Jessie and her husband Michael were part of the first classes that eventually birthed Sojourners. “We came from a conservative church background, and Woodland seemed different—an exciting and fresh kind of different—and we wanted to be part of it. We were trying to get plugged into Woodland so we just kept saying yes to each new class and then yes to missional community.”
For several years, Sojourners Missional Communities were a pilot project where a few dozen people, including Jessie and Michael, worked to establish rhythms of “house church” size gatherings. The concepts of mission, discipleship and community have become part of the fabric of the groups through teaching and practice.
Kevin Callaghan, Woodland’s Discipleship and Formation Pastor, summarizes our Missional Communities as: “A space that offers the larger Woodland Hills community a smaller-scale community where we can get to know each other more deeply, meet practical needs, become Kingdom family and find support in serving those outside the church together.”
Each Sojourners community meets on Saturday night on a rotating basis in a member’s home. The evening starts with a potluck meal, then moves into a time of worship and prayer. While different members share facilitating the gatherings, each member is considered a “minister” and encouraged to take ownership of the community’s life according to their giftings.
Kevin explained, “Everyone is encouraged to ‘be the pastor’ in the sense of ministering to each other out of their gifts and experience.”
Practically, this looks like people bringing “offerings” to the group, which Jessie explained can be “anything that the Holy Spirit has put on our hearts during the week that he wants us to bring to the larger group—a word, song, Bible verse or teaching. More often than not our offerings are similar and by the end become almost like a beautiful tapestry woven together.”
Jessie said not having a designated person “in charge” also means that “your relationship with God and what God is speaking to you is equally as important as everyone else in church. What you bring to the gathering could have an infinite impact on someone else. So it brings a different weight to my faith, how we’re walking this out together.”
Throughout the week, small core groups of 3-5 people meet for deeper sharing and support. In addition, every 1-2 months, all the different missional communities have a combined gathering at Woodland HIlls for such things as a special teaching, worship or testimony time, a meal, or a baptism.
The connections provide a life-giving community. Jessie said, “In ‘big church’ it’s easy to both be overlooked and to give yourself a pass for the rest of the week. It’s hard to be overlooked in a group of 30! House church has given me accountability and encouragement from mentors and peers, especially having so many examples and people walking with me through the early stages of parenthood. I had severe postpartum depression, and I’m not sure I would be here if not for the Sojourners community. We received constant prayer, cards and letters in the mail, people coming by with food, or to sit and pray, or take care of our kids. It was like in that dark season, the whole church activated.”
Sojourners is also committed to missional living—to looking outward and serving the community and making connections with not-yet Jesus-followers. Jessie said, “House church is where the rubber can meet the road. Practicing being Jesus’ hands and feet is such a beautiful opportunity to fail and try again, in a community of people who are doing it with you.”
Interested in Sojourners? Schedule coffee with Kevin Callaghan or Rick Yonker, or just pop in for a gathering. Visitors are always welcome, and details are on the website!