By Kent E. Fillinger
John Scott is a longtimer.
He started as youth minister of Community Christian Church in Hemet, California, in 1987, and became the lead pastor in 1990. In 2012, CCC grew to an average worship attendance of 1,126, a 22 percent increase over the previous year.
“The momentum has been building, but we busted loose last year,” Scott said.
“Our staff and elders are simply amazing,” he said. “Truly gifted and big-hearted servants who have totally bought into what we’re trying to do here. The cohesiveness of this team has allowed us to stretch and risk and push the envelope of what was comfortable.” This cohesive alignment came after some key staff and volunteers left the church.
Another impetus for the growth is the church’s external focus and long-term relationships with city and county officials, local schools, and the police and fire departments. The church consistently serves the San Jacinto Valley where it’s located, and people know Community is a church that cares.
A few years ago, church leaders decided to focus on fewer priorities. The young generation is one of those priorities, and more is being invested in them. One move was to change the worship style. And a new worship leader has attracted more volunteers and has significantly improved the quality, sound, and style of the church’s worship.
Community Christian is growing in the midst of a stagnant community with a 20 percent unemployment rate and a growing gang problem. Scott has worked to create a church culture that welcomes everyone, regardless of situation or need. “We have a drive to be real and transparent,” he says. The message he communicates again and again: “We’re working on this together. None of us is perfect, but we have something we want to share with you.”
The church experimented with a multisite model for three years, but chose to conclude the experiment last fall. The second campus was located about 15 minutes away, on what was intended to be the start of a new, large community, but the economic recession stifled all new home construction. The satellite campus never achieved the same synergy or dynamic as the main campus, and it failed to grow. The church did learn from this experience; one positive result was the second campus helped to develop additional volunteer leaders who are continuing to serve.
Even in this difficult economy, Scott and his team are moving forward with a facility assessment and a site master plan to accommodate the growing church. The goal is to develop a multiphase project plan the church can implement as funding is available. Scott is adamant that all facility expansion projects be designed to help the church achieve its overall mission, and not just be about adding space. He also wants to ensure all of the facility plans reinforce the church’s relationship with the local community.
He strives for balance—spiritually, physically, emotionally, and relationally—as he seeks to stay fresh and focused in a long-term ministry, but says he is not easily satisfied. He continues to read and stretch himself to grow as he discusses new ideas with his leaders.
Scott stays focused on what needs to happen next. He says the fact that fewer than 20 percent of the people in the valley go to an Evangelical church drives him to do more for the church and the community.