I was nostalgic walking through the space where we’ve been for the first three years of our journey as Venue Church last Sunday.
I recounted how difficult it was to do a startup of any sort in a time of economic downturn, and how fortunate we are that we not only built a great community of people moving together for the good of our city, but we managed to flourish!
It has been a rocky ride but I wouldn’t trade the startup phase for the world.
Sometimes I laugh at how difficult working with people can be, but the rewards of leading a church far outweigh them. When I see God moving people towards health and purpose, when I see a marriage that’s a “Five Percenter” (just being honest) make it and become something amazing, when I see people addicted to themselves shift to being addicted to helping others, I smile and know that it was worth the risk of moving to Airdrie with my family and putting it all on the line to see what God could do.
I also asked about thirty people to take the journey with me, and they did.
Most people never get to do life with the people I see every week, so I’m the lucky one.
I’ve made so many new friends. I’ve brought challenge to people that they could do so much more. We’ve had hard times and good times, but we did it together.
The theatre at the time was the coolest venue in town and I remember talking to a then-staff member whose exact words were “Don’t even ask for this place on a recurring booking”. I didn’t know how theatre people thought at the time (cough cough) so I responded with a cheerful “You have one of the best facilities in town and you don’t want people to rent it??” (Big smile).
Later that night I prayed “God, we need that building if you want us to start Venue there”.
He called the next day (the theatre guy, not God) and said his superior had called him in and told him very directly “You need to rent that theatre more!”
I love the vibe at Bert and the stage. I’ve loved my green room. I’ve loved the lobby spaces, but as we’ve grown so have our needs. We’ve needed something more stable, more accommodating for our kids ministry, something more constant so we don’t have to rush and do a lobby service, which is three times the work and more expense whenever the auditorium is unavailable, whether for a high school performance or for maintenance or for whatever.
Moving hundreds of people offsite is a nightmare and every month becomes more difficult, so we’ve been forced to look at other options, as much fun as it’s been for us there.
We’ve managed to baptize over eighty people OUTSIDE in this time, thanks to the creative genius of our Dream Team, the most notable one was during a cold snap where we off-sited 28 people, created videos, then had a ridiculously crazy Baptism Service at the theatre in the beginning of January. I got so sick that time it took me a week and a half to recover, but it has all been worth it.
Our new partners are Magic Mountain / Footprints Academy on Kingsview and our Venue Kids teachers are licking their chops, so to speak. There’s the equivalent of a mini McDonalds Play Place in there! The spaces are so fun!!
Because of limited spaces and the constant changing of conditions at Bert we have had to shift our kids spaces often and even started having to offsite them to Genesis in the early days and during lobby services, but Venue people are just….
They sacrifice, they care more, they’re resilient and a little crazy (just like me).
It’s because we believe in a world we can’t see yet. We believe in the City not as it is, but as it could be.
We’ve started a church, sent massive amounts of volunteers into community events, supported charitable causes, taken on the Airdrie Easter Egg Hunt (seriously? 80,000 eggs??), given away tens and tens and tens of thousands of dollars to things that matter, fed the poor, and brought hope of a relationship with God to many near and far.
I went for a walk the other day and started thinking about Venue people. My people. I started to tear up a little because of how many times I was told what I envisioned could never be done, to give up and walk away, to turn the dial down on expectations, to not demand from people what I knew, I KNEW they were truly capable of.
But they wanted what I wanted, to connect real people with real people and a real God. Their sacrifice and faith pushed us on when I was tired, when doors closed, when there was no way up or no way out.
Sigh. So proud of my friends…
This coming Sunday we move and are throwing a Venue Christmas Party at Magic Mountain/ Footprints Academy on Kingsview.
Candlelight Service with carols. Every child will get a present. Free Pictures with Santa. Hot apple cider, hot chocolate and appetizers. Tours of the new Venue Kids areas. And so much more.
All that to say I’m sad to go, but I’m always happy when I look ahead.
Besides, you can’t exactly get comfortable when the people you’re with keep pushing you forward:)