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Loving Like Jesus

Feb 2, 2023

Grace Church of Aiken, South Carolina, was founded in the 1970s. Today it remains one of the few Charis Fellowship churches in the state. When Pastor Steve Taylor retired in 2016 after serving the congregation faithfully for more than forty years, the church entered a period of transition.

In early 2020 the church elders agreed they needed assistance in finding their footing again and creating new momentum going forward. The church family voted and agreed to work with Assist Church Expansion for a revitalization.

Several states away, Shannon Hollinger was having conversations with Mark Artip about Assist. Shannon was serving as an associate pastor at Northwest Chapel in Dublin, Ohio, at the time. After praying and seeking counsel, the Hollinger family relocated to Aiken in November 2020. Shannon would serve as lead pastor at Grace Church, joining the team alongside Chad Parker, youth pastor since 2012, and Don Soule, associate pastor since 1992. Together they would walk with the vision team through the revitalization process with Assist.

“I love that that Assist has a process not a program,” Shannon said. “Their process helps to figure out how to best reach your local community and revitalize the church in your context.”

As part of the revitalization process, Shannon and the vision team met regularly with their Assist coach, Bart Blair. “I’ve been so encouraged by the leadership of Grace Church Aiken and their posture towards reevaluating their ministry and embracing change to become more effective in reaching their city for Jesus,” Bart said.

In the fall of 2022 Grace Church completed their revitalization process and officially relaunched on September 18 with nearly 200 people in attendance. “Pastor Shannon has humbly and patiently led the church through their revisioning and relaunch,” Bart said. “It’s been a pleasure to work with him and I look forward to seeing what God will do in Aiken as a result of this season of revitalization.”

In addition to small groups, kids ministry, and youth group, Grace Church is seeking to reach their community in intentional and creative ways. They have partnered with a local elementary school for a school supply drive, church members volunteer for lunch duty, and they have helped with PTO events. The church also hosts a big event about once a season with the goal of inviting people at that event to attend the next one. In the fall they hosted a Fall Festival, where they invited people to come back for a Christmas event of photos with Santa, games, cookies, and story time. At the Christmas event invited people to come back for their Christmas Eve service.

“We are excited to see how God will use Grace Church to reach our local community with the hope of the Gospel,” Shannon said. “We want to love them like Jesus loves us.”