In 2019, Evangel University graduates Brandon Cordell Weddle, with his wife Kenzi, accepted the role of lead pastor at Mountain View Assembly in the rural town of Ten Sleep, Wyoming, which counts just 206 people, most of them over the age of 50.
Initially, the Missouri couple felt hesitant about moving to the “middle of nowhere.”
“We were away from family, way out of our element from what I grew up in,” says Brandon, originally from Springfield, Missouri. “But there’s no other place I’d rather be than where we are.”
Ten Sleep is located in Bighorn Basin, a 100-mile stretch in north-central Wyoming. Only 450 people live within a 30-mile radius of Ten Sleep, located in the western foothills of the Bighorn Mountains.
When the Weddles arrived, 17 regular adherents greeted them — and the youngest was 60 years old. While preserving the culture of the church, the couple updated the kids ministry and the church’s technology — without overdoing it.
“We didn’t want to come into a rural community and say, Hey, you know what? Everything has to be flashing lights and black walls because this is what all the fastest-growing churches are doing,” says Weddle, 26. “It’s not about that.”
Instead, Brandon took shifts at the volunteer fire department and ambulance service, and sat on the board for the community senior citizen center. Kenzi started working as the school nurse; both made a priority of attending home games for the local school’s sports teams.
“We told our congregation we don’t want to pastor the church, we want to pastor the community,” says Brandon. “Whether people call our church home or not, we want them to feel like we’re their pastors and they can come to us if they need advice, if they need help, if they need encouragement.”
Although the Weddles have lived in Ten Sleep only a couple of years, Mountain View Assembly has swelled to 80 congregants. Weddle makes extensive use of social media, which has helped draw younger adults to the church. Mountain View Assembly recently celebrated its first baptism in more than a decade. Leaders are looking to remodel parts of the building to accommodate the revitalized youth group.
Jordan Lynn Bush, a Ten Sleep local and mother who now sings on the worship team, began attending the church in 2020. She particularly admires the Weddles’ passion for youth, their commitment to the community, and their passionate, authentic preaching.
“I feel incredibly blessed to have the church family that we have,” says Bush, 32, the mother of a 1-year-old son, Cordell. “They very much care about our community and the people of Ten Sleep inside and outside the church congregation.”
Brandon says that integrating their lives into the community has produced converts and disciples.
“We’ve seen a lot of people come to Christ because of our relationships with them in that respect,” he says. “We just made ourselves available, and slowly but surely, over the last two years, we have seen God do incredible things.”