Concordia is a small place as far as size goes. But Concordia has always been involved in big things that God is doing.
From the beginning, Concordia’s story has been one of prayer and miracles, and of the hard work and sacrifice of ordinary people committed to the extraordinary mission of sharing God’s love in Jesus Christ.
It began on a dirt field in the middle of a developing neighborhood of new homes that were marketed to military and young families. A small group of people with a pioneer spirit had a vision that they could impact that neighborhood for good and for God, and in 1962, Concordia Church was formed.
The warmth and welcoming of Concordia’s people made Concordia an ideal place for many military families in the area who were separated from their extended families to quickly find care and support and connection in a place that felt like “home.” That “Here You’re Home” feeling has been part of our DNA ever since.
As the neighborhood matured, so did Concordia. But those same hallmarks of prayer and the hard work and sacrifice of ordinary people continued to be evident. As the Chula Vista community became more Spanish-speaking, Concordia launched a ministry to Spanish speakers in 1992. Why take that step, when the majority of Concordia member were not Spanish speakers? Because Concordia members were convinced that living and loving like Jesus means reaching out, not just reaching in.
That same conviction led Concordia’s members to form a “Long Range Task Force” in 2005 to explore possibilities for Concordia’s future ministry direction. Asking ourselves, “What’s next?” and bathing every step of the process in prayer in order to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we arrived at a decision point that we never anticipated – undertaking a bold new venture of launching a new church, in a new place, to reach new people in a new way.
It seemed an impossible undertaking, but we were convinced and convicted that this was a calling of God on our church. That was confirmed by a unanimous secret ballot vote to launch a new church. Some of the first pioneers who planted Concordia were still members of Concordia at the time, and were part of that unanimous vote. It seems incredible that people would vote to leave what they had helped to build. It seems incredible that people would choose to take on millions of dollars in debt when they were debt free. It seems incredible that people would give up worshiping in a traditional stand-alone church building and choose to worship in space that looked more like a classroom. But, convinced that we were following God’s calling, that is what Concordia unanimously chose to do.
We did not know the where, but we knew the what. So, we started exploring.
Eventually, God led us to the Windingwalk neighborhood in the Otay Ranch section of Chula Vista. As at Concordia’s beginning, this site was bare dirt. A group from Concordia regularly walked around the land and prayed. And they walked around the Windingwalk community and prayed for the community. And when we ran into some roadblocks with the city, we prayed some more. Eventually, the City Council unanimously overturned the denial of a conditional use permit by the Planning Commission, and Concordia Church in Windingwalk began to take shape.
While all this was going on, our pastor travelled across the country, learning about mission church planting from a variety of sources and church denominations. Because we believed that each member, regardless of age, was a vital part of the mission team and was uniquely shaped by God to be a contributor to the team, our pastor then led us through Mission Launch Training sessions to prepare for this bold undertaking.
Since our research showed that the Windingwalk community had a great need for childcare, and since we had a strong church and denominational history of quality Christian education, we chose to launch Concordia at Windingwalk by opening a preschool first, even before we held worship services. We were convinced that to be a church of the community, you need to think like a community center. So that is what we did.
In August 2009, we launched Concordia @ Windingwalk with a preschool that had 116 initial students. We followed that with monthly “Preview Worship” and “come-back” community events. In February 2010 we launched weekly worship in a large open room in the preschool building that was planned to eventually become additional classroom space.
Our church roots are traditional, and we kept our traditional worship service with classic hymns and organ music. But since we launched the church for the purpose of reaching new people in a new way, we also launched experimental family worship service. This service was designed to create the sort of “space” where 3-year-olds and 30-year-olds could worship together in the same space at the same time and get the same big idea about God. Since a model for this type of worship experience did not exist, we had to create it from scratch every week, incorporating activities and interaction that would engage a variety of age levels. We’ve seen enough significant growth in the faith life of people starting at a young age that we have continued to pursue this model of worship for the past 11 years.
It seems incredible that a small church would do something like this. And that a small church, where you’re a name, not a number, would continue to pursue that path of doing big things with God’s help, even while remaining small in size. But that is in our DNA – not just reaching in, but reaching out; prayerfully seeking God’s direction, and then following his lead; serving our community, and providing a place that feels like home to people, like those in the military, who might be in the Chula Vista community for a very small number of years.
We have expanded our mission reach through partnerships with Mission India, Mil Generaciones in Tijuana, Mexico, Operation Christmas Child and Child Beyond International in Guatemala. In 2019, we pioneered a family mission trip in partnership with Child Beyond International, where children as young as 8 were allowed to come with their parents and actively participate in the mission experience. While a small group of 12 were the “deployed mission team,” the entire church and preschool worked “logistics and support” missionaries. Through their efforts we were able to provide enough water filters so that an entire village in Guatemala could have clean drinking water for 10 years.
Because our preschool was full, and because Camarena Elementary School had opened and there was a need for before and afterschool care for elementary age students, and because we needed more worship space, we again took on more debt and opened a second building on our campus in June 2016. Using 14 classrooms, the preschool and afterschool program had grown to almost 300 students annually.
Then came March 2020 and the COVID-19 shut-downs. Like churches and schools everywhere, we were faced with significant challenges and struggles and financial difficulties. Yet through it all, God protected us and provided for us, just like He always has.
We used our savings to support our staff and teachers for several months until they were able to establish streams of support or find alternate employment. In mid-June we were able to reopen our preschool with 27 students, and have slowly been able to rebuild the school to over 100 students again.
Since we were not able to meet in the building for in-person worship services, we needed to quickly “re-invent” church, so that we could continue to stay connected with people by doing worship and small groups and care ministry online and “virtually.” Once in-person worship was permitted outside, we also had to figure out how to do “in -person” worship services in a way that both encouraged our members and that also witnessed to the community that we cared about our community by being safe and careful in the way we conducted those services.
Now that we seem to be coming through COVID, we are committed to ministering in the realities of this new post-COVID world and culture. We are worshiping in person, with both traditional and family worship formats. But we are also continuing an online presence of weekly messages and family messages to reach out to those who connect to God better that way.
We’re doing that, because that’s who we are:
- people who are convinced that living and loving like Jesus means reaching out, not just reaching in
- people who are committed to prayerfully seeking God’s will and direction, not just for the present, but for the future
- people who are willing to go through hard work and sacrifice, not just for our generation, but for generations to come
- people who are willing to experiment with new ways of doing worship and ministry, because today’s world seems to require it
- people who are working to actively involve generations in meaningful service from a very young age, because we believe that helps people’s faith grow stronger and faster
- people who are so warm and welcoming that when you come to Concordia’s Campus, you feel “at home” right away, more a name and a face than a number
- people who are aren’t worried about being small, because they’ve seen over and over again, how God can use things that are small to do something really big.
That’s our story. We invite you to discover where it also might be yours.