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Adopt-a-Church: Established Church Helps Fledgling Congregation

When New Hope Community Church (RCA) in Gilbert, Arizona, began the process of becoming a parent church, they envisioned starting a new church from the ground up. But God had something else in mind: adoption.

Dan Beyer, who at that time was serving as regional strategist for the Classis of the Southwest, contacted New Hope about an opportunity to adopt a small Hispanic congregation. It was already meeting and was looking to get plugged in to a larger ministry body.

Gary Jarvis, associate pastor of New Hope, says it seemed like a good fit. "This congregation was looking for a home, a place to do worship and ministry. We were in the process of becoming a parent church, being coached on how to cast a vision and poise our congregation to plant and multiply."

Israel Camacho, the pastor of that small Hispanic congregation, had connected with the RCA through Richard Caballero, pastor of Longview Community Church (RCA), with whom he'd collaborated on youth outreach in the Phoenix area. Caballero was part of a group strategizing how they could help independent ministries connect with the RCA, and he told Camacho that a nearby RCA church might be interested in helping his congregation.

"He brought the idea of getting to know the pastors of New Hope, which was actually looking to plant a new ministry," says Camacho. "They welcomed us with open arms; we feel it's the same heart we were looking for."

"We hit it off pretty quickly," says Jarvis. "It seemed like our mission and vision lined up very well. We had great synergy and chemistry with Israel and his wife and the leaders there. Things moved pretty fast, and we adopted them back in May 2010.

"In an adoption situation, the parent church really just opens their arms and their doors for a new congregation to come in and use your facility. There's already kind of a core that's set, and it's existed previously before you adopt them."

Though adopting a church is a different situation than traditional planting, there are some shared characteristics. New Hope was responsible for setting up an oversight team and coaching relationships for Camacho. Jarvis serves as one of Camacho's ministry coaches; Caballero coaches Camacho on matters specific to a Hispanic ministry context.

Camacho says the original plan was just for New Hope to help his congregation financially by giving them a place to meet at a reasonable price. "After we got to know them, we just felt that we have to be a part of this church," says Camacho. The Hispanic congregation decided to adopt the same name ("Nueva Esperanza" means "New Hope" in Spanish) and come under the governance of New Hope's consistory.

Jarvis says the desire to partner in ministry was mutual. "Jim Poit, our senior pastor, kept saying, 'We don't want this relationship to just be a tenant-renter relationship. We really want to do ministry together, partner together.' Nueva Esperanza had a spirit of, 'We don't want to be alone, a separate congregation. We want to be a part of New Hope.' There was such great alignment in our mission."

"They have the same mentality—know, grow, and go," says Camacho. "It's the same things that we are trying to do at Nueva Esperanza. There are always cultural things that change the way you approach people, but we still have the same mission."

The relationship between the two congregations is deepened by engaging in mutual outreach efforts. Once a month, instead of their traditional Sunday services, both congregations spend the day doing community work together—they call these days Faith in Action Sundays.

Nueva Esperanza has grown since its adoption by New Hope, and its leadership core continues to grow and strengthen, thanks to New Hope's Commissioned Leaders program. Twenty-two members of Nueva Esperanza have either completed or are in the process of completing the coaching-based leadership development program. In addition, 15 people from Nueva Esperanza are attending the new Metro Phoenix Hispanic Training Center, a joint RCA-CRC effort; this training serves as a first step toward becoming a commissioned pastor in the RCA, putting Nueva Esperanza on the road to become a parent church itself.

"We have RCA churches and CRC churches that are waiting for Hispanic ministries to plant in their churches," says Camacho. "Future planters will come out of those people, from Nueva Esperanza or other ministries."

Posted 03/15/12

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