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2023 Vineyard USA Annual Report

we are vineyard.

Hi, from Jay Celebrating what Jesus is doing

Welcome! We hope this report will give you a sense of what’s happening throughout the Vineyard. The best way to navigate is to scroll down and be guided by the video in each section.

We’ve also provided supporting materials, ways to connect, and straightforward financial data points we think you’ll find helpful. Feel free to share this Annual Report with staff, key leaders in your church, your board, or really anyone who would find it useful.

We are so grateful for all God has done in our churches in 2022 and look forward with great anticipation to what He will do in 2023! 

By the numbers

People call Vineyard USA churches home
Total churches + sites
Established Churches
Church Plants
Las Viñas
Expenses less than budget
in 2022
$ 400 K
Exceeded giving estimates
with additional $52K given by individuals
$ K
Given to help Ukraine
refugees & churches
$ 55 K
Received from new Lilly Grant
to support financial well-being of churches & pastors
$ 55 M

2022 Operating Expenses
Income for 2022: $4,556,603

People said “yes” to Jesus
+2,000 from last year
+400 from last year
Churches involved in
cross-cultural ministry
Churches involved
with Vineyard USA missions partnerships, +4% from last year
Countries impacted by Vineyard USA Missions

We kept meeting people who weren’t connected to a church & received a number of words from the Lord. We started meeting with neighbors in our living room and then we planted Midtown Vineyard on February 9, 2020, five Sundays before COVID.

When we prioritized diversity, our entire Elder Council was on the same page that we are not just inviting ethnic minorities to take part in our majority; we’re all committed to repentance and confession, growth, and continued learning because of what each person in our community brings to the table.

Strengthening our churches & pastors

Attended nine regional conferences
throughout 2022
Pastors engaged in Area Meetings
+16% from last year
New Lilly Grant
to support financial wellness of pastors & churches
$ M
New coaches
ready to serve Vineyard pastors into 2023 and beyond
Pastors served by Well-Being of Pastors Initiative over last 5 years
Total sessions including mentoring, spiritual direction and coaching
Churches planted
in the last year
Planters in the pipeline
to plant in 2023 & 2024
Churches adopted into Vineyard USA over last year
Church adoptions in the pipeline for 2023

The director came up at the end and showed us a picture of a little girl holding the new boots she got from the party with a smile from ear to ear. She had worn flip-flops with socks to school that morning. The director said, “This is why we asked you to do this.”

Instead of sending thousands of mailers about Christmas Eve service, our small church invited the community to join us in doing some practical good. Through RIP Medical Debt we, together, raised over $10K paying off $1.5M in medical debt for over 1,700 local families!

Influence and events

2022 Worship Leaders retreat in Asheville, NC
Spotify listeners
on average each month
We Are Vineyard
podcast listens
Social media reach
across all platforms
YouTube views
+33% over previous year

Into the future

As we reflect on all that God has done with us in 2022, we are filled with faith for what is to come in 2023.

Vineyard USA exists so that people would know Jesus and experience the power and presence of His Kingdom. Every day our team hears stories of the incredible pastors and leaders of our VUSA churches around the country who are sharing Jesus with the people in their city, cultivating environments for encounters with the Holy Spirit, and seeing the Kingdom break out all around them. We hope that this year’s Annual Report reflects our celebration of our churches and what Jesus is doing amongst us.

In 2023, we are praying for God to meet us powerfully as we seek to start and support local churches that are deeply committed to one another. We are eagerly anticipating our National Conference this summer, where we can continue to encounter God’s power and presence, while we focus on evangelism, church planting, and global missions. I can’t wait to see you there!

May God bless each of you richly as you seek His Kingdom in your city! 

Jay & Danielle Pathak

We planted Midtown Vineyard on February 9, 2020 which was 5 Sundays before COVID. My wife and I had moved to our neighborhood 7 years prior while I was co-pastoring another church.

I was working 35 minutes away, and while driving to work I could sense God saying, “You’re driving away from where I’m calling you to plant roots.” This feeling kept happening and in 2018 I knew a shift was coming, but didn’t know what it looked like. Over the next several months, many prophetic things started happening, I started talking to Jay Pathak to hear more of what the Vineyard was up to, and then my old Vineyard pastors reached out and asked if I was thinking about church planting. I really didn’t want to but I kept having this sense, so we went to a church-planting conference in Miami in January 2019, and were planning to use that week as confirmation for what we had been hearing.

We received a number of words from the Lord during this time that really helped encourage and direct us. For example, my wife and I go away in February every year for our anniversary and take some time to separately look back, look ahead, pray, and then come together to share and process. We had been battling infertility for seven years at this point and felt like we were not to formally plant until after we had a child. We had been working with a holistic doctor, which was really helpful, but we were also starting the adoption process. We adopted our daughter at nine hours old and brought her home, and then two months later found out we were pregnant. So we had two girls 9.5 months apart, and then church planted in February, so our joke is that we had three kids under one. It was a very deep experience for us.

Another time, I was at a church with my mom that I hadn’t been to and didn’t know anyone. The pastor paused in his message, looked at me, and then asked her, “Is that your son sitting next to you?” Then he said, “I don’t know what it is, but I see you starting something new and stepping into a season of preaching that you’ve never experienced before. It’s going to be a place where you have space and the capacity to lead leaders. I just see something unique in you man, and I’d love to hear more about it when we wrap up today.” He didn’t know that I was thinking about church planting, or even that I was in ministry.

Then right before we went to the conference, a man I’d never met before walked up to me in the lobby and goes to shake my hand, but has an open hand with a $100 bill. He said “Hey the thing you’ve been thinking through and aren’t sure if you should do it or not, you should go for it. I think it’s of God and he’s with you, so go.”

While all these things were happening, we kept meeting people who weren’t connected to a church, and we started meeting with about 20 of our neighbors in our living room. After a year of meeting and connecting to local organizations, we started meeting at our local elementary school. Then COVID hit and we went online for a year before moving to the building that we’re currently in.

We are definitely rooted in Place. Our church sits right between Old Fig, which is old money and million-dollar homes, and our downtown, which has low socioeconomic status and high crime rates. Our district is between the two, and is very diverse socioeconomically. We see ourselves as a bridge built through our district and believe Midtown Vineyard can bridge that gap.

When we set out as a church, there were 3 distinctions that we felt we could hold in tension: We want to be relationally authentic, spirit-dependent, and others-centered. We have found that we best connect with a psychographic of professional people who are seeking a place to be vulnerable enough to have a spiritual experience. The professionals we have are very socially conscious and committed to service, so they’re not waiting around for a place to contribute. They want to partner with the church, but they are already busy doing amazing work in our city. Our goal is not to determine how people serve or require everyone to commit to the partnerships we have, but the partnerships are great onramps for people who are new to faith or the church, who need a next step in giving themselves away.

We have community partnerships with an elementary school, a human trafficking organization, and the second-largest employer in Fresno for those who have barriers to employment. We do literacy mentoring at the local elementary school with an organization called “Every Neighborhood Partnership”, which is motivated by the third-grade literacy metric, which shows that those who are not reading at a third-grade level by third grade have a higher likelihood of ending up incarcerated. We also partner with a group called Central Valley Justice Coalition, which does a lot of preventative work. We run a lot of things to help broaden their reach, and we helped remodel a safe house for women who are coming off the streets.

In October of 2021, we had a woman in our church who had done long-term overseas Missions in the Middle East. We had a number of refugees from this area come to Fresno, and were connected to a few families. We were able to come alongside to help navigate things like housing and jobs, and some people built enough relationship to invite them over to share holidays together. There was also a tragic death in the community, and we were able to be with them during that time to share the grief. Some other women started a group called “Learning Conversations” where a group of women come together and practice their English. It has been a stretching opportunity, but really rich.

Our goal with our church has shifted with COVID, when we lost our crowd, and the ability to take on the traditional models of church growth all fell away. It has shifted my imagination of what I want this church to be, and I now see it more as a skyscraper approach, where the higher you want the building to go the deeper you have to dig down to build the supports. If we’re inviting people into the Kingdom and wanting to experience a new way of being with other people and God, we have to worry less about evangelistic programming and instead become healthy enough to be attractive.

We also don’t want to lose intentional outreach, and want to continue to help our people think through why their relationships matter. I think we have something to offer our city, and people who want to find Jesus in a unique way. We have done the work to dig down, and now we are looking to answer the question of “Now who’s it for?” Our goal is to be more relational than attractional, which is slow growth. We love our city and want to introduce people to Jesus in a powerful holistic way. We are Vineyard.

Valuing diversity has been a personal journey for me. I grew up in a really conservative Evangelical home, and I wouldn’t say we were racist or treated people differently, but we definitely weren’t aware of the Black experience. 

In 2009, I started taking some DMin courses at Beeson Divinity School (Samford University) in Birmingham, AL, which is very conservative but also intent on being reflective of the diversity of its students. One Sunday, I spent 3-4 hours walking through the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham and cried through a good bit of it. The next day I went to lunch with the three African American pastors in my D.Min cohort and just asked them about their experience as Black men in the United States. That was the beginning of a major period of repentance for me, as I began to realize that so much of what I believed was wrong.

Our associate pastor Ranjo is from Mumbai, and as I was having this experience at Beeson, I became much more sensitive to his experience in the US, especially in comparison to my experience as a white person. It was an eye-opening process, and it became very important that our church at a minimum reflect the diversity in our community, which is something that we work together on prioritizing.

Diversity, both ethnic and socioeconomic, is one of our visionary values and is reflected in our hiring practices, the way we put together worship teams and community groups, and the compilation of our elder board. When you walk into a room, especially as a minority, it is important to see someone leading who looks like you; to see that people who look like you are honored, and to know that we believe people who look like you are capable of leading. If you want to be diverse, the people of color in your congregation must be represented in leadership, not just as token representation or to fulfill quotas, but real representation with voice and influence in leadership. When filling Elder Board seats, it’s a priority of ours to ask, “Who in the congregation is not white, and is also a backbone of faith in our church?”

I heard from a consultant at Asbury that if you are in a largely white context, you have to start the road to diversity and anti-racism by having a white person talk about it. We took that to heart, and I’ve done a good amount of preaching on it. Both times that I’ve talked about diversity in a major series, I’ve had white people come up and ask “do we really need to be talking about this?” and people of color come up to give me hugs and say “thank you for addressing this.” We’ve also had some people leave the church, but I know this is the Jesus thing to do. When we prioritized diversity, I was very blessed that our entire Elder Council was on the same page that we are not just inviting ethnic minorities to take part in our majority; we’re all committed to repentance and confession, growth, and continued learning because of what each person in our community brings to the table.

At Vineyard Boise we have a huge heart for the community and are always looking for ways to partner with different organizations in the city. One special partnership is with a school called Whittier Elementary – the public school that serves the kids in our area.

They have a lot of low-income families and refugees in their school community, and each year we partner with them to bring a special Christmas gift to each student, handwrite cards to every single faculty member by name and provide a warm lunch in their teachers’ lounge as a way to show appreciation for all the ways that they serve these families.

This year the leaders at Whittier noticed that many of their students had holes in their shoes and the winter was predicted to be a wet one. They asked us if we would make their Christmas gift snow boots because they saw that as the greatest need. They measured each child’s foot and created a log that they sent to us, which allowed us to create tags that our congregation were able to pick up and shop for. We collected a total of 569 snow boots for the kids and we attached small stuffed animals to each pair to add a touch of fun. The school opened up their gym to us and provided tables so that we could sort the boots by grade and throughout the day we had classes come in and the students all picked up their shoes.

This year as a special addition, the school invited us to create a family engagement piece at the end of the school day. We threw a huge party for everyone that included a hot chocolate and cider station, cookie decorating, two different art stations, a professional photographer to take family photos, and a reading area where we put a rug and some small rocking chairs where kids could listen to wintery stories. It was a beautiful time of connection for everyone involved and it created a special personal touch.

Their community director came up to us before she left and showed us a picture of a little girl holding her new boots with a smile from ear to ear. The director zoomed in on her feet and that girl had worn flip-flops with socks to school. She said, “This is why we asked you to do this.”

This outreach functions as a modern-day parable for Christ’s love for the world. Just as we entered into their school community with free gifts, Jesus entered into our world as the ultimate gift. We cared for these families with no strings attached and may never know the full impact or the seeds of love that were planted into each of their hearts. We do know that these children experienced God’s generous heart for them, even if they don’t quite know what that means.

Every year our Christmas season engages in “Advent Conspiracy” where we focus more on giving time and energy and creativity to one another and focus on worshipping the king. As part of that journey we also take the money that we would otherwise normally use as a gift for someone and donate it in a certain direction. Normally this focus would be on our foster/adopt partner 1Hope4Kids.

This year we went above and beyond, and part of it was out of desperation. As a small church, we aren’t a hub for Christmas Eve and many of our local families travel to see their extended family. I found out very early on that we were not going to have any worship team members present on Christmas Eve, and it was going to be a far cry from a “destination Christmas Eve service” that many churches hope for.

We typically send out 10,000 cards every Christmas season inviting our community to join us for advent and Christmas Eve. This year, knowing that our church service was going to be less than typically spectacular in any musical way (it ended up being very special nevertheless) we decided to use those invitations to invite the community to join us in doing some practical good for the community.

The idea was first introduced to us by the Ann Arbor Vineyard in 2019. We contacted RIP Medical Debt and they let us know that Bexar County (San Antonio) had one of the largest medical debt loads out of any other county in the country. (Almost $350 million)

Our board decided together that in order to be more authentically ourselves as a congregation we wouldn’t invite people to a Christmas spectacular; we would invite them to join us in serving the poor. That’s who we are, so let’s do it publicly.

At the same time, we were watching our Argentinean churches do something called “Un Regalo Mas.” The Cordoba church plant is very small, maybe 5 committed families, but twice a year they have 300 people joining them to give Christmas gifts to Bolivian refugees in barrios all over the city. Through their connections with social workers, they started “Un Regalo Mas” and partnered with their friends and friends of friends to be involved in God’s kingdom work to give Christmas presents, clothes, and other needs to these mostly Bolivian refugees in Cordoba.

From their example, we decided to invite our community to join us in paying off debt, but also joining our elementary/middle school partner Rogers Academy. Rogers had specific families that they knew needed help with Christmas gifts and basic needs. We allowed people to choose their own adventure to help a local family and/or donate towards paying off medical debt.

Our church responded very well!! Our typical response to supporting 1Hope4Kids is $1500 to $2000. They responded this year with over $7000 towards RIP medical debt. The church also decided to send $3000 to 1Hope4Kids to continue our relationship and support of them.

Upon looking at the donor results from the RIP Medical Debt giving site, we did not notice any donors from outside the church. I’m disappointed that we did not have the same community involvement as our friends in Cordoba but nevertheless, I’m very grateful for what God did.

Our goal was to raise $10,000 to pay off $1 million. The typical return is 1:100. There was a temptation to fulfill the last $2900 from our general funds in order to reach our goal. However, in my prayer time, it felt fake to do that so we closed the campaign with the thought that we would not be able to pay off $1,000,000. However, when we finally got the tally we found out that over $1.5 million was paid off. It blew us away. That equates to over 1700 families having their debt paid off, and they are currently receiving letters in the mail that our church paid off their debt.

I hope this story helps to share the unamazingness of our church and the beautiful faithfulness of God.

He is amazing. We don’t know what we are doing.

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Jeanine Blount serves as Senior Pastor of Crestwood Vineyard Church in Oklahoma City and works bi-vocationally as a senior IT developer for the Federal Aviation Administration. She also serves on the Vineyard USA Women’s Association leadership team.

Jeanine and her husband Brian are currently participating in one of Vineyard USA’s Financial Well-Being of Pastors Initiative cohorts, and have just completed their first year. Jeanine says she was hesitant to join but has already noticed some tangible outcomes from this program. “I knew I needed something like this but felt ashamed to have other people looking at my finances. I didn’t want to talk about it or let people in to help, but I knew this would be a healthy thing. I know the enemy can always get to me through a money crisis; it immediately spins me out. God’s done so much healing in my life, in so many areas over so many years, but money has been the one holdout. I knew this was Jesus’s invitation for the next part of my life, our marriage, and our family’s finances, so I agreed to do the cohort.”

Jeanine shared that right before beginning the cohort, her husband Brian, who is also bi-vocational, suddenly lost one of his primary income streams. “We came into the program in a bit of a financial crisis and our coach immediately helped us tackle the situation. She kept saying, ‘This is going to be hard, but you can do it, and God’s giving you everything you need. So let’s figure this out and crunch the numbers. How is he providing? What do you need to say yes to? What can you say no to?’ Having a coach who loves Jesus, is Spirit-filled, loves Vineyard pastors, is equipped to provide strategy and input on finances, and offers prayer and encouragement was incredibly helpful for us in bridging that gap in our bi-vocational employment changes.”

Jeanine says that besides their coach, the biggest advantage of doing the cohort with her husband has been the shared language and reset of their approach to finances. “After twenty-plus years of marriage, you can get stuck in a lane of how you manage finances. Now, we’re both working from the same set of knowledge and numbers, and we’re both handling the finances. There’s a common language between us and it’s been helpful to look at different options and do it together as a team.” 

A dynamic of Jeanine’s family that requires special consideration is that her 21-year-old son has had health problems since he was 10 years old. “It has ebbed and flowed over the years, but the last 2 years have been really challenging. The last year in particular we’ve gotten to the place medically where his doctors aren’t giving much hope for any significant improvement, and he’s just supposed to learn how to live with this very sub-optimal life.” 

In January, Brian had a conversation with a friend about some medical options that might help their son but weren’t covered by insurance. Jeanine says, “My husband approached me with this conversation, and historically I’d have so much anxiety around the topic of money that we couldn’t have even talked about it. But I noticed for the first time in our marriage that I was able to feel that anxiety and just let it go, and then be present in the conversation. We started thinking about what it would be like to pursue this treatment option and had a rational conversation about something that would cost a lot of money, not knowing where the money would come from. For the first time, through the mentoring of the program, I had enough trust in God as my provider that I could engage in the conversation. We started thinking, ‘What would it be like if we did this? And what could it mean for our son?’ It allowed us to dream of a better life for our son whereas up to this point, our dreams were just hoping he’d get through the year.” 

Jeanine and Brian decided to pursue this treatment option more intentionally. They considered different ways to fund it, including personal family loans and using the small amount of money they had managed to save through their budgeting work in the cohort. Then Brian had a conversation with another friend who suggested they start a GoFundMe because there were people who would like to support their son’s treatment. “Brian brought this idea to me and I realized he was right. A year ago I never would have been able to ask people for money to help with my kid because of my shame around money. I didn’t feel trustworthy or responsible, so why would someone give to our family? I didn’t feel I’d earned the right to be given to. But now I can say with confidence that I am a responsible person. This is an area where I’ve really sought healing.” 

They set up a GoFundMe for the amount of money they thought the treatment would cost, and created a backup plan for any remaining balance they didn’t receive. However, their goal was met within 2 weeks and now 2 months later they’ve almost doubled the amount and people are still sending money! Jeanine says, “We used the initial amount to pay for his first round of treatment in late March, and we have money in the bank to help him in his ongoing journey. It is such a relief. He’s already showing signs of improvement, and while there’s still a way to go, I am now able to say that my son is getting better. I haven’t been able to say that for years, and it literally would not have happened without this (finance) program. It wasn’t about the dollars in the bank account; it was about the change in me and my marriage and the way we’ve communicated about finances. It allowed us the freedom to begin to dream bigger dreams and to think in ways that we wouldn’t have before, and my son’s getting better because of it.” 

Now that Jeanine and Brian have had a year to work on their personal finances, she says she is excited to begin tackling her church’s finances in year two of the cohort. “In seminary, there’s no course on church budgets or how to pick an insurance company, and certainly not about long-term investing for your future. As a church, we’ve never had a retirement program. Because I’m bi-vocational I have retirement through my other career and we save money on our own, but I want my church and all Vineyard churches to take responsibility in caring for our pastors. I love the fact that I’m bi-vocational and I do feel like it’s a calling, but I think there are far too many Vineyard pastors who are bi-vocational because churches aren’t always treating our pastors well and they have to make ends meet. Until recently, this hasn’t really been a place of conversation and we’ve all just had to figure it out on our own, so I’m really looking forward to learning ways I can improve through talking about it with other pastors over the next year and seeing how others are doing it.”

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Lauri Varieur co-pastors the Fullerton Vineyard in Southern CA with her husband Wade. They planted the church Mother’s Day weekend 10 years ago with 80 people, many of whom still attend the church.

Lauri and Wade’s desire is for the church to be incredibly relational, where people are truly known and valued, and that extends to their outward-facing ministries as well. Lauri says, “Since we started our church, we’ve come alongside emancipated foster youth to provide Christmas and a bowling night, parachurch ministries that minister to the poor in our neighborhood, the school district to provide groceries for students’ families, and a shower and laundry ministry for the unhoused. In the beginning, the shower and laundry ministry was under the umbrella of an Anglican church and we were partnering with them. The person who leads it, Marsha, decided she felt more connected to the Vineyard because we have a shared heart, so she started coming to our church and asked if she could officially make the ministry part of our church. We see it as a way to connect with the unhoused people in our community on a level of dignity and personhood. Having clean clothes and a clean body is a basic necessity, and Marsha has ensured that it’s an incredibly relational ministry. She knows each of their names, learns their needs, and then finds ways to meet them, including practical things like finding them new undergarments in their specific sizes and cozy throw blankets that they can easily carry with them in the winter. There are a lot of incredible food distribution centers in Orange County, but this ministry specifically meets the needs of folks who are living on the streets and fills a gap in services that we haven’t seen provided by anyone else.

Many of the people we serve are mentally ill and many of them actually don’t mind living on the street. They don’t care where their help comes from; they just need it. We have a prayer tent that many people take advantage of, but we’re not doing this to grow the church. We see this ministry as a way to be the church in our community, not a way to get people into our church. I think that once you start serving people as a means to evangelize, it becomes transactional and you can lose sight that these are people with very real needs. I don’t think serving or giving should ever be transactional, because it wasn’t with Jesus.” 

Another ministry that Fullerton Vineyard has become known for is their “Roscoe’s Nights”, which were born from a word the Lord gave Wade about stewarding the many talented musicians in their church.  “Again, this is not a transactional ministry. We do it because we have an abundance of musicians, tech people, and creative people, and our city is about music and creativity. And so we’ve been going into this bar called Roscoe’s in downtown Fullerton for 7 or 8 years to play music and we usually have a theme for the night like “90’s”. It’s evolved to where people dress up in theme and they dance and have a great time, and now other patrons come when they know that we’re going to be in this particular bar on a particular night because they appreciate the music and the fact that it’s not a bait and switch. It’s a space where people who don’t feel comfortable in the church or have been hurt by the church, many of whom are still working through their hurt, can interact with our church in a really casual and fun way.”

Lauri and Wade are committed to living an integrated life where they are authentically themselves regardless of their environment. “Most of the miracles in Acts occur outside the temple on the way somewhere or in the city. The church happens out there. We want to be present in those 3rd spaces so Jesus can manifest his presence through us for the sake of others.” While they don’t evangelize from the stage at Roscoe’s nights, Jesus is still very much present. “There’s prayer that happens in the corners, and it’s very relational; people come and then cry through ‘Purple Rain’, wondering ‘Why am I crying?’ Nothing compares to the relational stuff happening at Roscoe’s, and a lot of it happens via text afterward, like someone who basically said, ‘Can you do a spreadsheet for us of all the different denominations?’ or ‘I’m really into ghosts. What ghost are you into?’ We get to have these relational conversations with people who don’t believe and answer questions that they probably wouldn’t feel comfortable asking within a church. Because there’s loud music and it’s in this setting, those questions become acceptable.” 

Lauri says that their relationship with the staff at Roscoe’s is also one of their favorite parts about being there. “The staff (waiters and bartenders) ask to be put on our shift, saying, ‘We don’t know why, but we always feel good. The atmosphere changes when you guys are here.’ And we’re like, ‘Well if you wanna know more let’s talk it over with a beer or a sandwich.’” Some of this relational connectedness didn’t come as easy, and there’s one relationship in particular that Lauri is intentionally stewarding. “Roscoe’s is owned by a bunch of brothers and when Wade and I first approached them to ask about hosting our church on Friday nights to do music, promising that we’d all spend money on food and drinks and bring in business, the man we were talking to basically looked us up and down and laughed in our faces, and we left feeling shame. On the first Friday night we were there, the staff was elated at the number of people who came. But I was standing behind the guy we had originally talked to and overheard him making fun of us for being Christians and I admit my inner New Yorker got the best of me. I tapped him on the shoulder and said ‘Yeah, well it looks like you had a really good night with our church,’ and he was immediately trying to cover his tracks and tell me I misheard him. I walked away and after about an hour I reminded myself why we were there. I wanted to find him to apologize and eventually discovered he was up in his office, totally destroyed by that interaction. He came downstairs right as I was leaving, and I caught him and said, ‘I have to apologize.’ He immediately burst into tears, this big tough bar owner. It was a Holy Spirit moment. The man has been different with us since that encounter, much closer. I’m curious to see what the Lord does.”

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Helen Shim serves as an Assistant Worship Pastor at North Jersey Vineyard Church and is a member of the AAPI Association. 

About the AAPI Association, she says, “We’re kind of in that exploration phase where we’re trying to not only share our stories but as most of us are second-generation AAPI’s, discover how we can bring our heritage and culture into our respective spaces. We’re asking a lot of questions, and we’re trying to dream and imagine what that looks like, and encourage one another in what that could look like, whether it’s in worship, leading a small group, or in whatever capacity that someone is serving.”

In April of 2024, all of the Associations hosted a gathering of over 400 people at Vineyard Columbus called “Better Together: In Pursuit of Beloved Community”, and Helen was invited to lead worship on the mainstage and in a morning AAPI session. “I don’t know if I have a specific word that can really encapsulate my experience at Better Together, but it was incredible. I thought it was such a beautiful moment. It just felt like the whole week felt like a hug that I didn’t know I needed, but deep down I wanted. It felt like a big family reunion. Being able to lead songs in my native language of Korean was really powerful. And from the testimonies that I’ve heard from some people, it touched a part of their heart that maybe they didn’t realize God needed to speak to in that way.” 

Helen was raised in a first-generation Korean Presbyterian Church and had sung hymns in Korean, but had never sung contemporary worship songs in her native language before this event. “I sang “Goodness of God” in Korean, which is a song that I’ve sung many times at church because it speaks to what God has done in my life, and also “More Love, More Power.” Even while I was practicing leading up to the conference I couldn’t sing or finish even the first verse without bawling my eyes out, because there’s just something about singing in my heart language that really spoke to me. I honestly didn’t know how it would be received at the conference. I just said, ‘God, I’m nervous as heck, and I’m putting myself out there and I feel so vulnerable. Just do what you want to do through this song.’ And I think he did. That was a powerful moment.”

Helen talked with a number of people who were really touched by these times of worship. “A Korean-American attendee who has been in the Vineyard for over twenty years told me he’d never heard Korean spoken in a Vineyard Conference context. It had me wondering if this was a moment where God was saying, ‘I’m opening the door and going to unleash and invite other languages.’ That’s what it felt like. It seems like a little thing, but I thought it was awesome that the slides were showing Korean characters and then it was written out phonetically because I was able to hear people trying to sing along and that was so encouraging to me. 

Another person shared that when I was singing the song she was praying in tongues, and this one particular word just kept coming out: “haree”. Then she noticed that I was also singing it in the song. It was from the line that goes “I will sing of the goodness of God.” She asked what “haree” meant, and I told her “haree” means “I will.” She broke down crying and said, “In my prayer I was saying, ‘God, here I am, use me and I will.’  And so that word just meant so much to her.”

While there were so many valuable moments during the conference itself, Helen says that one of the things she really loved were the afterparties. “I felt like it was in those moments where we gathered as an AAPI community that I realized we’re a very communal culture. Even though we didn’t know each other and some of us came from far away it just felt like meeting a long-lost cousin I hadn’t seen in a while. And we got to share snacks that we all love.”

About the future of Associations in the Vineyard, Helen says, “I appreciate these gatherings where we can come together and share stories in a more intimate setting and invite others in who are not AAPI. I feel like we’re on the right track. I know it’s going to be messy and imperfect, but I think as long as we’re trying to embrace other cultures and create space for everyone, I imagine it will be amazing. I don’t know what it’ll look like, but I do know we’re on the right track and I really appreciate what the wider Vineyard is doing and trying. And I think it’s important to extend grace in that process, too. May it all be cloaked in grace as we are trying to walk towards the same goal.” 

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Zack Rodriguez is the lead pastor at the Lake Charles Vineyard in Louisiana and is an Area Leader. Zack was a young, out-of-town pastor without Vineyard roots when he took over the church. “It’s probably an understatement to say that church life in 2020 was difficult. At our church, it was no different.”

From 2019 to 2020, not only had COVID begun to reshape their church culture, but they also lost their founding pastor of 20 years suddenly and had four young people pass away tragically. On top of these things, Hurricane Laura decimated their city and church building, causing damage to 95% of the structures in Lake Charles. One month later, Hurricane Delta finished off everything else still standing. Devastation was rampant and hope was lost. Zack says, “Ultimately, the beauty I found in that time was that sometimes being flat on your back is the only way you look up. As weird as it sounds, I often say it was one of the best times of my life because it brought me to total dependence on God. We experienced Matthew 5:3 firsthand.”

Then they began to experience heaven on earth. Zack says, “The great things we witnessed after those trials were too numerous to count. Miraculous provision during the hurricane days, restoration of families, renewed vision of the church, and new salvations. There have been several mind-blowing seasons and I often have difficulty getting people to believe all we experienced.”

Zack shares that the first person they saw healed was named Diane and she was the antithesis of someone who attends church. “One Wednesday night, she came to service with her son after being diagnosed with COPD earlier that week. She was on oxygen and she was having a hard time breathing. As I started preaching, she wasn’t feeling well. Instead of slipping out the back to go home, her son yelled, ‘My mom’s not feeling well, so we’re going to leave!’ We all looked back in disbelief at this disruption, but that was a bold act of Biblical faith. Our entire congregation got up and laid hands on her to pray for healing. Two days later, the doctor told her she had no more need for supplemental oxygen. This showed us we need greater boldness in our prayers.”

Zack recalls a friend of his who was trusting God for a healing miracle. He is an incredibly gifted poet and songwriter and Zack shares that his friend “developed a growth in his eye that became quite painful. With all the miracles happening, he was extremely confident that God would heal him. The pain worsened and the doctors stated it would require continual surgeries. Chris’ faith grew and the more impossible it seemed, the more confident he grew. The growth got larger and he couldn’t shut his eye. After a couple of months of it getting worse, he decided to proceed with the surgery. The night before scheduling the surgery, he prayed, ‘God, I know you can make this fall off like a scale, and I wish you would, but I’m okay either way.’ The next day, the doctor looked at his eye and said, ‘Do you want me to just take this off right now? You don’t need surgery. I can just take it off. If I didn’t it would just fall off like a scale.’ The growth was plucked off, and it hasn’t returned.” Zack also shares that many songs to Jesus were written out of this and that it taught them to be persistent in their prayers.

Zack remembers that the most dramatic healing happened suddenly during one of their church services when they were teaching on Revelation 5. Zack explains that they sang “Worthy Of It All” to close out their service and as soon as they finished, he heard a shriek. “As I walked off the stage, I noticed a lady in a wheelchair near the back that I didn’t recognize at first. Upon getting to her, I knew it was Deborah. Her husband was sobbing on his knees next to her. Her color was gray. People had already called the paramedics stating that someone had passed away. She was ice cold to the touch and looked like she had no life. I heard someone faintly praying for life to come back to her, which encouraged more of us to join. She had no pulse and no respirations. She was too heavy to lift from her wheelchair. We prayed and after some time, her color was restored. Then she had a faint, rapid pulse. Then she took a breath and then her body began to sweat and warm up. Her muscles began to twitch all over. Her pulse stabilized and her respirations improved but were still shallow and infrequent. She was non-responsive to sternum rubs. Prayer was intermittent. We’d pray and something would change and then we’d pray again. Over 35 minutes, she slowly changed; however, she was still not awake. When the EMTs arrived, she suddenly woke right before they touched her. She left the church on her own strength and went to the doctor the next day, and they said she was fine. This happened right before a lot of other miracles, and it raised the faith of many in the church.”

Zack shared that this miracle was amazing to witness and it wasn’t the first time they prayed for the dead to come back to life. “We had some young people tragically pass away in the church. One was in a vehicle accident and she was on life support and declared brain dead. Another pastor and I went to pray for her and we were confident she would live. We thought she was improving while we prayed, but the next day she was removed from life support and died. We were heartbroken. Then a couple of months later, a young man passed away due to an overdose. The night before his funeral, a few of us prayed over his casket for a couple of hours, but nothing happened. When Deborah came back to life, this showed us that we don’t need to develop a theology on things we don’t see; we need to trust Him for the impossible!”

They witnessed several other miracles. People were healed of illnesses or diseases. Some no longer needed recommended surgeries or experienced quick recoveries. Zack says the miracles were not solely physical. They saw people provided for financially and some were provided jobs. Zack has many stories from this incredible season but says that these stories continue. “Christ is King, and He continues to exceed all we can ask or think! We will worship God whether He answers us like we desire or if He goes another route. In triumph or perceived defeat, we will worship because He is Lord! We always, in faith, expect God for great things. I pray that these stories give hope and renew child-like faith again.”

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James Moscardini is the Worship Arts Pastor at Vineyard Church North Phoenix. He says that they’ve seen a large number of water baptisms in recent history. “Water baptism is one of the things we really focus on. We do them every six weeks, and recently we had 62 people signed up, which is pretty normal.”

He says the focus on baptism started a while back when their leader pastor Brian Anderson originally felt like his calling was to be the sort of pastor to “equip the saints”, and he felt like God called him to be an evangelist even though he didn’t feel like that was part of his gifting. “We’ve been gearing our Christmas Eve and Easter services in a very evangelistic way, so we do altar calls on those holidays and throughout the year, probably six total, and we see like 100 people come forward each time to accept Jesus.”  

James says that their process after someone raises their hand to accept Jesus is very consistent, starting with a card they’re given with some next steps, including baptism, regular church attendance, prayer, and reading their Bible. After they’ve gotten a handle on those things, people are encouraged to focus on small group attendance, possibly taking some of the classes offered at their church or joining the leadership track, volunteering in some capacity, and giving to God financially through the church. 

“We used to just do a couple of big annual baptisms, and now we do them during worship and it’s a big celebration. It’s always a big attendance weekend because people invite their families. With COVID, we shortened our worship time, and since we’ve had so many people signing up to be baptized, we’ve had to do them more frequently just to fit them into the time. We have three services, so we average about 20 baptisms per service. 

We’ve done everything we can to make it super easy for people to be water baptized. People used to have to attend an in-person class, and now it’s online and about 25 minutes, and really goes into everything someone needs to know about what baptism means before they sign up. We run marketing for baptisms the three weeks preceding every water baptism, so with them being every six weeks, that’s half the year that we’re running a water baptism announcement. Before baptisms start, we have someone explain what it means, and why everyone needs to be baptized.

Baptisms are really in the culture of our church now. When people are baptized they get a t-shirt and they wear them proudly! And we really celebrate baptism: we do a “win video”, and our bulletin has a baptism focus, so there’s a lot we do to communicate that it’s a big deal.”

James says that one of the most recent developments now that they have an online presence is that people sometimes fly in from out of state to be baptized. “They watch our online services and decide they want to be a part of it, so they fly in or drive hours to be baptized, and it’s often the first time they’ve ever been to our church in person. They just feel like they’re a part of our church community through our online church. I know a lot of people are starting to make the argument for shutting down online church, but I don’t know how we can while seeing this kind of fruit.”

James said the joy of getting to witness baptisms never really wears off. “I get to water baptize two people this Sunday, which I’ve never done before because I’m usually leading worship, and I’m really excited!”

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Chris Schlotterbeck is the Lead Pastor at Hub City Vineyard in Maryland, a church that saw incredible growth during COVID that has stuck. 

Chris says, “In 2018 we lost the building that we had been renting for 8 years so we quickly pivoted and rented a large auditorium at a high school, which then opened a door for us to buy a property. We bought an old United Church of Christ building that was about to go under and paid cash. It wasn’t big enough for us, but we planned to add a 2.2 million dollar addition for a main gathering space.”

They had all the plans done and were ready to break ground in December 2019 when Chris got a phone call from the bank saying, “We’re not going to release your building funds because there’s this thing called COVID, and you may not be a church in 6 months. To continue, we’ll need your giving statements from January to May 2020, and if your giving stays the same or goes up, we’ll release your building fund money.” Chris was heartbroken, but he understood.

“I quickly went to my administrator and said, ‘We need $40,000 to spend on lights, cameras, and switchers. Either we go virtual or we sink.’ We spent the money and did the whole COVID livestream gig, and our giving doubled from January to May 2020, so we were able to break ground on our addition at the height of COVID. We couldn’t meet, couldn’t do anything, and I had pastors, family members, and friends saying, ‘What are you doing? It’s a dumb move.’ And I said, ‘Well, God told us to build it so we’re building it.’

Chris says that they completed the addition and held their first in-person meeting on Easter Sunday 2021. “We had two services with 1,000 people. In 2022 we had 1,200 people, and last year we added 3 services and had 1,600. We average about a thousand people a weekend now.”

When asked about a growth model, Chris said, “We’ve always been intentional about growth, and we specifically reach people that don’t go to church because I was one of them. I didn’t give my life to Jesus til I was 22, and I know what it’s like to be lost, to live a pointless life. I’ve read all of Steve Sjogren’s books, and we do servant evangelism every month. We serve our community and we give away more than we take in because I believe we’re called to do that. 

We’re very intentional about challenging people to grow in their relationship with Jesus, and last year we felt like our calling was to reach people who are forgotten. So we started a Wednesday church service at a state-run nursing home that houses the elderly, addicts, and young disabled people. We also built a bridge with the ARC of Washington County, which is for people who are mentally challenged and handicapped, so they bring busses of people to our church for Bible study. 

Our little rural county has the largest addiction crisis in Maryland; we lead the state in overdose deaths. So we intentionally reach out to the addicted: we have Celebrate Recovery and host the largest AA meeting in the county, and we use those meetings as a way to build bridges to those addicted. We’re intentional about getting people plugged into Growth Groups so they’re actually discipled. We don’t just look to get them saved; we want them to be a part of our church, and we do whatever is necessary to get them in our church on a weekly basis, because we know that their track record of showing up and getting in a group is where the change happens. But it can also be messy. When we do our Sunday and midweek gatherings, we also have kids and youth programs and we hire security to be on-premise because we know the people we attract can get a little rowdy. It lets everyone know what to expect and that it’s a safe environment.” 

Hub City Vineyard has baptized over a hundred people every year since moving into their new location, and last year baptized 128 people. 

“I don’t mean this in a bad way, but religious people don’t really stay in our church. We’re very upfront about the fact that we know who we’re called to reach and what we’re called to do, and if someone doesn’t fit here, there are a lot of churches around where they will fit. Every month I do “Start With Why” which is our first step, and I tell people what our mission is. This year our big focus is human trafficking. We’re known as the “hippie church”, so this Fall we’re hosting the first annual tie-dye 5k “Run for Freedom” with all the proceeds going to A21 and Tim Tebow’s organization to end human trafficking. 

Last year I felt like God challenged me to send our Christmas offering to an organization called Blood Water Mission that builds wells in Africa. I cast vision for it in January and we were able to raise $60,000, and they built 5 clean drinking water wells with it. My wife and I are going to Kenya in May and we’re going to try to visit some of the sites and get pictures to show our church. 

I don’t consider myself a preacher, I’m more of a coach. And I rally the team to go and do the stuff. My best advice for other pastors is to just do something! If you don’t do anything, you’re not going to reach anybody.”