A “Fastest Growing” Church
This coffee shop at Sunnybrook, called Elmer's, is open daily to the public.
By Tim Poppen
Sunnybrook Community Church (RCA) has been named to Outreach magazine’s “100 Fastest Growing Churches in America” for 2014. 25 percent growth during the previous year made the Sioux City, Iowa, church number 54 on the list that includes churches with membership numbers from just over 1,000 to 30,000+.
Senior pastor Jeff Moes is often asked about Sunnybrook’s formula for growth. “There is no formula,” he says.
Sunnybrook has great praise and worship. So do lots of other churches. They have good biblical teaching. So do lots of other churches. They have programs for children, youth, and adults. And so do lots of other churches. So why is Sunnybrook growing while others may struggle?
“We turned the corner and began our rapid growth when we took the focus away from ourselves and put it directly on others,” Moes says. “Our mission statement begins with ‘seeking those who don’t know Jesus,’ and that’s exactly what we do—not passively, but actively.”
Community involvement has been key to the growth. Skill School (the Sunnybrook replacement for the traditional VBS program) brings in more than 700 first- through fifth-graders, some of whom also bring their family members to the church. The church also offers Celebrate Recovery, Divorce Care, Financial Peace University, and Marriage on the Rock—programs that are all open to members and others from the community. Sunnybrook has also adopted a local school in a financially depressed area, purchasing backpacks for kids and filling them with supplies for the year, and holding events like Trunk or Treat, where kids trick or treat in the parking lot from decorated trunks. There’s also a special Christmas holiday meal where Sunnybrook members prepare and serve a complete turkey dinner to families in need, as well as pack food boxes to help them through the season.
“Of course we have programs to help our own members grow,” Moes says. “But we’ve set our eyes on the unchurched and ways to connect with them and serve them. That has translated into the growth we have experienced and the joy we have of bringing others to know Christ.”
Sunnybrook Community Church recently moved into a new auditorium with seating for about 1,250. About 2,000 people gather for Sunday worship (there are two services). Several hundred others watch a live video stream of the service online.
Sunnybrook was founded in 1962 as a project of West Sioux Classis. For more information about Sunnybrook, visit www.sunnybrookchurch.org.
Tim Poppen is a member of Sunnybrook Community Church and video producer for the church and the Synod of the Heartland.