How one creative rural church impacted their entire community
by Hope Danzl
A woman nine months pregnant, kicked out of her house by her husband, had almost no belongings, and baby arriving soon. Feeling hopeless and alone, she surprised New Life Assembly of God by stumbling into the building of what would soon become the Woodstock Hope Center. Upon seeing her situation and the opportunity to show the woman she was welcome and loved, the lead Pastor Chad Payne and church volunteers packed her car with a baby crib, play place, car seat, diapers, baby clothing and food. As she drove away, they thought this act of compassion would not change her life forever, but it would give her threads of hope.
Threads of Hope in the Form of Community
Right at the top of the second poorest county in Alabama lies a unique church, equipped with creative vision and eyes that see through the lens of hope. New Life Assembly of God, led by pastor Chad Payne in Woodstock, lives out their motto “healing for your past, hope for your future” with every person that stumbles into their church. However, in the twenty years Pastor Chad has pastored at New Life, he learned the importance of knowing he pastors every person that walks into his church, and every member of the community as well.
“It’s an essential and key component to see yourself as pastoring the community and not just the church” – Pastor Chad Payne
Pastor Chad has intentionally spent significant amounts of time “being present in the community,” representing the church in the restaurants and marketplace, and becoming acquainted with the people, culture and changing needs of Woodstock and the surrounding area. Payne finds it amazing what opportunities open up when “spending a lot of time being seen in the community.” Because of this, New Life has stayed attentive and addressed the essential needs with doses of hope prescribed specifically for the community’s symptoms.
Threads of Hope in Unique Forms
By adopting this mindset, New Life has begun to imagine new ideas for their small town! They have started to ask questions such as, “How can our church make a difference in the community?” and “What about our church would make the community sad if it went away?”
As a response to these queries, New Life has developed the Woodstock Hope Center, which provides hope to many foster families and individuals in hardship situations. In partnership with the Department of Human Resources, the Hope Center has already made available essential provisions, groceries, and clothing to foster families. Even before the grand opening in April 2020, the Woodstock Hope Center lived up to its tagline, where hope comes alive, by helping over two dozen foster families.
In order to address more needs unique in their community, God provided a 15 ½ acre property directly behind the church to be creatively used for ministry purposes! On one end, Pastor Chad plans to construct a fully functioning park with a softball field, walking track, picnic tables and much more. On the opposite end, Pastor Chad hopes to fill with tiny homes for senior citizens. The goal provides smaller homes for senior citizens to stay near the church and receive needed help rather than moving to an assisted living facility.
These solutions fulfill needs and place their church as a central hub within the community. Pastor Chad and his church have seen this building plan as an opportunity to build relationships with people who join from all around their area of Alabama and become a witness with their words and love for community.
“Everywhere I go in the community I treat every person like they are the most important person in my life at the moment… If I can communicate to each person that they are valuable, if I don’t treat them like a counselor or something like that, but if I treat them as a friend and if I try to encourage them, it’s so much more effective in bringing out the best in people” – Pastor Chad Payne
If the Church takes the attitude of communicating to every person they encounter that they are wanted, valuable, and that someone believes in them, hope catches like a wildfire.
Threads of Hope That Endures
Pastoring the whole community, imagining what can be, and treating every person with importance remains the culture New Life exhibits in Woodstock, Alabama. New Life has made the most impact by involving themselves in their community and finding essential elements for their unique area and people. This proved more effective than trying to emulate a big city church in a small community.
“When you take that approach, then the possibilities in your community are endless. There’s so much we can invest in. Whether the church grows numerically or not, we can still make a big difference in the community” – Pastor Chad Payne
Pastor Chad and New Life Assembly of God represent true testimonies that God’s people must take the attitude of relational service in all they do. Then ministry matches the needs of the community around them and quickly finds areas in which to invest resources, time, and love. Discover ways to communicate and deliver hope to the people around you, the options are endless.
- How can you and your church get creatively administer of hope to the people and community?
- What unique needs occur in your community?
- How does ‘pastoring the whole community’ look in your ministry?
- What does ‘treating every person as important’ change?
- What new creative idea can you imagine?
Click here to read Senior Pastor Chad Payne’s recount of his battle with cancer while in a pastoral role.