In late spring 2017, a fifty-year-old, established church in Anaheim asked the question, “What if God has something better for us than just bringing on a new senior pastor to lead our church?” Sunkist Community Church, an NAB (North American Baptist) church, has seen a steady decline for the past several years. With a changing community and aging population but large facility, the church had been looking for a Senior Pastor for three years. The congregation began to see that it would take more than one person to revive the church. They also began to ask a deeper question: “Rather than just reviving our church, how can we begin reaching out to our diverse community for future generations?”
Sunkist Community Church began to look at eight options, ranging from dissolution to merger and adoption. One of the eight options was a multiethnic church in the nearby city of Brea, Ambassador Church.
Ambassador Church is from a different denomination (EFCA – Evangelical Free Church of America), with a very different demographic—predominantly younger, Asian-American families—and with a multiethnic staff. At this stage of Ambassador’s history, the church averaged around 500 attendees with a growing need for a more permanent facility.
Both churches wondered if a merger of the two congregations would be a great opportunity to combine resources: pastors, people, and facility. After three months of discussion, prayer and congregational meetings, the two churches gathered for a combined service on August 27, 2017.
On September 17, Ambassador’s 14th Anniversary, both churches voted on the merger-integration, termed “Adoptegration.” The results came out strongly in support of the merger, with 91% of Sunkist and 95% of Ambassador members voting “yes.” .
As we look to the future, our initial plan is to multiply our ministry by meeting on two campuses: Anaheim (our new permanent facility) at 9:00 AM and Brea (our existing facility) at 10:45 AM. We will bridge the two locations by facilitating relationships, promoting spiritual growth in small group contexts, providing mission opportunities, jointly celebrating special seasons of the calendar, and praying together. Our desire is to be a church that reflects a new hybrid culture drawn from these different congregations to reach our area more effectively. While early partnerships between the congregations may be structural and programmatic with clear goals toward building this hybrid culture, the true integration between congregations will occur organically, over time, and through relationship.
Our Sunday worship services will offer parallel children’s ministries (nursery through fourth grade) during both services. Bridge ministry for 5-6th grade and youth ministry for middle and high school students will be offered on both campuses. Adult Bible classes (Ambassador Bible Institute, or ABI) will also meet at both campuses. In keeping with Sunkist’s tradition, we plan on having a midweek service for all members on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM in Anaheim.
Our merged governing board will be comprised of leaders from both congregations. The church will have dual denominational affiliation, with full membership in both the North American Baptist and Evangelical Free Church of America.
Finally, our vision for this merger is to join our resources to become a truly integrated multiethnic church – a church for all people and all stages of life. We want to represent the best of what heaven would look like. With combined resources, we want to multiply our ministry and more effectively reach out to our local communities and beyond.