Three-year-old church in least populated state overcomes obstacles.
By Kelly Carr
After a decade as associate pastor with North Point Christian Church in Spearfish, South Dakota, Ryan Charest was inspired to become the lead planter at Real Life Church in Sheridan, Wyoming, the newest church plant of the Northern Plains Evangelistic Association (see “Planting Churches in ‘Flyover Country”).
“I kept reading and researching . . . understanding what we did right and wrong and what we could do differently,” Charest said. “God worked in me to prepare me to have the desire to try and do it again.”
Real Life has now been ministering in Sheridan for almost three years. Last year brought positive changes and challenges to Real Life’s ministry.
A major change was a move to evening services. For two years Real Life met on Sunday mornings in a theatrical arts building downtown. The change to meeting on Sunday nights had been on the hearts of the congregation for a while. Real Life is now sharing building space with another church, and that has allowed for the evening ministry.
No other church in Sheridan is doing evening services. It fills a need, especially for Wyoming ranchers whose work must be done in the mornings—now entire families can attend church together at night.
Sharing space is one example of churches partnering in Sheridan. Charest and the leaders of various congregations gather weekly to pray and plan. “It’s very much a kingdom-minded community,” he said.
The Dream Team and Get It Done Team are two active ministry groups at Real Life. As their names indicate, one team brainstorms ministry ideas for the church, while the other figures out how to enact them.
These teams have helped connect with the local elementary school. Real Life took over a backpack program that provides supplies for kids in need. Through that work, parent liaisons—whose work is to connect parents with the school—have invited Real Life to participate in school events so the church can develop relationships with more families. Real Life is establishing a presence people can count on and a reputation they can trust.
Real Life has also started a missional effort called Real Rhythms. Each week, members put colored marbles into a large communal jar. The marbles represent times they invited a friend to do something, ate a meal with someone, served a person in a small or large way, or had a spiritual conversation with someone. This helps members see that everyday actions can be used by God to show Christ’s love to their neighbors. Charest noted how exciting it was to watch the jar fill faster than anyone anticipated.
Ministering in the least populated state is not without obstacles. But Real Life shines the light of Christ by investing in its community bit by bit, one relationship at a time.
Kelly Carr, former editor of The Lookout, is a writing and editing consultant in Cincinnati, Ohio (EditorOfLife.com).