Vineyard Church in Kansas City, Mo., Is Reaching, Then Equipping, the Unchurched
Growing up, Sean Van Horn, of Kansas City, Mo., says the grandparents who raised him viewed the church as too legalistic, and the family never attended services. But years later, the sudden death of his mother and father, a job loss and a painful breakup left him feeling distraught and searching for answers.
“But a good friend of mine, who was a member at Vineyard Church, knew about this pastoral counselor who worked at the church and had a good inner-healing ministry,” Van Horn says. “The counselor talked with me about forgiveness and what it meant and how Christ can work in someone’s life to bring healing.”
Van Horn recalls attending a service at Vineyard with a new girlfriend he met at the church who later became his wife. During the altar call, he walked to the front of the church where someone prayed for him.
“That really impacted me,” he says. “From that moment forward I got baptized and really started going to church.”
Vineyard is an evangelical church in an upwardly mobile section of Kansas City, Mo. Its senior pastor, Rev. Fred Herron, says reaching the unchurched has always been a major focus since he and his wife, Janet, started the church 25 years ago with just five people in their apartment.
“We aren’t trying to reshuffle the church deck,” Herron says. “We’re trying to reach those who are outside of the church. I’ve always had a heart for that because I was a rebellious teenager, and I came to Christ after that.”
The church has grown so fast that lack of space is the ministry’s biggest challenge, Herron says. They recently held a campaign to raise funds for new educational classrooms for the children and youth. Moreover, on Sundays, the church holds four live services at two of its three Kansas City area campuses.
“We need more space on Sunday mornings,” Herron says. “Any time we’ve had a slowdown in growth is because we’ve maxed out our facilities. So we’re constantly raising money for new facilities.”
An important factor in Vineyard’s growth, says Herron, is the continual focus on encouraging members to tell unchurched acquaintances about Jesus and invite them to services.
In fact, he says, church leaders frequently encourage those in Vineyard’s small group Bible studies and common interest groups to find ways to witness to others. Congregants and nonmembers can join a common interest group based on their hobbies and pastimes such as running, board games or volleyball.
Herron says he even uses his own hobby, biking, as an opportunity to witness to other riders.
“I’m always hanging out with atheists and agnostics and people who are not in church,” Herron says.
Vineyard also offers discipleship classes to help new members grow spiritually and to find a ministry where they can be of service. Through the discipleship classes, participants learn about various spiritual disciplines, Bible study, how to manage their finances and identifying their spiritual gifts.
“We also emphasize pastoral care,” says Herron. “We lead a ton of adults to Christ, and a part of it is being mindful that when we meet adults in the midst of crisis, those are sometimes some of their most open moments in life, whether they are going through a divorce, the loss of a job or an illness.”
But besides sharing their faith, church members each year volunteer their time, through Vineyard’s partnerships with other ministries and nonprofits, to provide food, clothes, shoes and medical services for residents living in Kansas City’s inner city communities.
“That’s one of the good things about Vineyard,” says Van Horn. “They know how to make everyone feel like they’re a minister and feel like they can reach others.”
Kansas City, Mo.
Senior Pastor: Fred Herron
Affiliation: Vineyard Churches
A 2015 OUTREACH 100 CHURCH
Growth in 2014: +301 (12%)