SANTA CLARITA—She had attended Valley Lights Church previously, but a challenging work schedule made it difficult to connect with others in the congregation on a deep level. A women’s holiday wreath event changed that for one occasional church attendee.
The woman “said this was one of the very first events where she felt like she could step out a little bit relationally because the ladies at her table were working on something together,” said Marie Spezzaferri, Valley Lights ministry assistant for events. “She felt like she could initiate and connect with some ladies in a different way than on a Sunday morning.”
That was one of many successes that ensued when women of the Los Angeles-area congregation turned their holiday tradition of wreath-making into a community outreach event—with some assistance from an evangelism grant by the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC). Fifty-nine women attended the Dec. 3 event, including 22 who said they didn’t go to church anywhere and two who requested more information on walking with God.
“It really wasn’t something big and expensive and flashy,” Spezzaferri said. But it “seemed to hit a felt need for a lot of these women,” with a “focus on the relating” to each other.
Though the church is less than two years old, it’s already establishing a pattern of impactful outreach. Pastor Bruce Wood moved to Santa Clarita in the summer of 2020 to launch Valley Lights, with preview services that fall. The congregation’s grand opening in January 2021 drew 100 people to a park amid the COVID-19 pandemic. After experimenting with a series of short-term meeting places, they landed in their current storefront location in January 2022. Worship attendance averages 30-40, with attendees ranging from young families to retirees.
As Christmas approached this year, Valley Lights leaders wondered how they could capitalize on the holiday season to do evangelism without breaking the bank.
The wreath-making event was their answer. Some Valley Lights women who make wreaths each Christmas decided to “scale up” their efforts as a community outreach, Spezzaferri said. With money from their CSBC grant, they purchased wreath supplies, bought pastries from a local bakery, and rented round tables. Their event began at 10 a.m. with eating, followed by a brief devotional and discussion about finding peace. Then they made wreaths, finishing shortly after noon. An olive branch woven into each wreath helped them remember the peace theme.
The results “humbled and encouraged,” Spezzaferri said. Of attendees who filled out response cards, three said they were looking actively for a church. Many left prayer requests. Now Spezzaferri and other women’s ministry leaders are praying for them and following up with those who said they want to learn about a relationship with Jesus.
“Many of them said to let them know about future events,” Spezzaferri said.
One woman impacted by the wreath-making had a deep need for peace. She had attended Valley Lights a handful of times and was wrestling with grief and loss. A church member named Anna shared her testimony of God’s help through grief and loss.
“This woman isn’t yet walking with God,” Spezzaferri said. But “the initiative by our ladies to have those deeper conversations really encouraged me that it wasn’t just about the task and wreath, but about the people God is bringing.”
Other churches considering CSBC grants for their outreaches should apply, she said. CSBC partnership “has always allowed us to do a little more than we could do on our own to extend our reach.”
Any California Southern Baptist church that has given through the Cooperative Program in the past 12 months may apply for an evangelism grant at https://csbc.com/evangelism-grant-request/.
David Roach is a pastor, author, and professor. A native of New Mexico, he has pastored Shiloh Baptist Church in Saraland, Alabama, since 2020. He attended Vanderbilt University (BS in philosophy) and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (PhD in church history, MDiv in biblical and theological studies).
He has pastored Emmanuel Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Kentucky, and worked as chief national correspondent for Baptist Press in Nashville, Tennessee. He also has taught at several Southern Baptist colleges and seminaries and served on the staffs of churches in Kentucky and New Mexico. His writing has appeared in Baptist Press and Christianity Today among other outlets. He authored the 2021 book The Southern Baptist Convention & Civil Rights, 1954-1995.
David is married to Erin, who is from the Lexington, Kentucky, area and holds a journalism degree from the University of Kentucky. Erin served nearly two decades as a writer and editor for Baptist Press. They have three children—Caroline, Mallory, and Hutton. David enjoys reading, golf, and sports—including the Vanderbilt Commodores. But he really loves spending time with Erin and their kids.
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