids from all over, filling our building
- We helped Gospel Harvest Ministries in Kenya grow its financial sponsorship and ministry to reach even more orphans (28)
- We co-hosted Good Friday services with Heartland Church at our building.

In 2010:
- We led at least 16 people to Jesus.
- We expanded our concession stand ministry to include special events and multiple people serving to have better connections in the community.
- We began putting a Jesus-centered weekly article in the Medina Gazette that reached 13,000 people weekly.
- We fed over 60 families through Connection Cupboard food pantry.
- We set aside the first Monday of every month as a day set aside for pray – a 24 hour prayer vigil people signed up for various hours with God for.
- We became a church with a 7-Day facility – which means that when we weren’t using our building, someone else was for free… be it a business group or a local Girl Scout troop.
- We had a young adult from our church become our first global missionary.
- We discovered more dedicated leaders emerging within Connection Church. Our monthly large “Leaders Connection” meeting of volunteer leaders grew from 10 to 25.
- We created a lead team position over “Next Gen” ministries!  This allowed for ministry directors who spiritually invested into Tweens, Jr Teens, and High School Teens.
- Men’s Connection and Women’s Connection formed into their own unique movements, between weekly Bible studies and monthly food/events.
- For the first time ever, we had two services in the summer and three services in December.
- We “unsuccessfully successfully” read the Bible. Many of us set a goal to read the whole Bible, yet only a few people did (one of them did it in 90 days). The rest of us “failed,” but we praised God for it – for while we didn’t finish the goal of reading the whole thing, we did read it more than ever before.
- We co-hosted Good Friday services with Heartland Church at our building.
- We helped Gospel Harvest Ministries in Kenya grow its financial sponsorship and ministry to reach even more orphans (46)
- We finally hit budget as a church! It’s the first time ever – we brought in $190,865 internally, $6,484 externally, and $12,816 through fundraising; we paid out $3,086 to Birthcare of Medina (supports new moms in need), $3,086 to Cup’s CafĂ© (feeds area kids and adults for free), $3,086 to Westedge Church (Cleveland ministry to the under-resourced), $5,347 to The Reckoning (micro-financing ministry projects and loans all around the world), and $11,778 to Gospel Harvest Ministries (church and orphan care in Africa).

In 2011:
- We were asked to expand our weekly newspaper ministry to reach 63,000 people. Multiple people began emailing us about how they were being impacted from it. There is no way to gauge the specific number of people who came to know Jesus better through this, but the effect was all over.
- We hosted Back To School Fest at Liberty Plaza. Over 40 kids received backpacks and school supplies, not to mention the new partnership we’ve formed for continued ministry and relationships.
- Once a month we fed and connected with the under-resourced in Cleveland, including bringing over 45 shoeboxes full of gifts at Christmas time.
- We sacrificed a week of regular eating to consume nothing but rice and beans. The money we saved we sent to Africa, helping them finish a floor that has allowed a ministry there to care for more orphans and raise them up in the faith. Multiple new outlets covered this, including USA Today
- We collected shirts, coats, blankets and more for the Cleveland homeless and ended up with so many donations that we ran out of vehicles/people who could dispense it.

In 2012:
- We led at least 12 people to Jesus.
- We experienced a bitterweet tipping point - sweet, in that we restructured the church into three teams of people (Core Team, Resource Team, Lead Team) yet bitter in that it was when a divisive family created massive contention. Most of our energy went into putting out fires and our new building campaign. In response, though...
-  We started The Big Day of Serving. Working with Mayor Hanwell and five other churches, we brought 400 volunteers to Medina to do community service projects.
- We started a Saturday night service to reach new people. It brought in multiple young adults but our team couldn't sustain it past 9 months without feeling wearied.
- We began a "replant" effort in the fall of 2012 where I visited the homes of people in Connection and listened to whatever they wanted to share. It went further than I expected, even creating additional conversations into this summer. Ultimately, it allowed us to form values that weren't something I came up with on my own but ones that everyone had a "voice" into. That led to more hands on deck to put God first in all things and pursue the people He wants us to reach.
- Making Space (our building campaign) allowed us to expand 30,000 feet debt free, This opened up new classrooms for the kids on Easter Weekend and made space in our “Big Room” before Christmas.
- VBS again set records. One of our best at reaching kids/families.

I can write more about 2013-2017, but need to do that later. Maybe I already did.

In hindsight, we were quite nimble and audacious in our early years. When we got into our building, we had breakthroughs but also new responsibilities. It put us into a budget that quickly became an ongoing topic. That said, we did reach a ton of people along the way, helped some amazing people become lifelong friends and forged an identity as a genuine, "go to" church in the community.

I wish I knew then what I know now, but I only know what I know now by being who I was then. :)

1 comment:

sherla kumarwo said...
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