Shrinking congregations, budget challenges, staff reductions, and smaller community footprints are not uncommon issues among churches as they attempt to make their way through the challenges of COVID. However, Victory Church in Tipp City, Ohio, is not only bucking that trend, it’s seeing its reach and congregation expand.
On Oct. 25, Victory Church opened the doors to a second location in New Carlisle and officially launched its online church.
“We’ve had an online presence even before COVID struck,” states Andy Warren, who has been leading Victory Church, with this wife, Beth, since 2009. “But now we’re purposely directing the online services specifically to the online audience.”
Warren says that people can either live in fear or live by faith, and even though they have been diligent in following all regulations concerning COVID, the message the church has been consistently expressing is that God can still do something great this year.
“When do people grow spiritually? When it’s challenging, not when it’s easy!” Warren observes. “God doesn’t want us to waste a year, so we’ve been expressing a message of encouragement, that God still has something great for you even in the middle of an incredibly difficult year — that message has resonated in people.”
The numbers confirm Warren’s words. Last fall, the average attendance at Victory Church was 800. This fall, with the addition of the New Carlisle church (80 people), 150 online members, and growth in the main campus, average attendance is now about 1,050.
“The online attendance is a little tricky,” Warren says, “but we’re only counting those who we can measurably track – those who comment online, submit a prayer request, or give financially.”
Warren also points to his wife’s personal and public prayer life for the growth in the church — which includes 39 new families over the last six months — as she leads the church in times of powerful prayer prior to the weekly message. He also gives credit to the team of leaders God has blessed the church with.
“People need to hear the voices of their faith leaders, not just the pastor,” Warren says. “When they see multiple people — faith leaders, lay leaders — all saying the same thing, their faith is bolstered . . . as every day they’re working to grow a little bit closer to Christ. In this way, they’re able to start taking their eyes off their problems and placing them on the Answer.”
Dan and Veronica Moorhead are co-campus pastors for the New Carlisle church. Veronica believes that the church’s multiple efforts to meet needs within the community and to connect to those attending has helped lead to the increased visibility and attendance.
“When we were getting ready for the new church to launch, we distributed 400 boxes of food as part of a Farmers to Families effort that included information about the church,” she says.
The New Carlisle location is also currently partnering with the main campus to participate in Operation Christmas Child (a ministry through Samaritan’s Purse) and is helping to raise money in order to provide every foster child in the county with a $25 gift card along with a handwritten note that lets each child know he or she is loved and being prayed for this Christmas season.
“The Holy Spirit is just working in our church right now in a way that is just mind blowing,” Moorhead says. “People are stepping up, giving of their time and service, and it’s just amazing to see . . . I can’t tell you why, but He’s just doing it and we’re like, ‘All right, Lord, whatever You’re willing to do!’”
In the past, Victory Church held semi-annual baptism services, but this year, with the physical distancing restrictions, having multiple baptisms in one service has become problematic. And with having a waiting list of 70 — and growing — who have committed their lives to Christ this year and want to be baptized, Warren says they had to get a little creative.
“Each week through the end of the year we’re baptizing one family or individual in each of our four services to allow for distancing and the time,” he says. “At the end of the year, I know we’ll still have people left who want to be baptized, so on New Year’s Eve we’re going to have one big baptizing celebration.”
Moorhead also points to Warren as a catalyst for growth as not only is he an optimistic and strong leader, his mindset is one of connection, as he contacts every visitor and invites them out to join him at a local restaurant to talk and have a glass of chocolate milk.
“I don’t drink coffee a lot,” Warren says with a laugh. “But it is a unique and memorable way to meet people and get to know them.”
Warren sums up their church’s mission as leading people to a new victory in Christ. He explains, “People have come to understand that if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”