By: Christa Meland
While all Christian churches celebrated Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday, Crossroads Church was also celebrating an important milestone in its own life: Its fourth site in Elko New Market launched weekly worship with more than 100 people in attendance.
“God surprised us,” said Rev. Gordon Deuel, a Crossroads pastor who leads the Elko New Market site. “It was humbling and overwhelming to see all these new people.”
Crossroads—Elko New Market is one of the Minnesota Conference’s newest church starts and it’s supported by a Congregational Development grant that includes coaching and benchmark goals. Worship services are at Eagle View Elementary School, and people of all ages and life circumstance came to the first weekly service on Easter Sunday.
It all started in 2002, when Deuel was an intern for Crossroads Church—a multi-site church that now has a physical presence in Lakeville, Inver Grove Heights, Minneapolis, and Elko New Market. While driving from the initial campus in Lakeville to his hometown of Hendricks, he saw lots of new houses going up in Elko New Market, but very few churches in the area.
“I felt God stirring in my heart something for Elko New Market,” he recalls. In early conversations within the community, Deuel came to understand that many of Elko New Market’s 4,100 residents didn’t have a church home. He and Rev. Paul Marzahn, senior pastor at Crossroads Church, began to envision and plan a new church that’s taken shape ever since.
Deuel and his family moved to Elko New Market in 2006. By 2013, when he received a part-time appointment to plant a church there, he already had deep ties to the community. Eventually, he began leading small groups—and then monthly preview services, first at Heritage United Methodist Church in New Prague (which Deuel was also serving part-time) then at Eagle View Elementary.
The new church start now hosts a variety of small groups that meet regularly and that have helped build relationships within the community: a weekly small group Bible study; a weekly MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group; a monthly book club; and a twice-monthly dance, fitness, and fellowship class. A men’s group also met weekly last fall and enjoyed activities like bowling and shooting clay pigeons. A Financial Peace University class will start this fall.
Roughly 30 committed volunteers serve the Elko New Market site on a regular basis, and they’ve been instrumental in helping to get it off the ground. The group has planned and hosted numerous community events over the past six months, including an ice fishing contest, an ice-skating event, a winter Olympics, and a March Madness open gym night. In February, Deuel was appointed to Elko New Market in a full-time capacity.
A couple of weeks before Sunday’s launch, a group of volunteers drove a Crossroads bus around the community and collected close to 1,000 of pounds of food for local food shelves. Residents were invited to participate through a direct mail piece that had been sent earlier.
“We had so many good conversations,” Deuel recalls, and volunteers left a door hanger at each house that invited people to the Easter service. Many indicated interest in checking out the new church.
A significant number of young families were among those in attendance on Sunday—and looking ahead, Deuel hopes to start mid-week children and youth programming later this year.
“We need to connect people and build relationships,” he said. “We need to help them grow and mature in their faith story.”
Rev. Clay Oglesbee, River Valley District superintendent, was present at the Easter Sunday launch. He said the new church start hasdrawn together many people from all over the area who are longing for compassionate, thoughtful, and Christ-centered ministry.
“My hope for this new church start is that they will offer Christ assertively and wholeheartedly in any way they can, just as John Wesley instructed his preachers to do when he first sent leaders to the colonies in America,” Oglesbee said. “That mission has never changed: Offer Christ…and give whatever it takes for the sake of the gospel.”
Deuel and his team of volunteers have learned a lot during the church-planting process. One of the key things they’ve come away with is an understanding that even though many people are needed to start a church, everybody can’t do everything. Like a basketball team, volunteers need to take turns, pass the ball, trust each other, and even sit on the bench and rest every now and again. And most importantly, they need to rely on God.
“We’re going to do everything we can to reach out, but ultimately, God’s got this,” said Deuel. “I think God’s really humbled me through this process. This church plant is not about us. It’s not about Crossroads Church. It’s about building God’s kingdom.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church