How Our Church Pursued Renewal

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A STORY OF RENEWAL

About 5 years ago, a group of us at the San Leandro Church of Christ became quite concerned about the steady decline in attendance our church had experienced over the past two decades. We asked our elders if we could bring in church consultants to help us figure out what to do. So, in September of 2018, we gathered a diverse leadership group of about 20 individuals (different races, genders, ages) and had a weekend assessment workshop with Stan and Gena Granberg of the Heritage 21 Foundation (they were also working with Kairos Church Planting at the time).

The Granbergs helped us realize that we were in the “life support” stage of church life (the last stage before death), and that we would need to do some serious redevelopment if we wanted to survive and grow. We were challenged to reevaluate everything our church was doing and be open to new ways of reaching out. We decided to keep meeting regularly together as a redevelopment team to work on these things. We prayed a lot for God to show us how to be more involved with the surrounding community. Some of the Bible verses that guided our thinking as we started down this path were Jeremiah 29:7; Matt. 5:16; and I Corinthians 9:22.

We had already hosted “Trunk or Treat” events for our neighborhood for several years on Halloween night, as well as “National Night Out” block parties on the first Tuesday of August and Christmas caroling to the houses on our block. So, we were already connecting with our neighbors. We put our antennas “up” and began scanning for opportunities to be involved with our community.

Our antennas were still in search mode when our nation was shaken by the murder of George Floyd. We organized a demonstration on the street fronting our church building which is a major thoroughfare in San Leandro. 150 people came out to line the street with signs to protest racism and police brutality. Our church also hosted two “Listening Summits for Racial Justice” and staged a prayer vigil on the sidewalk in front of the church building. Several community members thanked us for providing a safe space for them to get involved in this type of activism.

At the end of 2020, the city of San Leandro sent emails to churches and non-profits asking if anyone was interested in learning about becoming a resilience hub. We had always wanted to investigate the possibility of our church being an evacuation center for the community in times of disaster. We felt this was an opportunity to be investigated, so we signed up for the series of zoom workshops.

We learned that resilience hubs not only gear up to serve the community in times of disruption and disaster, but that they have a major role to play in promoting community care, belonging, and connection. We were encouraged to put together a steering committee made up of neighbors and church members to work together in developing the resilience hub. Because both ministers and an elder live on the same block as the church building, we already knew a good number of our neighbors. We were able to recruit 9 Lewis Avenue neighbors to join 4 church members in forming the steering committee for the Resilience Hub.

We started out by conducting a survey of the residents in our neighborhood to find out what they wanted out of their Resilience Hub. The top vote-getters in the survey were: (1) More block parties! (2) Emergency Preparedness (3) Community Garden/Climate Change Solutions/Energy Efficiency. We put together a communication system so that we have the capability of sending out text blast alerts during times of emergency and emails for regular information. We applied for and received a grant to purchase a generator so that the church building can serve as a gathering place when the power is out. We received a grant to plant a community garden at the end of the church parking lot and it is just about to start bearing produce. We have continued to host block parties and movie nights for the neighborhood. We are advocating with our city government for traffic calming solutions on our street. And we are now a polling center, a blood drive site, and are looking into becoming a cooling center on extreme heat days.

We’ve asked ourselves this question for years, “If our church closed its doors, would the community miss us?” For many years, the answer to that question had been “no.” Now we can say, “Yes! Our neighbors would surely miss us.” Our neighbors have said how lucky our neighborhood is to have the church because of all the ways we are showing that we care.Some may ask if this is a wise use of our resources, time, and energy because they don’t see how it is advancing God’s kingdom in some observable way. We believe that we are “earning the right to be heard” as we serve and give and meet needs in our community. The more we become an involved and trusted presence in the neighborhood, the more doors will open for us to share the good news of Jesus. So, we plan to keep on serving and trusting that God is softening hearts to be receptive to His message when the timing is right. 

Woody Square

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In our quest to serve churches as they seek God’s guidance for Renewing, Repurposing or Replanting, the Heritage21 team will be on the campus of Pepperdine University for their 81st annual Bible Lectures, Running with perseverance, on April 30-May 3, 2024.  H21 will host a Dinner Fellowship on Wednesday, May

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I want to give you 5 resolutions that I believe will help your church be healthy and on God’s mission for you. But, instead of thinking of these as resolutions (we all know hardly anyone ever keeps their resolutions!), let’s bounce off the book Atomic Habits (2018) by James Clear.

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