As a church planter, one of the things I love doing is taking our team to visit churches in our area. It’s an opportunity to cast vision for the future, to get great ideas that might be useful for our own church plant, and to see that we are not alone in our mission to reach the Bay Area with the love and grace of Jesus. On the Saturday evening before Palm Sunday, we made arrangements to visit Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, CA.
Venture Christian Church was born when two south bay churches joined together in 2007 into a new “venture” as a new church. Senior Pastor Chip Ingram joined the church in 2008. I have been a fan of Pastor Chip for years, since back when I lived in Florida and was surprised to hear that he was now pastoring in my backyard. I was looking forward to visiting Venture and I was not disappointed.
Here are five cool things we saw at Venture Christian Church:
- Their volunteers look for ways to improve their church.
We arrived about half an hour before the first of two Saturday evening services. They have a coffee shop and bookstore adjacent to the entrance to the worship center. I love this idea and so we went in to explore. One of the volunteers approached me and asked if it was my first time to visit Venture. I said yes it was and she introduced herself (I wish I could remember her name. I’m just awful at that stuff.) and began to tell me about the coffee shop.
She said that she was concerned for some of the youth, like her daughter, who wanted to serve but weren’t cut out for leading out with younger kids in the kids ministry. The coffee shop gave them another opportunity to serve at the church. She proposed the idea and put it all together. She saw a need and took the initiative to make it happen. I thought that was pretty cool.
- They make it easy to invite people to church.
When we walked into the worship center, we were handed a packet of materials, including a bulletin, giving envelope, etc. Also included was a 3×4 invite card for their next message series. This wasn’t to invite them to the next series. It was for them to invite OTHERS to the next message series. It was meant to give away.
This is one thing we have to do better. Most people want to invite people to their church. We need to give people the tools to make it easy to invite their family and friends.
- They look for ways to remove barriers to attending services.
After the service was over, we walked into the courtyard and saw tables set up with boxes and boxes of pizza and Togo’s sandwiches. For a $5 suggested donation, you can help yourself to as much pizza and sandwiches as you want. There were even ice cold drinks in big buckets.
One of the barriers for a family attending a Saturday evening service is having to deal with supper. You either eat before, which might be way too early or eat after, which might be too late. By making supper available on-site, Venture has removed this barrier and made it easier for people to attend. Plus, where are you going to be able to feed a family of 4 for $20 anywhere in the Bay Area? (I mean, other than Costco.)
- The Senior Pastor was accessible.
Pastor Chip is a nationally known pastor, author, teacher, and speaker. I’ve been to several mega-churches and almost always, after the message, the pastor exits the stage and you never see him again until the next service. Pastor Chip came down to the floor of the worship center and hung out for a while talking to people. I even got to say hello and talk to him for a couple of minutes. Afterwards, I saw him walking around the courtyard, talking and greeting people. It was pretty cool to see that.
- They support church planting and church planters.
As a courtesy, I always try to email a church that we are going to visit to let them know we are coming. I sent an email to Venture and received a reply from their assimilation director. She wanted to meet us and give us a tour of the church, but she wasn’t going to be around that Saturday evening. She told us to make ourselves at home and that beverages at the coffeehouse would be on them! She wanted us to see everything they were doing and to get as many ideas as we could from our visit.
When I spoke to Pastor Chip, we talked for a bit about our church plant in South San Francisco. He told me about how he does what he can to support church planters and invited me to join a monthly meeting he leads specifically for church planters. A week later, he mailed me his DVD series, “How To Grow A High Impact Church”. I love kingdom minded church leaders who invest in other growing other churches.
I look forward to visiting Venture Christian Church again. And not just for the $5 meal.