Developing Gifts Key to Liberty Church Success

Developing Gifts -- Key to Liberty Church Success

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Tory and Elizabeth Farina are experienced church planters. Having already spent over eight years founding and co-pastoring a highly successful church plant in Minnesota, they felt God leading them to pioneer a new plant in Woodbury, a suburb of St. Paul.

With the confidence of a confirmed calling by God and their church planting experience, the couple stepped out and began the sequence of launching another church planting success story in 2015.

“All things looked good in prelaunch,” Tory says. “We had a great parent church in Cedar Valley Church, raised a strong prelaunch budget, had a core team of about 40, and we were coming off of a successful run in our last plant.”

Utilizing the skills, tips, and trends they learned over the years of training and coaching church planters, the Farinas launched Liberty Church in a prime location on a major thoroughfare, spent thousands of dollars on marketing, and expected huge returns.

But then reality hit.

“We were in a 600-seat auditorium surrounded by $150,000 of PCI (Portable Church Industry) gear, and only had a handful of people,” Tory says. “Elizabeth and I were discouraged.”

Unlike the first church plant, the culture in Woodbury didn’t respond to marketing, mailers, billboards, or even social media.

“We didn’t do anything ‘wrong,’” Elizabeth observes, “but we learned this community responds differently.”

It was during this season the Farina’s made an intentional decision — this church was not going to be built on a quick influx of people.

“We decided we would focus on loving whomever God sent us and empowering them to go after the one,” Elizabeth says. “This church is going to be intentionally slow and steady.”

They left the large auditorium for a smaller, but more central, elementary school that fit them. They sold a bunch of gear to get set-up and tear-down to a manageable level. And they began to pray for God to build His church, for miracles to happen, and for key people from the community to join the team.

Over the past three years, the Farinas and leaders in the church have learned the value of a journey of patience — what it means to be a seed, to take root, and to grow before bearing fruit.

“So often we want to have an instant tree and instant fruit,” Elizabeth observes. “Some trees take years before they bear fruit.”

Liberty Church, which launched with the help of the AGTrust Matching Fund, is now starting to see the results of those prayers and a steady faithfulness to establish a lasting church community. Intentional mentoring and community events, one-on-one relational invitation, and community discipleship opportunities are helping the church begin to gain traction.

“Imagine that . . . , it’s what the early church did in the New Testament!” jokes Elizabeth.

“After three years we are now a growing small church on mission, developing future leaders, and giving 10 percent annually to missions,” Tory says. “What was once on life support is a great church with lasting potential.”

One of the big successes for the church came from an idea that discipleship needs to be cross-generational. They created a mentoring program to connect high-talent individuals with emerging talents. For example, they engaged students attending North Central University, who were going to school for their instrument, to begin mentoring people in the church. They now have various ages from 7 to 70 intentionally involved in mentoring. One Sunday they teach/learn and the next Sunday they play together on the worship team. This concept is being explored in all areas of the church to encourage cross-generational ministry.

By intentionally investing in whomever God brought to their church and helping to develop their giftings and talents, the Farinas have witnessed a multigenerational “buy-in” as young people and adults serve side-by-side.

“The mentoring opportunities have created commonality and shared experiences,” Tory says. “More people are connecting on a personal level, people are seeking each other out for advice, and it has created a strong relationship network within our church.”

Elizabeth agrees. “By providing opportunities for tangible skill development, people — some who are still on their journey to Christ — hear the gospel as they become part of a loving community.”

This past summer, Liberty Church brought church families and multiple generations even closer together with an unusual missions trip. In addition to adults, families with children as young as 8 years old, were invited to participate in a missions trip to Guatemala. The week included specific outreach events kids could assist with in addition to work geared for adults.

“It was a fantastic experience,” says Elizabeth, who Liberty Church co-pastor and was recently elected presbyter for the section. “Watching the excitement coming back from the trip was just incredible, and now there are even more people wanting to go on our next missions trip.”

As the Farinas look back, they can see God’s hand in building the foundation and guiding the growth of Liberty Church in ways they didn’t imagine — and the future looks to hold even greater potential for the growing congregation.

“Each new church needs a fresh work of God,” Tory states, “and [as a result] we have learned to lean into the Lord in fresh ways.”

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