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Churches set civic example

From left, senior Pastors Kurt Bubna, Eastpoint Church; Kent Mankins, Valley Assembly of God; Matt King, Valley Real Life Ministries; and Will McCain, One. (J. Bart Rayniak / The Spokesman-Review)
From left, senior Pastors Kurt Bubna, Eastpoint Church; Kent Mankins, Valley Assembly of God; Matt King, Valley Real Life Ministries; and Will McCain, One. (J. Bart Rayniak / The Spokesman-Review)

Pastors pitch in on community projects

Hundreds of volunteers will fan out over the Valley today to paint, pull weeds and do other jobs for the city of Spokane Valley and the Central Valley School District.

The volunteers are members of four large Spokane Valley churches: Eastpoint, Valley Real Life, Valley Assembly of God and One (formerly Grace Harvest Fellowship). Eastpoint Pastor Kurt Bubna said, “We wanted to do something for the community.”

The project started in a roundabout way. Will McCain, of One, and Bubna met when both churches were offering divorce recovery groups and decided to combine them. Then McCain and Bubna began meeting regularly and included the other two senior pastors. With no goal in mind, they began talking about the challenges of leading large congregations. Discussions wandered to how to help the community in a meaningful way. “It just fell into place,” said pastor Kent Mankins of Valley Assembly.

“We would really love our community leaders to know we want to be a blessing,” said pastor Matt King of Valley Real Life Ministries. “This is a way we can do that.”

The pastors sat down with representatives of Spokane Valley and the school district to ask what could be done with volunteer labor. “All of our churches are in Central Valley School District,” Bubna said. “We wanted to keep it focused.”

Seven projects are on the schedule for improvements. Volunteers, totaling nearly 300, will be cleaning a section of the Centennial Trail, the Mirabeau Point Park natural area and the Valley Mission Horse Arena. Painting and weeding jobs are scheduled for Greenacres Elementary, Sunrise Elementary and North Pines Middle School. The playground at Terrace View Park will get a renovation.

Among the work at Greenacres Elementary is fresh paint for part of the outside walls. “It’ll be a great project to spruce that building up,” said Central Valley superintendent Ben Small. “It takes a lot of man-hours to get that done.”

The city and the district will provide supplies for the projects while the churches supply the labor.

Without the volunteers, the work likely would not have gotten done this year, Small said. “It’s a manpower issue.”

The pastors are restricting volunteers to the members of the four churches because they want their congregations to get used to working together. “There is this mindset that’s out there that churches compete with each other,” King said. “What we really wanted to do was uproot that seed in our churches.”

The four churches have been loaning each other equipment, trading expertise and even having staff members travel among the churches to help out. Single parents looking for help at Valley Real Life are referred to a pantry for single parents run by Valley Assembly. Real Life members help collect food for the pantry.

“We’re working to make one another better,” King said. “It’s gone beyond just our summer of service program.”

The pastors hope that another side effect of their collaboration and cooperation will be to reach out to people who have grown disenchanted with church in general. If people can see four churches working together, it may change some people’s attitudes about church.

McCain has already heard from one businessman who quit going to services 15 years ago because of church politics. He heard about the community service program and has come back to church. The man said that if the church was willing to help the community, he wanted to be a part of it, McCain said.

While the pastors are looking forward to future collaborations, including more community-wide service projects, they are wary of expanding the group and diluting the effort. Part of the success, the pastors say, is in how well they work together, and they don’t want to alter the dynamic by adding to it.

“We just started with the guys we knew,” Bubna said of the group’s origins. “We wanted to keep it simple. We’re not trying to be exclusive.”

Instead, the pastors are hoping that their success will inspire other pastors to form collaborative groups. “We want this to be a model to other churches in the community,” Bubna said.