Starting new, creating traditions
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You've been in church for years. Now you have
the opportunity to start a new church, without traditions ...
nothing ingrained ... no one to say, "We've always done it this
way." What is your new church going to look like? What will be its
personality? When people try to describe this church, what will they
These are the questions
facing White Water Christian Church of Laramie, Wyo. Their doors
have been open since Sept. 14. Of course, the doors aren't really
theirs. The infant church began to meet last Sunday in rented rooms
provided by Laramie's high school.
The minister, Chad Halbach,
packed up his family in February and moved from Elkhart to Laramie
in this long-anticipated venture. Chad had recently given up his
part-time ministry position at Irish Grove Christian Church near
Middletown. A few months earlier, he had left his job at Lincoln
Christian College to devote more time to the work.
In 2006, with the vision and support of a nearby church in
Cheyenne, Halbach became the lead team member for a
nondenominational new church in Laramie. From that moment on, he has
been working with family, friends and interested churches in the
forming of a nucleus of people led by God with a vision for a church
that didn't yet exist.
"We've been working so long on opening day," Halbach muses, "that
we're just now having time to sit back and shift attention to how we
will ‘do' church."
Opening day preparation began when the family of eight moved to
Laramie in February. With six children attending everything from
preschool to college, opportunities to meet the community opened
"We were all outside one day and a family from down the street
walked by," Halbach said. "They found out we were here to start a
church, and they were thrilled. They'd been looking for a church and
just hadn't found the right fit."
The kids helped spread the message, too. Even the children got in
on the advertising. When asked at school what brought them to
Laramie, 6-year-old Rachel answered, "God did."
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As team members were slowly added, their circle of influence
spread. Chad's wife, Marsha, took on the role of children's minister
when that position remained unfilled. The team filled out with a
college minister and creative arts minister. At least one non-staff
family relocated to Laramie to be a part of the lay ministry.
By the beginning of August, all three primary staff members and
their families were holding small group studies throughout the town.
A month before opening day, the team began hosting Sunday morning
worship for those already involved in the church. The number had
grown from just the eight Halbachs to approximately 75 to 100
worshippers. No advertising was done for these prep Sundays. The
target date remained what it had been for the last year: Sept. 14.
So, last weekend, 250 people gathered to celebrate the first
official worship service. There were 35 children. "That was a good
number, considering the demographics of the town," Marsha Halbach
reports. A number of people expressed interest in membership and
hearing more about baptism. "Our goal now for these people is trying
to get them involved so they grow," she said.
The questions remain: What will this church be known for? How
will it be described?
Chad Halbach has this to say about it: "We're trying to set the
DNA of the church early on. We're not stuffy ... just very ‘real'
with each other. We (the ministers) need wisdom to help people.
We're working on reaching out to the churched people to get them
involved as much as the unchurched people."
[By JO HILLIARD]