Pastor: Set High Ministry Expectations

Post a Comment » Written on March 13th, 2006     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

FREMONT, CA (March 13, 2006) – South Bay Community Covenant Church’s recently organized youth violence prevention and intervention program is a witness to what can happen when a church has a clear vision and high expectation of members, says Senior Pastor Stanley Long.

The “I Wish It Would Stop” ministry (IWIWS) so far involves teen life skills training and support group activities – called “Project Dignity,” professional counseling referrals, informational resource materials, and website access.

Classroom supplies Long says he hopes small groups also will help the teens realize they are not alone. He adds, “We’re working on getting into the schools so we can talk to the kids in school who are in a domestic violence situation.”

The project is operated under the umbrella of the church’s non-profit organization, Bay Area Genesis Company.

The church has become known for its numerous ministries, whether it is furnishing 10 classrooms in Oakland, California, with computers, games, books and other supplies (see accompanying photo); working with the homeless; helping people gain affordable housing; or working overseas. Long says the church gives 12.5 percent of its budget to missions at home and abroad.

“We try to look for something that not everybody else is doing,” he observes. “Where is a gap that nobody else is filling?” asks Long, who planted the church 20 years ago. That was how the teen ministry was born.

“That was one of the gaps we’ve found,” Long says. “There were programs for young children and for the women themselves, but there was nothing for teenagers.”

The church expects members to become involved with a specific ministry and is organized to help that process, Long says. That includes a team that meets with every new member to go over a gift assessments tool that each takes.

“It’s part of the rhythm of the church – you’re going to hear it over and over and over again,” says Long. “You have a ministry.”

Long also meets with each new member because he doesn’t want the pastor to seem removed. Another staff minister then meets with them about getting involved in Sunday school or a small group ministry.

The high expectations have kept some people from joining the church, which still attracts between 420 to 500 people each Sunday, Long acknowledges. “We’re comfortable with that because the other way just creates more problems.” Long says. “If they don’t get involved, they don’t know what their ministry is.”

Long says the vision of reaching into the community “was built into the fabric of the church” when it began. “We don’t just meet and sing to each other on Sunday morning. We don’t exist for Sunday morning.”

The congregation often partners with other organizations and churches to extend ministry. For example, “You won’t see a lot of homeless (in the community), but the church is involved with the homeless shelter,” Long says.

Once a year, for an entire month, the church sets aside the building’s entire second floor and turns it into bedrooms for the homeless. The congregation provides breakfast, dinner and snacks before bed. Programs for the children also are offered. “We try to upgrade what we do every year,” Long says.

The congregation also works with a shelter for battered women and children as well as another shelter for women recovering from addiction. The results are rewarding, Long says. He tells the story of a woman who has left the shelter, has a home and now attends the church. “It’s just exciting to see the transformation in that lady.”

Long says church officials will meet with city officials and other organizations to help them determine what needs exist in the community. “It’s been challenging to find a way to serve this community because Fremont does a very good job of hiding its pain.”

Most of the African American congregation commutes to the church, some from as far as an hour away, Long says. The church seems almost out of place in its own community, he adds. The church is located in a light industrial area that abuts expensive residential properties. That has presented challenges the congregation still is working to overcome.

Asians make up much of the community, Long says, but the church has found it difficult to successfully make strong connections. Although a Korean church has used the building for a while as well as a school, “there are still invisible walls that exist,” Long says.

The congregation has a vision that reaches beyond its community. A supporter of the Paul Carlson Partnership, the church also has been working with a village in the African nation of Malawi. The church is helping to meet the needs of 150 village children and their families, investing $30,000 over three years to support the work.

Money also has been funding projects to help villagers get water, teach them how to garden and raise food, and show them how to better care for themselves so they can become self sufficient in the next couple of years.

“I’ve wanted us to settle in one place and really make a difference,” Long says. Last year, the church sent a group to see the work. They also put in cement basins so the people could wash and helped with AIDS education “That’s very exciting to me.”

To learn more about the church and its ministries, contact the church at 510-490-9500 or visit its website at South Bay. To learn more about the “I Wish It Would Stop” program, please see IWIWS.

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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