A woman approaches The Springs in Sparks, Nev. She’s driven by this church a thousand times, but today she is ready to stop. She was raised Lutheran, so the church’s teachings are familiar. She’s made up her mind, though. If no one greets her here, she’ll go somewhere else.
As she walks from her car to the rented community room where the church service is held, she’s stopped by a group outside. They welcome her and introduce her to Ryan, who brings her inside and shows her around. Soon Ryan introduces her to the pastor at The Springs, Steve Hillmer. Within minutes, the woman is sharing her troubles with Hillmer, and he is able to assure her that she’ll hear God’s Word and find the comfort for which she’s searching.
Hillmer also explains some of the practical aspects of the service such as the hymnal and the worship folder. As the two head into church, Ryan reappears and asks the woman to sit with him and his family so that they can help her during the service.
Following the service, the woman visits with Ryan and other members of The Springs. She leaves carrying a copy of the church newsletter, a Meditations devotion book, and a flyer promoting The Springs’ Bible information class.
This woman’s experience is fairly typical of a visitor to The Springs. As Hillmer notes, “Members exude a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere. So many of them know what a wonderful home they’ve found here at The Springs; with our mother church, Shepherd of the Mountain in Reno; and WELS.”
This atmosphere is a reflection of Shepherd of the Mountain, which decided to work with the WELS Board for Home Missions in 2008 to support a new mission church in the northern Reno area. Hillmer arrived and began serving his call to The Springs in July 2008. About 15 members of Shepherd of the Mountain became members of The Springs and formed the core group for this new mission. On Palm Sunday in 2009, the group held its first worship service.
Over the years, the congregation has reached out to the community in many ways, including canvassing; holding camps for kids; and advertising through newspapers, flyers, and direct mail pieces. The Springs’ membership has grown steadily and now stands at more than 150.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been actively canvassing,” says Hillmer, “but our members are actively inviting friends and family. The number of three-generation families that we’ve taken in through Bible information class is amazing, and it usually involves a baptism or two.”
In 2014, The Springs was finally able to purchase its own land. With help from WELS Church Extension Fund, Inc., it looks forward to building its first worship facility in 2015. Hillmer and his members anticipate an even greater increase in attendance and membership when they are worshiping in a permanent location rather than a rented space.
No matter where they worship, though, the congregation will continue to greet each visitor with enthusiasm and Christian love.
Volume 102, Number 1
Issue: January 2015
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