Bridge Street Project

Did you hear the rumors? This time last year I had a grand idea: what if we bought a historic cathedral in the city and turned it into a new home for the Vineyard? It's true! I like to dream! But don't be this point there are no plans to buy a cathedral.

What started as a hair-brained idea turned into a year of soul-searching, inter-church dialogue, formal discussion among our Vineyard leaders. The net result was this conclusion: God is inviting us to partner with Bridge Street Ministries to serve marginalized teens & families on Grand Rapids west side.

It appears that God may have just used this crazy cathedral idea to help us dream bigger. And to answer a longtime prayer. For the last five, I've been asking God, what's next? What else do you have for us to do...beyond our church's four walls?

A Bit of History

If you've been around for 10+ years, you'll remember that there was a season where Vineyard North had an "inner-city" ministry on the East Beltline. For many years, the surrounding apartment complexes were subsidized housing, occupied by those priced out of the gentrifying downtown neighborhoods. During that period, our church launched a dozen ministries to serve under-resourced people: from single mom's programs to automotive repair, addiction recovery, cash assistance, budget counseling, and even a farm garden to support our pantry. It was an amazing season for our church, discovering that God uses the poor to help the rich as much as the other way around. During that season, we concluded that diversity is a gift from God.

What next?

Eventually, the economic situation changed: the once-subsidized apartments were bought up by new developers and renovated, pricing out most of those we served. Since that time, I've been asking God, what next? Is there more for us to do in this city? Are we destined to become a sleepy suburban church serving only its own? Or do you have something else for us to do? What I couldn't have known is that we'd spend five years fighting our own battles: tragic deaths and divorces and political divisions—and then a global pandemic. But that was then and this is now.

We believe that the Lord has been beckoning us for the last year or so to "Cross Over", from wilderness to Promised Land. While we're not sure where this will lead, we believe he's opening a door to serve our city through pursuing a partnership with Bridge Street Ministries, serving the lower West Side of Grand Rapids.

There was a time I didn't really care about the West Side. Sure, I liked the restaurants and I was impressed by the cathedral, but little else. Then, in November 2023 a surprising thing occurred. Our foster son and his arriving family from Afghanistan took up residence 2 blocks from our friends at Bridge St. Ministries! Almost overnight, this random neighborhood became for me a place of concern and compassion. By the time we did our staff's annual planning in February, our whole pastoral team agreed, this seems like God.

"The Bridge Project"

Starting now, we're taking several exciting steps in 2024 to say yes to what we believe is God's leading. We're calling it "The Bridge Project." The our goal is to build a bridge to a future of more fruitful ministry at the Vineyard, strengthening and mobilizing our church to serve a cause bigger than our own. Here's what is on the horizon:

  1. We're hiring a youth ministry director June 1, Matthew Nagle, who will be jointly-employed at Vineyard and Bridge Street Ministries. He'll be serving both our teens and teens enrolled in BSM's West Side afterschool "Resurgence" program. He will be tasked not only with running youth programs, but engaging our teens in ministry to others.
  2. We're getting organized in-house, hiring Laura Breese for a "Community Life Admin" role aimed at bringing consistency and clarity to church communications, program coordination, and office resourcing. As you may have noticed, much of our operations has been ragged and messy since the Covid shutdown. This is the year we fix that.
  3. We're inviting high school graduates from all over the Vineyard movement to join BSM's 2024-25 gap year program, the Grand Rapids Bridge Year. If you're familiar with YWAM, it's a similar format: a 9-month in-residence ministry training that includes a 2-month mission in Guatemala. Unlike YWAM,  emphasizes vocational and college prep, local church ministry, and theology coursework for college credit (some of it taught by our own Dr. Geoffrey Holsclaw!). In coming years we hope to see many students each year calling Vineyard GR home during their year gap year in Grand Rapids.
  4. We're preparing to "adopt" the West Side afterschool "Resurgence" program site, assisting with volunteers, resourcing involved students, and blessing their entire families.

How you can be involved

  • Join us at 9:00 am Sundays for a special season of prayer aimed at accelerating The Bridge Project.
  • From now through fall 2024, we're aiming to increase our giving by 13%, or $4000/mo. If you're new to the church, or if you're in a position to reconsider your giving, this is a season where you can make a big difference. Here's a link to set up online giving.
  • Starting this summer, we'll be announcing a variety of ways you can be involved in new ministry opportunities. Stay tuned.

On behalf of our whole pastoral team, I want to thank you to all of you who have prayed for and labored in this church. We believe now is the season to lay hold of dreams God has put in our hearts. And we're so glad to be in this together!

With love & gratitude,
Pastor Mike

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