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Story Patience and intention key to transformation

Patience and intention key to transformation

It took a while for the congregation to take the first step toward transformation, but once Chestnut Ridge Christian Church (CRCC) in Marietta, GA, began their spiritual strategic journey, there was no turning back.

In 2009, the congregation was tired, resources were thin, and mission consisted mostly of giving to causes as they arose and some Regional activities. Pastor Byron Wells convinced the congregation that, while difficult, change would be necessary if the church not only wanted to survive but to thrive. In other words, if the congregation were willing to embrace change, transformation would occur. They did and it did!

dream for community web The journey began when small groups of members met weekly to participate in an intentional process of prayer and discernment to understand what it was God was calling CRCC to be. The outcome? As a whole, the congregation decided that it wasn’t going to be sufficient to be the best church IN the community. Rather, God was calling them to be the best church FOR the community. What would that look like?  The congregation took the time to envision that end state by writing their future story. That’s when change truly became a reality.

Crossroads gardenWithin a year, the congregation established a modest community garden, with a focus on serving the hungry in their community. They reduced the size of their governance, developed more nimble ministry teams and encouraged members to explore different worship experiences. In the three years since, CRCC has travelled quite a distance from where they started.  They expanded their community garden to provide hundreds of pounds of produce to local food pantries and partnered with local master gardeners, developed a summer lunch program, embraced a shift in the preaching style and added simple use of technology in worship, launched a new web site, partnered with a local hunger initiative, reorganized their Disciples men’s, women’s and youth groups, placed greater focus on children’s ministry, collaborated with another Disciples church on a shared worship experience, got involved in a local housing initiative, and more.

Stop Hunger Now 2015Byron, who is an alumnus of Hope Partnership’s new church planter training and a Regional representative to Hope Partnership’s Leadership Academy, describes what a transformed Chestnut Ridge Christian Church looks like now. He says,

“We now have 70 to 80 people consistently in worship, more visitors and more engaged members exhibiting vibrancy, energy, passion — people who love being together, but who are taking it to a higher plane and turning the focus outward instead of inward.”

The pastor further shares the guidelines that the congregation has taken to heart on their road to transformation:

  • Embrace change — acknowledge that it’s hard but necessary
  • Create an environment that is permission-giving and allows members to be nimble in meeting community needs
  • Shift measurement from numbers (members, budget, building) to changed lives and community impact
  • Unleash the creatives and creativity — be an incubator for change
  • Make sure people know it’s okay to fail, but help them get up again
  • Shift from just giving to getting our hands dirty
  • Engage with community – standing shoulder-to-shoulder in mission with co-workers, neighbors and friends outside of church who are also interested in service
  • Bring creativity and interaction to worship, using all the senses and involving lots of people of all ages


Byron explains that Chestnut Ridge Christian Church continues to surprise people,

“We want people to show up thinking ‘I wonder what neat stuff they will have and do this week??’”