Delivering Hope

One Thursday evening, Matt Kelley walked onto the Apex campus of Hope Community Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Along with his wife, Kelley is team lead for the church’s Fostering Hope ministry to support local foster families, and he was at the church to attend a foster family baby shower. 

But, he wondered, why was the parking lot packed on a midweek evening? Turns out, a basketball clinic, a preschool graduation and a small group for middle schoolers and their parents were also taking place. 

“If that’s not community, I don’t know what is,” says Kelley, who’s been a member of the church for nearly 20 years. 

It also illustrates the church’s renewed focus on finding ways to reach and serve the community creatively, and this approach has led to big growth.

According to Lead Pastor Jason Gore, during the pandemic people became more comfortable staying home and expected to have their needs met without leaving their couch. As a result, he challenged the church to meet the community’s needs instead.

“We have put a newfound energy into meeting the unique needs of our communities where we actually have campuses,” Gore says. “That means putting as much or more effort on meeting needs outside the walls of our building as we do with our programming when people come to us. All of our ministries have been spending time over the last few years reworking their strategies to have fewer ‘come to us’ events and instead find ways to equip and mobilize our people to love and serve their communities—and people are responding in wonderful ways.”

One big way the church decided to serve their neighbors was by addressing food insecurity. In the past few years, the church has converted a portion of its 90,000-square-foot Apex campus into a food storage warehouse, where they can keep food until it is sent out to different distribution locations. They also put more resources toward the already-existing food pantry at their Raleigh campus, expanding it and adding more hours to make picking up food easier for families. Between fall 2022 and spring 2023, they saw a 35% increase in the number of families coming through the pantry, Gore says. 

The church also aimed to support the families in its community, specifically foster families. 

“We must build families that thrive,” Gore says. “If families aren’t doing well, our communities aren’t doing well either.” 

The church’s Fostering Hope ministry, which began in 2021, partners with Wake County Child Welfare to help build foster families that thrive. The church also created Support Circle, a team of volunteers from the church that supports foster families financially or with necessities. The initiative has been so successful, Gore says, the county has asked the church to train other faith communities in the region to do similar work. Gore says the program has also built positive relationships between the church and the community, drawing many into the church after having encountered the program first.

When visitors do decide to check out a Sunday service, Kelley says, they’re often happy to find a teaching team made up of four Hope pastors, plus two others from different churches, who rotate Sundays. That’s a change Gore brought about when he became pastor in 2021.

“We want to build unique voices for a unified vision,” Gore says. “It’s very obvious that the church is not built around one person or one particular gifting, other than the person of Jesus, and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback around that.”

It’s part of what makes the church feel authentic, he says.

“We’ve been talking a lot about moving from ‘wow’ to real when it comes to our worship expression,” Gore says. “Instead of having a desire to create wow moments, we’re trying to create real moments, believing that if people are showing up to a building on Sunday, they really are looking for a true encounter with God.”

Jessica Hanewinckel
Jessica Hanewinckel

Jessica Hanewinckel is an Outreach magazine contributing writer.