Why Churches Need to Take Time to Celebrate

Village Church turned five-years-old in October. As part of our celebration of this milestone, we asked the folks at Village to complete the phrase, “Village Church is …” and submit them to us. The notes that poured in were incredibly overwhelming. Many of the stories that were shared on the cards were stories that I knew, but seeing them collected in one place, and learning how our church had played a part in them, was amazing. I’ll share a few of them here, with the following caveat: This is about what God has done in our community, not an effort to humble-brag about our church or my ministry.

Village Church is … family.

Village Church is … the place I accepted God into my heart.

Village Church is … precisely what I needed, at precisely the time I needed it.

Village Church is … the community that helped me renew my faith in the midst of a dark season.

Village Church is … where my relationship with Jesus started in 2012 when I was 22. Jeremy baptized me at Rushford Lake in August 2012 and married me to my best friend Jason in August of 2014. Village Church connected us to Brendan and Rachel, and we were able to take the trip of our lifetime to Australia in 2015. Village is where my faith continues to grow and thrive surrounded by wonderful people. To me, Village Church is life-changing!

Reading these cards and emails was a reminder that the stakes are high, and that what we do matters. Sometimes in the week-in, week-out ministry, you can lose sight of what you are doing. You forget that actual people are affected by the service you put together on a Sunday morning, or the small group they attend, or the follow-up email or card you send out. These milestones and reminders are fuel for the journey, and will renew our focus for the next five years and beyond.

Being completely honest, I was conflicted about celebrating our five-year anniversary as a church. I am proud of the church that Village has become, and I hold that pride in the tension of a God who opposes the proud—but my pride in our church is not about me, it’s about what has happened to the people who call our church home. I’m proud that God has used Village to draw people to himself, and that their lives are changed for the good.

I was conflicted, though, because I didn’t want to convey to our church, “We made it, and we can be satisfied.” Five years is worth celebrating—lots of church plants don’t make it this far—but it’s not the end. I wanted to make sure that in celebrating our milestone we were energized to keep going and to redouble our efforts so that more and more folks would have similar stories to the ones that we collected on our cards.

We used the occasion of our anniversary to not only celebrate what God has done at Village, but also to cast vision for what we believe God is calling us to next. So after sharing some of the stories of the last five years, we announced that we are partnering with several other churches in Western New York in a new church planting initiative (appropriately named the Church Planting Initiative, or CPI) to start more communities like ours in our region. We also announced that we are going to pursue plans for an extension site of Village Church, another campus or church directly tied to Village.

Celebrating and remembering God’s faithfulness should always encourage us to keep going, to strive as one running a race. By God’s grace we’ll have more to celebrate, and more stories to tell.

This article is part of our From the Front Lines series, in which several church planters share what they’re learning as they lead their congregations.

Read more from Jeremy Hazelton and Village Church »

Read more church plant stories From the Front Lines »