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2024 Vineyard USA Annual Report

Welcome to Vineyard USA’s 2024 Annual Report! We hope that through the numbers, you’ll really see the life of the Kingdom and how God is moving in the Vineyard. We’ve also gathered some stories from Vineyard Pastors to give you a glimpse into what the Lord is doing in different churches around the country. While the statistics are vital and give us the picture outline, we hope these stories provide the color and vibrancy that make the picture beautiful. 

Feel free to share this Annual Report with anyone who might benefit, including your staff, board members, and key leaders in your church. It’s available to the public! 

As we celebrate 50 years since the Vineyard started as a home group in Southern California, we are incredibly grateful for all the Lord has done in and through us, and all the people who have called the Vineyard home through the years. May we continue to invest in a movement worthy of being inherited by our children and grandchildren.

By the Numbers

People call Vineyard USA churches home
Congregations (total churches & sites)
Established Churches
Church Plants
Las Viñas
Expenses less than budgeted for 2023
To help the Pastors Well-Being from Lilly Grant
National Conference Sponsorships
Contributions from unbudgeted sources

2023 Operating Expenses
Operating Income for 2023: $5,442,000

$142,000 withdrawal from strategic reserves

From thirteen FreeWill bequests
Committed from a local Vineyard church toward church planting
Proposal for local Vineyard churches
Stock gifts to Vineyard churches

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."

People said "yes" to Jesus (+50% from last year)
People were baptized (+32% from last year)
Of Vineyard churches participate in justice work

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."

Churches involved in cross-cultural ministry
Churches involved with Vineyard USA missions partnerships
Countries impacted by Vineyard USA Missions

Strengthening Our Churches & Pastors

Senior Pastors attended regional conferences in 2023
Senior Pastors engaged in Area Meetings

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.”

Reduction in debt for pastors going through the Financial Well-Being program
Pastors served by Well-Being of Pastors Initiative over last few years

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 and Brian Blount
of pastors anticipate succession in the next two years
Student leaders equipped at Project Timothy

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."

Of church leaders in the Vineyard are women
Female solo Senior Pastors
People of color in our churches
Churches with non-English languages featured

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."

Churches indicated a desire to plant within the next five years
Churches trained in network building

Influence and Events

People attended the National Conference last year
People attended the nine regional conferences last year
We Are Vineyard podcast listens
YouTube views +70% from previous year
Worship leaders trained through Vineyard Worship Essentials
Worship leaders connected at the National Conference

Into the Future

We hope you feel encouraged by all these updates and stories. In 2023, we launched several new initiatives including AND partnerships, Pastoral Well-Being Initiatives, our third-party reporting hotline, and the ordination process. God has been with us and we are grateful for the ways everyone has participated in making this a great year.

As we continue forward into 2024, we are committed to continuing the mission we believe the Lord has entrusted to us. Our guiding goal remains unchanged: starting and supporting local churches that are connected to one another.

We hope you will join us at the VUSA National Conference: Seed & Soil this summer as we celebrate 50 years of the Lord’s work in the Vineyard. It will be a great time of equipping, fellowship, and celebration, and we are expectant for how the Lord will move among us. 

May the Lord protect you and keep you, and make his face shine upon you as you seek His Kingdom in your city! 

Jay & Danielle Pathak

Into the Future

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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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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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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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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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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.”

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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.”