Pastor Stephen Nelson started this church plant in Natchitoches, Louisiana, four short years ago. He was a pastor in the Church of God Network in Arkansas when he got a call asking if he was willing to plant a church in one of the oldest settlements of the Louisiana Purchase.
So to Natchitoches, he, his wife Shelly, and their kids went. They started the church in their living room in July 2016 and launched the church in a movie theatre with a handful of college students in October 2017. Gary Kendall, Love KC Catalyst, was his planting coach.
One powerful tool Pastor Stephen started with was BlessEveryHome.com. He had already been using it in Arkansas and knew it to be very effective in reaching his community.
Every morning when he went into the church, the first thing he did (and still does to this day) was click on the daily email to pray for his neighbors. This tool helps him pray and put a face with a name.
He met and built relationships with maIt’s incredible what God can do in just four short years. ny of his neighbors using BlessEveryHome.com. As a result, they’ve done several block parties in their neighborhood. In addition, they hold a bible study in their home.
They met their neighbor, Deb, who’s a widow and lives behind them. He keeps his eye out for her to converse with her, ask how she’s doing, and gives her extra produce from his garden.
Not only does he and his family practice living on-mission, but he has incorporated it into the fabric of his church family. He preaches about it from the pulpit two times a year and spends about 3-4 weeks each time around the topic of neighboring.
The church is encouraged to meet their neighbors and challenged to invite ten people to church a week. Another example is, his 26-year-old worship leader and his wife have their neighbors over for burgers regularly.
Even introverts are ‘coming out of their shell,’ and becoming a ‘people person.’ They are always doing things together in the community and inviting people to church.
They take advantage of happenings in the community. For example, the town is big on festivals, so they always participate somehow, whether that’s walking in a parade, putting up a prayer booth, or other ways to be present and meet the community.
Steven wants his church to be present in the community. They participate in a city-wide Halloween event made of booths and activities from various organizations. They go to an annual celebration in the central City Park where they provide fun activities for kids & adults. They use these events as opportunities to invite others to worship with them and pray with them right then.
One year for Easter, they had an Easter Egg Hunt in the movie theater parking lot with over 10,000 eggs with candy in them and connected with dozens and dozens of families who showed up. It’s beautiful to have a neighbor see your heart and ask you to pray with them, Steven said.
Like most churches across the globe, when COVID hit, it impacted his church significantly. Their most significant impact and response, even before COVID hit, but especially after, has been through Facebook. He’ll ask people, ‘How did you hear about us?’ People respond, “Facebook.”
80% of his church members are now on Facebook. He’ll have anywhere from 75-100 people join online each Sunday. Because of COVID, he went from having his largest gathering in-person in the movie theater to online engagement. Steven and his sons did FB Live videos from his living room and connected with people using social media. Now, they still meet in the movie theater but 80% of the church joins online. You need to go where the people are and they are online.
God has continued to meet them where they are and bless their efforts. Pastor Stephen shares that it’s easy to get caught up with the results, good or bad, especially after a blow like COVID. Still, God reminds him that they need to continue to find ways to bless their neighbors and people they meet in the community regardless of what they see or don’t see happening.
God has been faithful to bless them as they bless others. In what ways are you or your church blessing your community? We’d love to share your story. You can send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for being here,