How Codell Community Church Found Clear Direction and Mobilized Their Congregation
Meet Thayne Sparke, Lead Pastor of Codell Community Church in Codell, Kansas, a town with a TOTAL of 50 people in it.
We had the opportunity to sponsor Thayne's church through our Healthy Steps Grant Initiative. Their team has found clear direction for the future and have really been bought in church-wide for where they're headed!
We love the challenge he poses towards the end of the conversation: "What is faithfulness in your context? What is faithfulness in your culture? It's not a matter of being jealous or envious of what's happening at any other church, but what is God calling YOU to do and are you being faithful to that?"
Definitely encourage you to take some time to listen to the conversation (or read the transcript below) to hear Thayne's story, learn how 95Network partnered with their church, and discover how you can join the journey to support small churches.
Learn more about our Healthy Steps Grant Initiative and how you can join the journey to support small and mid-size churches by clicking here.
Hello, everyone! My name is Austin Savage. I'm the Director of Communications here at 95Network. And today I have the opportunity just to sit down and introduce you to Thayne Sparke, who is the pastor of Codell Community Church in Codell, Kansas. And we actually had the opportunity to sponsor their church through our Healthy Steps Grant Initiative. If you're not familiar with the grant funds that we offer for churches, basically one of the things we do here at 95Network is we raise money to give it away to churches who are taking steps towards health. And Thayne's church was one of the churches that we've sponsored all across the country to take those steps and he had a really great story, so we wanted to share it with you. Thayne, thank you for taking some time to talk with me. Just go ahead and share just a little bit of your story, about Codell Community Church, and kind of what you guys were facing that led you to pursue an outside perspective.
Yeah, Austin. I'd love to. I graduated from Denver Seminary in May 2016 and I was fortunate to come here and pastor at Codell Community Church and we love this place and I just feel so fortunate to be able to be here. This community had experienced some major transitions over the years. And those major transitions, I think, was God aligning some pretty special things to happen. And when we got here July 2016, I believe it was, we averaged 30 people that first July. And we increased attendance and we're in a town, we're in Codell, Kansas, which is a town of 50 people, four people per square mile. Okay, so that gives everybody some perspective on what's going on, you know, so it's little small.
So we had attendance pick up, great involvement. You know, the leadership team was really clicking and they were bought in and really wanted to move some things forward. But through that, it's just like I'm a first-time pastor, and I don't want to miss anything. I want to make sure to do this well, do this right. And as we continued to grow in attendance, it was like, man, I think that we're missing something here. And I just wanted to be faithful, not miss anything. And so I was reaching out to a couple of individuals and got connected with The Unstuck Group, and just had a great conversation with them and kind of got some things going and, when we found out if we would partner with them, how much it would cost us, we realized we would need to try to get some help somehow, some way.
And I'm all about churches having some skin in the game. I'm not looking for a handout by any means. But we needed some help. For where we were at with the budget and all that kind of stuff. And so we were directed in the direction of you guys at 95Network and it was a total God-send. We could not have done what we have done without 95Network. Without people willing to partner with 95Network to help us with some of the costs to partner with people like The Unstuck Group. And so, I had a conversation with you, Austin, and we knew good things were happening, but we didn't want to be content with just what it was.
We wanted to move things forward. And so you guys graciously helped us out. We worked with The Unstuck Group. Chad Hunt came out here to Codell and we had an incredible weekend with him. I think I had a team of 12, or over 13, leaders in the church and we just had a weekend of just, I don't know, it was something that's hard to put into words. As we went into the weekend, I was just praying that we would experience God's leading us in a way that we wouldn't forget. And that we would just experience His guidance and direction. And it was just like going to the top of mountain, man. It was just insane. Just like, wow, what just happened. And so it was such a special time that I know I won't ever forget. And just so thankful for Chad and The Unstuck Group, 95Network, and all of the people who were there that weekend to make it possible.
Well, hey, it was an honor for us to partner with you and it's been cool to kind of, on the end of it, catch up on what some of those things are that you guys have been getting after. We heard from The Unstuck Group that you guys really have been getting after it since the weekend. So tell us a little bit about what's changed since they came in and kind of just since you got that outside perspective.
Yeah. Well, thank you. We have been getting after it. But God has been getting after it, too, because for some reason it's just what God wants to do. There is no place that's too small for him to work. And he wants to be known and he wants to just come alive in people's lives more and more, in all areas, you know? And so in this area, He's doing a good work. So what has changed? Direction. You know, we know the things that we needed to be working on after that weekend. Aand we have been going in that direction of moving forward. From that weekend, we came up with three action items, and that was to work on the children's ministry, the weekend experience, and the facilities. And it was pretty cool. Just the first weekend in January, we launched a brand new children's ministry.
Before that, we had like the basement just for the fellowship hall area. And we said, hey, we're going to get rid of the fellowship hall area. We're going to completely dedicate 100% of the downstairs to children's ministry. Decked it out, decorated it into an irresistible environment for these kids. We know that we want to reach young families that don't currently have a church home and we know that this is one of the ways that we can do it. And so the volunteers did amazing, things have been going well. We're so fortunate. I'm so grateful for the volunteers that had been really working. We're continuing to work on dialing things in, you know, we might have launched the children's ministry in January, but you know, we're, we're still moving forward. I just met with them this last Saturday night and we're still continuing to dial things in.
The weekend experience team, you know, we knew that some things had to go and some things needed to dial in. That team has been moving forward so good. It's been so fun just to see them have a passion and excitement to meet people where they're at and we're so fortunate to have them as well. Also, because of that, we just launched a brand new volunteer system and they were really on the front lines of kind of organizing that and launching that. And our volunteerism here at Codell Community Church is really good. You know, our rates, our percentage of volunteers, is awesome. We're pretty fortunate in the first place, but we knew that we needed to kind of reorganize in order to scale up, in a sense.
And so that's exactly what we're doing with that. So we kind of completely reorganized our volunteer system and that's been going well. Also with the facilities, we put together a facilities team We are right now kind of running low on space on Sunday mornings. Part of it, we're looking into going to two services, but then also looking at what it takes to really dial in the space that we have or also just kind of gathering data on building a new building. So, just excited about seeing, you know, how that all comes together, kind of being proactive with that. But then also attempting to be in tune with where God is leading us.
Yeah. One of the things I love about your guys' story too is that, you know, you mentioned the word direction. And it's not just direction for you and the leadership team. It's really been a whole church experience of getting everyone bought in and moving in the same direction and that's just so unique and that's just awesome that your church is excited about where you're headed,
Man, this last October we had a vision night to communicate to the entire church some of the things that we were working on. And we said that we weren't really doing anything new, but we were just being faithful to what has happened in the past and continuing to move forward as a church. And that night, you know, we had a potluck. Of course, got to have a potluck beforehand, and we had such great attendance and the church has been so supportive as we have moved forward. We're pretty fortunate to how things have been moving forward with that direction.
Absolutely. That's awesome. Thank you for sharing some of that story and kind of where you guys are at. It's just helpful to hear that. And just for people to just hear these stories of, of change and of churches finding a unified direction. So it's awesome that you guys are there. We always love to end these conversations just with an opportunity for you to share some encouragement to other small-church pastors who are in a similar situation or just pastoring a church of a similar size. If you could, because I know that there'll be other pastors watching this, what would you like to say to other small church pastors?
Yeah. What is faithfulness in your context? What is faithfulness in your culture? And it's not a matter of being jealous or envious of what's happening at any other church, but what is God calling you to do and are you being faithful to that? You know, after being here for three years, I think I have a sense of where God is going and how I can be faithful and how we can be faithful as a congregation and I'm determined to help us be that. We got to do it, you know? And it's like nothing's going to hold us back. We're going to be stubborn in overcoming the challenges that are ahead, just so we can be impacting lives., Since we've partnered with you guys and The Unstuck Group, the sense of community is incredible. We've had more baptisms than we've had in I don't know how many years. You know, we're making an impact. I just received a text the other day from a lady that said, I couldn't imagine my husband ever attending church and how he's invested in the faith is unbelievable.
And so we have these stories of lives changing, marriages changing, families changing. And I know that there's more in store and I know that we're trying to be faithful. And so how are you being faithful and please don't just settle or be content with where you're at. Man, the complacency, kind of a pet peeve of mine, and just like what are you willing to do to move forward as a church? What are you willing to do to be faithful to where God wants to lead your church and go for it. Cause nothing can hold you back as long as you're being faithful with it.
So we were at 30 in July of 2016. Right now we're averaging anywhere, you know, at the beginning of the year we averaged 97. Right now I think that it's probably between 80 and 90. And we have a vision of impacting 250 people on a weekend by 2023 and we know that it's going to take a lot of work to get there. And so we're excited about the future here.
That's awesome. Thank you for sharing that challenge just at the end, but also just sharing your story. And for those of you watching, the reason we wanted to kind of capture Thayne's story is because if you're in a small or mid-size church and you are interested in taking some steps towards health, let us know and we would love to help you kind of think through some of those next steps and kind of talk to you about the options for grants that we offer. And also on the other side, if you were kind of just captured by Thayne's enthusiasm for his community, but also just as you're hearing his story just kind of wanting to sponsor other churches who are taking similar steps to reach people in their community, we would love to talk to you as well. If you want to join us on the journey of supporting small churches all across the country. So Thayne, thank you for taking some time to share your story. We really appreciate it and it's been awesome to be able to partner with you.
Well, thank you, too, to you and Dale, but then also huge thanks if you're a church that supports 95Network. This is my opportunity. I can tell Dale and Austin thank you so much until I'm blue in the face, but to you guys who really support the 95Network, my church is a firsthand testimony of what God is doing with that kind of assistance. So thank you, thank you, thank you.