Ten years ago, two young people met each other and discovered they had the same dream – to build a church that would feel like family to everyone who came to it, no matter where they came from or what they were struggling with. They didn’t yet know what they needed to do to make such a place for others to call home, but they knew it was possible – it was what they had experienced themselves when they came to faith in God in their late teen and young adult years.
For Keri and Nick Fox, “The local church we became part of became family, the place where we could grow up, where we found meaningful and lifelong relationships and freedom from some of the hang-ups from life.”
Before they were married, Keri and Nick agreed that the one thing they wanted for their one life to live was to bring a life-giving church to a community that needs it. They began to dream and pray about starting a church together in San Diego, California. Then they began working for a church, talked to their pastor about what they wished to do, and eventually joined ARC.
In February 2017, they launched Commonwealth Church in an elementary school east of downtown San Diego.
“Our dream is to see God present and change people’s lives and help them find home. We’re already seeing it, even though we’re so new.”
Building a church family is a task that requires energy, focus, and communication. Nick and Keri – both gifted in different ways, but not especially skilled in tech systems and designing environmental spaces – found Church in a Box Solutions to help them out. One weekend in February 2017, we delivered their system and spent two days with their volunteer team to show them the ropes.
On the first day, Keri said, “This might be the best decision we’ve made for church planting.” She was largely grateful for the CBS consultant, Curt Banter, who came out to train the team on everything from how to pack the trailer, to where each cable and light would be plugged in and placed, to getting the whole audio/visual system up, running, and sounding great in the elementary school cafetorium being used as the main worship room.
They’d put together an amazing team of eager volunteers. Some knew exactly where they wanted to serve; others were allowing themselves the training time to get a better idea of which ministry they were drawn to. Everyone jumped in to help and learn.
Shanyce, who was interested in helping with kids, was new to portability. On the second day, she shared that she’d heard ways people who’d worked in churches before had experienced – difficulties, that is – but that “she felt prepared and ready to start tomorrow.”
The entire team was impressed about even the small things – like having a place for every item to be stored. In their first 3 months, they lost not even a single tiny cord. Nor, says Keri, did they lose any people. “Everyone comes to our church and says how amazing all the signs look. We get comments all the time – ‘It’s so clear; I know where to go; it’s welcoming!’.”
Indeed, Commonwealth rents space in a small grade school. Their main worship room is on the lower level; their children’s area is in an upper floor gymnasium that visitors must get to through a sheltered outdoor eating area adjacent to the worship room – and then up a stair case that isn’t very visible from the school entrances. But, people don’t have any trouble finding it.
Keri, Nick, and their children’s volunteers wanted an awesome kids area – and they got it. The best evidence of that comes from the parents.
“I can’t tell you how many parents freak out about how nice our kids area is. The parents walk in and are instantly excited to leave their kids there. I think because it looks so clean and nice and safe.”
Keri leads worship and deals with communications, such as social media and emailing with volunteers. Nick preaches frequently and deals with the church’s financial and legal matters. When they were planning the launch and gathering their team, they needed to be focused.
“Church in a Box exists so pastors can be pastors and not be builders and techies. I think that Church in a Box has really freed Nick and I up – before launch, during launch and since launch to be doing what we’re really uniquely gifted and able to do. That’s amazing. I think that some of the fruit that we’ve seen is because we haven’t been spending time on stuff that we’re terrible at.”
In the first three months of Commonwealth, 43 people gave their life to Jesus, according to Keri. Going into the church plant, throughout the many meetings with ARC leaders and conversations about their dreams, they’d only hoped that would happen. Then it did.
“That makes every set up and teardown worth it. Everything time you have to get there early and spend money, you see a person’s eternity change and family change, it makes everything worth it.”