Let Us Continue to Press Forward
What a start to 2021 so far for Rise City Church! After doing everything we could to creatively adapt to all the logistical challenges to gathering we faced this last year, we are overjoyed with how you all have responded and participated.
House Church was a huge win! At one point we had fourteen “house churches” gathering all throughout the day on Sundays. So many of you stepped up to make that happen through joyfully serving your church family. Your generosity of time and talents allowed us to open and serve families that couldn’t have walked through our doors otherwise.
Giving has been stronger than ever. In the first quarter of 2021, we saw a 40% growth in general giving from the first quarter of 2020. In order to be good stewards of our resources, we set our budget based on the previous years’ giving, so this incredible increase is opening up all kinds of future possibilities for ministry impact, equipping our facility, and expanding our outreach. This growth has come from a widespread increase in generosity across the board, including 36 new individuals/families who have given for the first time this year. This is a great sign of health and vitality that bodes well for our future.
With all the shifts and changes in our community, so many facility-less churches have been scrambling for places to gather on a Sunday. It has shown just how blessed we are to have a church facility that allows us to gather on Sundays and throughout the week. Each night of the week there is a buzz in the building as different ministries gather and make disciples. We have been able to continue to progress forward in our mission while the circumstances are forcing many churches into a holding pattern. We should be so grateful for the Lord’s providential timing in our church having a home during such an unstable time in our community.
Our facility team is even starting to explore our next steps in continuing to steward our facility for its best ministry use and impact. With that, we’re starting down the path of getting the future coffee shop—the empty space on the northwest corner of our building that enters onto Kelly Avenue—built out so we can begin marketing it. Our vision from the outset was that this coffee shop would be a place for daily community and connection throughout the week. We finally have plans to get our signage on the exterior of the building along with continuing to landscape and secure the premises. And our financial advisory team has also been taking steps to ensure we are prepared for long-term financing when that comes due in November of 2023.
Having our own space has given us many opportunities, one of which is the ability to launch Rise Academy, which will have a huge role to play in us rising up as disciples of Jesus. Not only is it helping us to develop a deeper level of theological understanding of the God we so dearly love, but it’s also opening up possibilities for the future. Nolan, who leads Rise Academy, and I have often talked about our desire to create a program for young adults to spend a year of training in ministry at Rise. Rise Academy lays the groundwork for building a fully-fledged ministry training program in the future that includes theological training, ministry experience, and leadership development for the next generation of church leaders to be raised up!
Our newest fundraising initiative, Kingdom Builders, has been off to a very exciting start raising nearly $10,000 so far. We have joined in partnership with the global church planting organization called The Timothy Initiative to help train pastors and plant churches in India, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Just last week I met with one of their representatives and he is so overjoyed by Rise's partnership with them. We also are continuing our local church partnerships with organizations like Laundry Love, My Father's House, and Braking Cycles. If you want to learn more and potentially join as a Kingdom Builder, you can check it out at rise.cc/kingdom-builders
As we move into the rest of this year, here is some insight into the way we're moving. First, we desire to continue to reach more people on Sundays through adjusting our gathering strategy. Second, after a year where many of us experienced isolation and disconnection, we are going to push deep into community environments with the intentional pursuit of Gospel-friendships. Third, we want to equip you to grow deeper in your walk with Jesus through providing environments like Rise Academy, small groups, and bible reading plans. And lastly, we are ramping back up our outreach strategy through events and local partnerships, to provide many opportunities for you to invest in the lives of others and invite them into your church family.
With that in mind, Rise is expanding its gathering capacity on Sundays. On May 16th 2021 we will be experimenting with a service time shift, moving to having three services on Sundays: 9:30am, 11:15am, and 4pm. We believe this gives us three winning times that will allow us to make room for continued growth and expansion. We will continue our gatherings for the vulnerable for as long as we reasonably can.
The move to larger gatherings has allowed Rise Kids to shift to an age-based classroom model once again. This means that your child will get to attend class with children their age and enjoy age-appropriate curriculum. When we made the shift to house churches, we needed to adapt our model. The teachers and leads are overjoyed to move back to curriculum, connection, and activities that are tailored to your kids’ age and stage of life.
I continue to be so thankful for your flexibility as we've had to constantly shift and adapt over the last year.
With our desire to provide rich environments for community, we've been preparing for the launch of Men's and Women's groups in the coming weeks. These groups will not only help us to grow deeper in relationship with one another, but to intentionally move forward in our discipleship to Jesus.
Along with that, this fall will bring a re-launch of City Groups. We are going to intentionally experiment with a variety of interest-based city groups, focusing on things like: parenting, marriage, finances, fitness, biblical literacy, and even meals. All of life is spiritual, there is no separation between the sacred and secular, and we want to intentionally pursue Jesus in all of these areas of our lives. This is going to be an incredibly joy-filled shift that I am so excited about.
Be praying for our church as we hope to launch some of our favorite outreach events in our community once again. The biggest challenge has been trying to plan, prepare, and be ready, yet at the same time having no clarity as to when our community and its parks will open back up. We will plan the events that we have control over, but many of them are at the mercy of the local authorities that oversee the parks and rec spaces.
As challenging as this last year has been, it's also been one of my absolute favorite years of ministry. I’ve watched how this church has adapted for the sake of the mission. I am so thankful seeing how this church has continued in unity around Jesus when many are dividing over the trivial things of this world. It fills me with gratitude how our church has been unwavering in its generosity in a season of economic instability. Rise, you are a church so marked by love, joy, and peace that the only possible explanation is the Spirit of God moving, molding, and shaping us day-by-day.
I'll leave you with this. The prophetic words of Daniel that filled him with courage and hope in his life in exile. He spoke of Jesus:
"His kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart." Daniel 7:27-28
Jesus is King today, church. No matter what you face, keep that matter in your heart.