In the next few months, thousands of people will come to the New Hope Center in search of food and clothing. Loyal gardeners will battle the summer sun in our Urban Farm. And volunteer teams from local churches will continue with the most important, least publicized, most impactful work of all: follow-up.
Our services are never supposed to stop at the need itself. Whether we’re repairing homes or sending food home to them, we hope to turn problems into portals that bring people together. Transforming a city or community into the best version of itself means building relationships and support systems. Things that last longer than even the highest quality paints or school supplies. There’s only one way to ensure that this community is healthy on every front. We have to ask.
Everyone we serve, whether they take part in a one-time event or visit our food pantry on a monthly basis, gets a follow-up visit. We send volunteer teams to check on the quality of our services and to ask what else our neighbors need. Churches are invaluable in that process, and they feel the same way about the opportunity it provides. Even if each one has their own unique approach for engaging with the community.
121 Community Church – Toward the Vulnerable
It’s hard to miss 121 Community Church as you drive down Highway 26 at the border between Southlake and Grapevine. Their new building sits just off the edge of the main road, filling out a wide stretch of what was, just a few years ago, a barren patch of land between high school stadiums upon which no one was brave enough to build. The property is a big step for a church that started in a home and subsequently outgrew multiple leases in business parks and warehouse spaces.
But the building is just the beginning.
Bryan Bundick serves as the Local Missions Minister at 121. He says that the church’s move into their new neighborhood was highly intentional. Church staff met with community leaders from the City of Grapevine to talk about community engagement. 121 now plays host to school district meetings in the summer and a year-round daycare program. Church members can be spotted at the nearby Community Outreach Center on a consistent basis. In fact, 121 tends to pop up all over the place.
“One of our hopes, especially in my role, is to mobilize the Body where they are. It makes sense to be ministering — as individuals and as families and as groups — nearby to where you are living,” Bundick said. “[Those places] are where you can have sustainable relationships. That’s really my hope with mobilizing the Body; that there would be face-to-face encounters happening. We believe that’s where transformation is going to happen.”
121 draws members from all over Tarrant County, many of whom have adopted projects in their own neighborhoods. The Men's Ministry took on a sizable chunk of preparatory work for the Spring Community Powered Revitalization Blitz. Several congregants have weekly shifts in the New Hope Center. One of their small groups even “adopted” a local apartment complex.
Because of its size and demographics, Bryan and the staff at 121 emphasize purposeful, member-led engagement with the community. 6 Stones, he says, gives them a good launch point for HEB and beyond.
“We see one-time efforts as being On-Ramps for longer, more consistent involvement [that leads to] really being able to relate with people to communicate the Gospel within relationships,” Bundick said.
“God’s heart, throughout Scripture, is for the vulnerable. And in many of our lives — especially within our church body — there has to be a very intentional step towards the vulnerable… We believe it’s important not only to minister to those that God has placed around us, but to take intentional steps towards those that maybe don’t walk in the same circles as we do.”
Crossroads Church – Get Outside the Walls
Individual churches view themselves as connected members of a larger, global family. Usually, they refer to the “Church with a Capital C.” Each local congregation has its own flavor and approach but, in general, every church has a common mission that leads to shared values. Still, if ever two churches could be said to be opposites, Crossroads Church and 121 fit the bill.
When it comes to engaging the community, Crossroads pastor Jonathan Atwell embraces the idea that many of the people his church serves will never set foot in their building. Instead, he focuses on starting bible study groups within neighborhoods and apartment complexes.
“My heart as a pastor is really about mobilizing people; about getting people where they need to be to see God’s Kingdom expand,” Atwell said.
“As we prayed about it and thought about it and studied strategy, we said ‘we just have to take the church outside the walls of our building.’ So we began planting house churches and mobilizing people that way. What’s been really cool — and the way 6 Stones has been a big piece of that — is that 6 Stones gives me the opportunity as a pastor to mobilize people from disciple-makers to hammer-swingers.”
Crossroads members have been taking part in Community Powered Revitalization for years, recently handling a good portion of follow-up visits from that event as well as the New Hope Center. They’ve already “planted” a handful of thriving bible studies through the connections they made during those visits. Perhaps just as importantly, Atwell says, even people who have no interest in the church are willing to sit and talk; to engage in the time-honored (and sometimes, seemingly lost) tradition of being a neighbor.
“[Partnering with 6 Stones] allows us to knock on a door, be invited into a living room, and talk with someone who is delighted to have us talking with them,” the pastor said. “6 Stones has mobilized people to do incredible things in their lives: repairing their homes, putting food on their table, putting clothes on their kids. They’ve seen such great things happen in their lives that they are happy to sit down and pray with us. They’re happy to sit down and talk with us about their faith. They may not have faith; they may not be interested. But they are not afraid to talk with us because they know that 6 Stones has done very good things for them.”
Freedom Church – The Kingdom Over the Castle
Somewhere in the middle of the 121-to-Crossroads Spectrum of Community Engagement stands Robert White, Lead Pastor at Freedom Church. Launched just five years ago, Freedom is one of the “youngest” churches in the coalition at 6 Stones. But that hasn’t stopped them from stepping powerfully and confidently into the partnership.
The leadership team at Freedom started their search for service opportunities with Ellen LoBue, HEB ISD’s licensed Social Worker. She pointed them to 6 Stones without hesitation. She also warned them that they’d have as much on their plate from there as they could possibly handle.
“It dawned on me that this school district is actually offering me, a church, to come into the school district through another Christ-centered organization,” said White, who also sits on the Board at 6 Stones as of January 2018. “So I’m thinking to myself ‘this place has got to be doing some amazing things.’”
For White, there is no greater pleasure than joining with other Christians to live out the faith. As far as he’s concerned, doing so is a necessity. One that is reflected in the collaborative nature of 6 Stones, and one that must be embraced if Christians are to follow the teachings of Jesus. Which could explain why Freedom partners with us on every major event, sends teams to volunteer in the New Hope Center, and donates a portion of their budget directly to 6 Stones.
“The mission that God has given to every church is too big to do alone. No one individual, no one church can ever accomplish what it is that God has called us to. We have to do it in partnership and in collaboration, and 6 Stones understands that collaboration,” White said.
“God called us to advance the kingdom. He didn’t call us to build a castle. So we don’t want to build our own castle in the corner of HEB and not be involved in what God is doing in His larger work. God is doing something at 6 Stones that is traveling even beyond HEB.”
The Importance of Church Partnership
No two churches are alike, but most of them are like-minded. Anyone who has studied and understood the teachings of Jesus would agree with Bundick, Atwell, and White that God cares intensely about the vulnerable. That He desires to meet them where they are. That doing so will require more than any one person or institution can give.
It’s going to take all of us — churches, corporations, governments, schools, nonprofits, and citizens — to transform our community. To take what is good about HEB and make it great; to solve problems as they arise. As the scope of our efforts continues to grow, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that we need the Church. Now more than ever.
As amazing as our current church partners are, we need more. More small groups volunteering, more pastors mobilizing leaders within their church, more follow-up teams, and more collaborative partnerships. After all, this mission is too big for any of us alone.