Hope Springs: 10 Years and Other Numbers that Count

May 31, 2011

At the 2000 session of the Kentucky Annual Conference in Bowling Green, Bishop Robert Morgan appointed David Calhoun to “New Church Lexington.” The new church would eventually find a name and an exciting future as Hope Springs Community Church was born. During the first nine months in Lexington, this “parachute drop” of a church plant grew from 5 (the Calhoun family) to 9 (the first meeting of interested “missionaries” in the Calhoun living room in July 2000) to 23 (two Alpha small groups in the fall of 2000) to 45 (the Launch Team formed in January 2001) to the first public worship service and beyond. The following article, written by Pastor David Calhoun, recently appeared in Hope Springs’ weekly e-newsletter – “Hope Notes” – and details the growth from that first worship service to now. You can see more about the ministry of Hope Springs Church at www.hopespringschurch.com.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US! Today, March 25, is the official anniversary of Hope Springs Church public launch. It was Sunday, March 25, 2001, when we held the very first public worship celebration in the auditorium at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. After several mass mailings, phone calls, emails (there was no such thing as “texting” way back then or we would have done that, too!), and personal invitations 268 persons showed up the first Sunday. We had set a goal of 250, so we were thrilled to go 18 over! About half of them returned for week two, and by the end of that first calendar year an average of 121 persons regularly attended weekly worship.

Now, you may be thinking that I’m making too big a deal about numbers (and we normally don’t), but, let’s face it, numbers do count. In fact, “Numbers” are so important that God even named a book of the bible after them. Of course, the real reason numbers count is because each number represents a person Jesus came to save. So, we count people because people count. And, while we don’t keep a scoreboard in the building, each year I have to turn in annual reports to the Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, and those of you that know me well can only imagine how much I enjoy that! Anyway, since I turn in the reports every year and since we are now ten years old, I was wondering what the cumulative figures look like in a few key areas and what they might tell us about our journey as a faith community. Here are a few highlights:

WORSHIP ATTENDANCE. From the first year weekly average of 121 we have steadily grown in attendance – 152 in ‘03, 260 in ’05, 317 in ’07 –to a 2010 average weekly attendance of 397.
MEMBERSHIP. The number of persons committing to the membership covenant has closely followed the worship attendance numbers. We chartered as an official United Methodist Church in 2003 with 107 adult members with an average attendance that same year of 152. In 2010 we reported 376 adult members with an average weekly attendance of 397.
BAPTISMS & PROFESSIONS OF FAITH. These are the numbers that excite me the most, and amazingly after ten years they, too, closely parallel the worship and membership numbers. Since that first worship celebration in 2001 we have baptized 377 persons and seen 369 adults and youth profess their faith in Jesus for the first time! 112 of the baptisms happened in 2010 when for the first time we met the only real numerical goal we have ever set, and that is to baptize 100 persons each year. Let’s pray we reach that goal again in 2011 and beyond.
OTHER NUMBERS THAT COUNT. Over the past ten years we have planted three very distinct missional communities with three distinct worship expressions – Celebrate Recovery on Friday nights, Hope Springs Sunday Morning, and Fuente de Avivamiento (Sunday nights). We are truly living into our identity as a people of “One Lord, One Church, Many Expressions.” We have also served as a training ground of sorts for other church planters who have spent a few years with us at Hope Springs while completing seminary only to return to other areas (Illinois, Texas, South Dakota and Ohio) to plant churches. We have sent out ten short-term mission teams to the Dominican Republic, the Czech Republic, and Memphis as well as two full time missionaries to Thailand (Chris & Dora Barbee with the Mission Society). Our “Hope for the Homeless” ministry has served countless meals at the McDonald’s Bible Study (yes, that McDonald’s!) and washed literally thousands of loads of laundry through our Wednesday night Laundry Ministry! (We even served Holy Communion at McDonald’s on Thursday of Holy Week in 2009 giving a brand new meaning to the phrase “happy meal!”). In 2009 we opened Redemption House, a transitional living house for women in recovery and have the privilege of walking with ladies who are getting their lives back after years of addiction.  After ten years we are rejoicing to see our vision –“to be a safe place for the hurting and broken to find healing and hope”-become a reality.

The numbers obviously change from year to year depending on who stays and who goes, who moves in and who moves out, but it strikes me as interesting that the four numbers most often used to measure a congregation’s vitality almost mirror one another. We’ve never really had a goal as to the size church we will be. I’ve always believed that God is the One in charge of growth and size (see 1 Corinthians 3:6-7), and that if the body of Christ, the church, will focus instead on being healthy then growth will take care of itself. The number that is most important to me is the number, one - as in only one way to the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord, and the one sheep that wandered away from the 99 and how the shepherd conducted an all-out search to find the one. So, numbers do matter, and as long as there is one person beyond the walls of our warehouse that needs the love of Jesus we will continue to reach out and count them when they come home.

Finally, watch in the coming weeks for details for Hope Springs' 10th Anniversary Celebration scheduled for May 21-22. Ok, so we’re a few weeks late celebrating our birthday, but, hey, who’s counting?!

Pastor David