By Melissa Wuske
“The community knows who we are,” said Mark Maybrey, lead minister of Creekside Community Church, Hot Springs, Arkansas. “From day one, all of us in our core group of 18 people have had a missional heart for the community.”
Starting with those 18 people in 2015, the church now averages about 90 each Sunday. The key in this busy resort town is meeting people where they are.
When Maybrey moved to Hot Springs, people told him, “There’s always something to do. Your kids are going to love it.” But nothing prepared him for the shock that first summer in a town surrounded by five lakes and featuring a horse racing track. “We compete against people’s recreational time, especially in the summer.”
Some Sunday mornings have been sparse, but there are benefits to living in an active town. “People have their work, their home, and a gathering place,” said Maybrey. “We’re trying to strategically find people’s gathering places. They don’t always have to come to our building for us to have fellowship and discipleship moments with them.”
The church hosted a 12-week series called “Parables on the Patio” at a local restaurant owned by a couple in the church. People gathered for a meal, then Maybrey taught a lesson each week based on Jesus’ parables. This summer they had “Sunday Sack Lunch.” After a shortened worship service, the congregation gathered in the park across from the historic Arlington Hotel to pass out bagged lunches to locals and tourists. Each recipient was told, “Bless you in the name of Jesus.”
The church also has ongoing partnerships with a pregnancy care center, a foster care center, and an organization that helps women leaving abusive relationships.
Connection with the community takes the whole congregation, but it starts with the minister. Maybrey’s interests in music and muscle cars help him connect with people. It’s also helpful that he seldom works in the church office.
“When I do office work for church, I’m usually in a coffee shop. I’ll post it on Facebook, ‘Come have a cup of coffee if you need prayer,” he said. “People want the opportunity to connect with the pastor.” It’s one of the gifts of serving with a smaller church: Maybrey can be a more hands-on shepherd. Many are surprised Maybrey personally answers the phone number listed on his business card—and he usually has time to talk.
Community focus is also a natural opportunity for younger leaders to get involved in the ministry of the church. “That generation has the pull to get out and do something,” Maybrey said. “They don’t want to stay behind the doors.”
About a year ago the church appointed their first elder to serve alongside Maybrey as pastor-elder. Soon a third elder, one who is in his early 30s, will be added. “That’s where God has called my fellow elder and I,” said Maybrey, “to broaden the foundation and make for a smooth transition for the next season of leadership.”
Melissa Wuske is a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband, Shawn, and their son, Caleb, live and minister in Cincinnati. Find her work online at melissaannewuske.com.