"When you enter the building you will see a large tree. Let's meet there." That was the Facebook message from Allie, one of my former youth group students at Concord Bible Church. I assumed, it being December and all, that the large tree would be a Christmas tree. But it was an oak. A fake oak, but an oak. And kind of cool.
The morning was rainy and blustery, so we were happy to get inside the Blue Oaks Campus of Bayside Church. They meet in a warehouse, which we heard is a temporary facility, but it has been made into a very warm and inviting space. Christmas music was playing ("Silver Bells", "Caroling, Caroling," and other bell songs on a relatively short loop, but in fairness we arrived about an hour early) The oak was the center of The Park near the ping pong table and children's play structure. The area is open during the week for people to enjoy this part of the facility and the cafe.
Bay Oaks is one of four Sacramento area campuses of Bayside Church. The first campus was the Granite Bay, founded by Ray Johnston twenty years ago. The impetus of the church's founding was a number of teenagers' suicides in the area. There was a concern that churches weren't reaching young people, so a number of parents got together and prayed for a ministry that would make a difference.
Now 14,000 people attend weekend services at the four campuses (with six services at Granite Bay, four at Midtown, two services at Folsom and two services at Blue Oaks). Youth and children's ministries continue to be priority for Bayside, with the intention of reaching the community by reaching the youth.
We met Allie, her husband, their three kids and Allie's parents (who had worked with youth at Concord Bible Church when we were all there) by the oak tree before in the service. I went with Allie to check her kids into Sunday School. The attendant asked for Allie's last name or the last four digits of her phone number. Allie's younger son and her daughter went into the K - 3rd area, a large outdoor adventure-themed room with tents for the children's small group time. Her older son was checked into the 4th & 5th grade class. Allie told me it was the children's ministry of the church that drew her and her husband, Kevin, to Bayside. Their kids have made good friends in their Sunday School classes.
The middle school students also have a class during the service, but high school students meet in small groups before or after the service and worship with the adults. There were announcements during the service for Unleashed (the name of the high school and middle school programs) activities, a camp and a Mexico missions trip in the spring.
The main announcement was for the upcoming Christmas Eve services. Free tickets were available for the 8:30 pm service, though the 4:00 pm service had already 'sold out' (tickets are free). Ray Johnston came to the service to encourage people to bring guests to one of the two services at Blue Oaks or one of the fifteen services at Granite Bay. (Each campus has their own pastoral staff and worship team. Lincoln Brewster, a prominent Christian performer, serves as the Minister of Music at the Granite Bay campus.) Johnston said that last year, hundreds of people made commitments to Christ at Christmas Eve services, and that many people become a part of the church after first being introduced through this service.
There was also an announcement about the need for volunteers to care for children during the Christmas Eve services at Blue Oaks. They needed twenty people, we were told, but not just anyone. Tthey needed twenty qualified people. They hoped to be able to allow parents to enjoy worship without worry.
During the worship there was a cool fog effect along with an effective use of lighting. The worship leaders were talented, but their leadership wasn't just a performance. People were urged to join in the singing ("Come on, church, clap your hands" "Come on Blue Oaks, let's hear you" "Come on, Bayside, let's worship"). And people were singing along. (Though most of the songs were not particularly Christmasy, the close was "Hark the Herald" which was rightly noted to pack more theology in one place than most any sermon.)
The sermon was part of a series on Luke 1 & 2 titled "All I Want for Christmas." This Sunday the text was Luke 2: 1 - 15 (you know, the Linus passage) on Christmas joy. There was an exhortation not to aim for happiness at Christmas, but rather joy.
We felt that Bayside Church is doing its part in the Kingdom of introducing many in the Sacramento area to joy of the Lord.
Service Length: 1 hour 23 minutes
Sermon Length: 41minutes
Visitor Treatment: When Mindy went to the welcome center about an hour before worship began, they were still setting up. During the service, we filled out an attendance card included i the bulletin along with a lot of other enclosures. During the announcements before the offering, visitors were invited to take that card to the welcome center after the service. Dean did and received a tote bag with various materials including a coupon for Chick-fil-A. There were several opportunities during the service to interact with others seated around us.
Followup by Tuesday Morning:
none an email on Wednesday morning
Our Rough Count: 1,200
Probable Ushers' Count: 1,400
Snacks: coffee, decaf, and water available outside the worship center (free), with a variety of selections of drinks and pastries for sale in the cafe
Musicians: two bass players (male), two acoustic guitars (male, also singing) one keyboard player (male), one drums (male), two singers (female)
Songs: "Young and Free"
"We'll walk in grace as you call us to glory" (not the title; I couldn't find it from a lyrics search)
"Hark, the Herald Angels Sing"
Miles to place: 127
Total California Miles: 17,666
Church website: http://blueoaks.baysideonline.com/