In 2010 Jim & DeDe Wood launched a new campus of our church in Paxton, Illinois, a rural county seat town 30-miles north of our original church here in Urbana. On Easter of this year (2015) this vibrant campus moved out from under our larger church to become a church plant or independent church, Hope Vineyard Church. Now that he’s a few months into being a senior pastor, I thought it would be good to interview Jim about his journey from volunteer worship leader, to worship pastor, to campus pastor, to senior pastor. Here’s my questions (in italics) and his responses.
Jim, you started ministry as a volunteer worship leader, you moved to being a part-time then a full-time worship pastor. Then you launched a new campus and became a campus pastor. Now you and DeDe are the senior pastors of that church. Could you tell us a bit about how God called you to each of these?
All of these roles emerged through simply serving in small ways to facilitate the respective ministries. As a musician, I found myself serving right away in worship when we found the Vineyard. Through being willing to serve in little ways, God began to put more responsibility on my plate and as I continued to serve, I began to see my pastoral calling take shape. The same process happened for moving into the campus pastor role when our church began planting sites. Serving at our new sites in a variety of ways gave my wife DeDe and I vision to see us doing something similar. We simply had to say “yes” to God.
What advice would you have for people considering starting a new campus or church? How can they best discern or know if they should be a campus pastor launching a new location of their current church or a church planter beginning an independent church?
I believe answering two fundamental questions will help bring clarity: 1) What are we trying to reproduce? And, 2) What is needed to best reach this community? The answers to these questions emerged over time for us. Being willing to adapt as God leads rather than get locked into a certain way of doing church has been essential for us.
What changed that made you move your campus to being its own church?
Serving as campus pastors helped clarify our calling and gifting through being able to take risks and refine our experiences. As we served, our hearts were knitted to our community in a way we never expected and we began to see that moving towards autonomy would give us the flexibility to focus more specifically on the needs of our people and those we need to reach.
How has that change gone? Have there been surprises? What advice would you give to a pastor considering this move?
We’ve been delighted to see people take more ownership through serving and giving. Taking responsibility for the administrative needs opened up opportunities for local volunteers to serve in ways that were formerly covered by paid central support staff. God has surprised us by providing in ways we never expected. I encourage any campus pastor considering making this move to make sure they process it with their senior leadership before processing it with their campus leadership team. Having a united approach honors God and helps bring clarity to the process.
Thanks, Jim. What questions do you, the readers, have for Jim about their experiences? Post your questions in the comments below and I’ll ask him to reply.