The Clarksburg Yard: Chapter 4 Inspires Maryland Outreach Project
By Julie Campbell
Every gardener knows a seed has to die and take on a new form for a plant to flourish. In the seven years since Lakewood Church of God became Clarksburg Church, God has been growing and nurturing this Maryland congregation with fresh vision and new life.
“Before Lakewood Church of God merged with Fairfax Church and became Clarksburg Church, the church was at the end of its life cycle. What might have felt like a death to some actually was the process of going to seed so something new could grow,” said Beth Wolff, who has been the lead pastor at the church since June 2017.
Although Clarksburg Church still has a connection with Fairfax, they are not considered a “campus” of Fairfax Church.
“We do have the same tax ID and share an accountability structure,” explained Wolff. “This allows Clarksburg to exegete the community and translate the gospel news into a ministry that speaks to the unique language of our community, while also having some of the support that is offered by a larger church organization.”
Because Clarksburg is the fastest-growing community in its county, the community has experienced some serious growing pains. One of those pains comes from huge housing growth, but little community infrastructure. This is where Wolff’s vision and her fellowship with Chapter 4 are coming to life with a project called The Clarksburg Yard.
“We have a plan to turn some of our land into an outdoor venue and community cafe with specific elements to engage the 4,000 middle and senior high school students within walking distance of the location, as well as other residents,” Wolff explained. “While we are fundraising and applying for grants to build it in its fullness, we are trying to live as if it is already here—sound like the kingdom of heaven at all?”
While the vision for The Clarksburg Yard has been years in the making, the Chapter 4 Institute has been instrumental in making it a reality.
“Chapter 4 helped us create handles to describe the merits and purpose of the project so that the congregations, community leaders, and even local/state government could see the value,” Wolff said.
“Chapter 4 was a constant voice saying ‘Keep going! The city needs you!’”
While it’s still waiting for the vision of Clarksburg Yard to come to life, the church reaches out to the community in a plethora of other ways. In addition to an emergency 24/7 food pantry, the church also partners with the county’s “Holiday Giving Project” to provide food and gifts for Thanksgiving and Christmas for four ZIP codes in the community.
For school-age kids, the church works with neighborhood students to earn required student service learning hours for school and allows the building to be rented for an after-school tutoring program, a pre-school soccer program, and free community Zumba classes.
But that’s not all. “We partner with the DHHS to support foster care and biological families with resources,” said Wolff. “And we have open nursery play during the summer so parents have an indoor space for kids to play.”
Wolff also places a high priority on discipling each congregant “to be missional in their own unique context.”
As Wolff reflects on her time as a Chapter 4 fellow, she is overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for what God has done.
“I am grateful for the people on the journey! I am grateful that someone is thinking about helping pastors and leaders listen to the cities they are in and expand their understanding of their calling to include what the city needs. I am grateful for the relationships that I cultivated. I still engage with them, even after the program has finished, to ask questions and gain encouragement and insight.”
Julie Campbell is an editor at Warner Christian Resources (formerly Warner Press) and a freelance journalist. A former city girl from Chicago, she enjoys country life with her husband, Russ, on a five-acre apple orchard in Madison County, Indiana. She is a blessed mom of three wonderful young adult children and one very spoiled red Doberman puppy.
Learn more about the Chapter 4 Institute at www.jesusisthesubject.org/chapter4.
The Plan is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our Movement to act in one accord for the future of the church. Together we can support young leaders and help bring God’s plan to life on earth as it is in heaven. Fund these critical ministries—Chapter 4, CARE, and Leadership Focus—to train and sustain the church long into the future. Learn more and be a part of The Plan at www.jesusisthesubject.org/the-plan.