Meeting Long-Term Needs
When Basil Savoie agreed to serve as lead pastor of New Life Worship Center near Orlando, Florida, in 1988, he didn’t know exactly how God would minister in the congregation.
Like most pastoral leaders, he had ideas for evangelism and mentoring, but results often didn’t match that initial vision at New Life, where Savoie’s wife, Kathy, serves as worship leader, co-pastor, and office administrator.
Basil, who previously served as assistant pastor at God’s House Westbank Cathedral in New Orleans, faced challenges as the lead pastor at New Life. The multiethnic church needed to change. The building was too old and too small. Businesses rather than residences dominated the neighborhood landscape.
So after 20 years, New Life sold its property, purchased land three miles away, and built a beautiful worship center in Gotha, Florida, population 1,915. The Savoies looked forward to mentoring future leaders.
Charlie T. Dawes, associate vice president for student development at Southeastern University, was 12 when Savoie began mentoring him. Later, Dawes served as youth pastor at New Life.
“He encouraged me not only to follow Jesus but to pursue God’s call for my life,” Dawes recalls. “The ability to look behind the scenes of the pastoral life gave me great respect for what it meant to shepherd people. Countless hospital calls and errands provided an incredible opportunity for me to ask questions, observe, and participate in the ‘normal moments.’ ”
Savoie and other New Life leaders have consistently displayed a pastoral heart to the community. The building isn’t just for the church members. It is used as a polling precinct, during annual fall festivals, for volunteers in a homeless ministry, hosting Parkland Enrichment Academy during the summer, and letting the Crenshaw School use its facilities.
Renting to the private school has opened ministry doors for New Life.
“We’ve had opportunities to pray with and counsel staff and students,” Savoie says.
Crenshaw School is pre-kindergarten fourth through 12th grade, and has a special needs program. The Savoies counsel the school’s staff members during family crises, illness, and death of family members.
New Life has a weekly attendance of around 65, but when Savoie made a commitment nearly three decades ago to pastor the church he determined he would stay for the long haul.
“Being a smaller church gives us the advantage of being a part of peoples’ lives,” says Savoie, 63. “Over the years we have been privileged to cry with those who are hurting while standing with them near a dying loved one or sitting with them as they recuperate in a hospital bed or praying with them as they try to understand the ravages of a failed marriage or the death of a child. A small-church pastor has the privilege of being enriched by knowing his people in a personal way.”