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Pastor likes living in a small town

by Linda Hiller

Coming to a community and building a church from scratch is no small task for those brave and faithful enough to tackle it.

New on the Valley horizon is the Carson Valley Christian Center.

Pastor John Jackson, 37, is the son of a Baptist minister. Jackson says that at a young age, he told God he’d never be a missionary or a minister when he grew up.

Eventually, he yielded to a call to the ministry, working at First Baptist Oxnard for 11 years, becoming senior pastor.

Promoted into a powerful position as the youngest executive minister for the American Baptists of the Pacific Southwest, Jackson was in charge of 270 churches and a $5.5 million budget at the age of 32.

“It was a great position, but eventually I really missed being involved in a small community,” he said.

In 1994, Jackson discovered the Carson Valley as he drove down Kingsbury Grade on vacation.

“I said, ‘Oh my God, I’ve discovered paradise,’ and we began to visit more often,” he said. “We noticed there wasn’t a church here like what we wanted to do, so after resigning my position in October 1996, we came here, and in April 1997 started the church with a small core of 20 people. By August 1997, we had our first worship service with 30 people.”

Services for the Carson Valley Christian Center were held in the now-closed Lasertag facility in Carson City, followed by a room at the Carson Valley Inn in Minden and four months at the Ormsby House, back in Carson City. By February, the church was ready for its public launch at 2221 Meridian in Minden.

By Easter Sunday, attendance zoomed to 674, and Jackson said services are currently running between 350 to 450 attendees each Sunday.

“We’re a church to reach people who have felt that church is irrelevant in their lives, but not that God is irrelevant,” he said. “We have done demographic studies of this area – Carson Valley and Carson City – and we’ve found that approximately 95 percent of the people are unchurched here.”

On the Fourth of July, the interdenominational Carson Valley Christian Center hosted 1,700 people at a free celebration, with food, rides and assorted entertainment. The public was invited.

“We’re trying to break through the barriers and make a healthy, positive, wholesome place for families to be a part of,” he said. “We’re trying to be careful not to take people from existing churches, though. We’re not in competition with any churches.”

Like many other Carson Valley churches, this ministry also has land for expansion – 39 acres at Heybourne Road and Stephanie, which may eventually be the location for a much larger church center.

n A permanent home. Another new congregation, the Living Hope Foursquare Church, is looking for a permanent home.

Pastor Ken Garber and his wife Janie, have been hosting the services for 10 to 20 people from their home since arriving in December from the Seattle area. The formation of Living Hope church took place in March, Garber said, and renting a facility to hold services in has proven to be prohibitive for a start-up church. For the few months they worshiped at Meneley Elementary School, they tried to absorb the $500 per month charge.

“We really do want to grow, but it’s hard to find a place we can afford,” Janie said. “We are really building a good team up, though. Now, we’re looking for a permanent place to lease.”

Garber said that although the Valley seems to have a lot of churches for a small community, she and Ken enjoy the meaningful interaction among pastors here.

“We have a monthly pastors’ meeting, which is really invaluable,” she said. “We really appreciate the camaraderie here.”

n Monthly meetings. Valley Christian Fellowship, led by Pastor Leo Kruger since the church’s beginning in 1990, had its first meetings in the Carson Valley Inn wedding chapel.

By August 1991, the congregation moved to 1295 Industrial Court and now ministers to 200 people with two services.

“We’d love to have property and build, but it’s so expensive,” Kruger said. “We’ve really outgrown our building now.”

Kruger was instrumental in starting the monthly pastors’ meetings.

“We started it in 1991 and invited the pastors,” he said. “We get a good group to come off and on. We like to see all the churches working together. We’re all looking to expand the kingdom of God, so wherever they go – Assembly of God, Baptist – whatever, as long as they come in to worship, that’s what matters. We know that by expanding the kingdom of God, our church will eventually grow also.”

Kruger said a concert in the park is planned for Aug. 1, with five different churches presenting entertainment from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Lampe Park.

n Word of mouth. In Genoa, the Unity Church, incorporated in September 1990, first met above Penguin Plumbing, then at Meneley Elementary School and now in the Genoa Community Church.

Minister Maryellen Youngs presides over the “new thought” church, which has 85 members and an estimated 150 people who attend.

“Unity is open, so a lot of people come and go,” said administrative assistant Denise Frueh. “We draw just by word of mouth because we are such a positive-based church.”

Also reaching capacity at their current site, the congregation occasionally moves to the Genoa Community Center for larger services.

Without exception, each one of the Carson Valley church representatives said that new faces at their respective church services are always welcome.

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