Church plant re-launched in SE Fresno


The Grove restarted as Mountain View Community Church satellite campus

by Connie Faber

Republished June 20, 2013

The Grove, a five-year-old Mennonite Brethren church plant in Fresno, Calif., was re-launched Sept 2 as a satellite campus of Mountain View Community Church (MVCC), the congregation that originally planted the southeast Fresno church.

The “new” church—Mountain View Community Church Sunnyside—is meeting at Fancher Creek Elementary School and had its public kick-off this past weekend, Sept. 23. A mass mailing was sent to the neighborhood informing residents of the new church in their community, and Saturday volunteers distributed 1,000 door hangers.

Mission USA, the USMB church planting and renewal ministry, and the Pacific District Conference are partnering with MVCC to restart the Sunnyside church plant.

The new church plant will be “fully connected” to Mountain View, says MVCC Executive Pastor David Thiessen. While the two locations will hold separate Sunday worship services and small group gatherings, they will share midweek programs, college ministry, youth groups and missions. The MVCC pastoral staff and elder board will serve both locations.

“The transition has gone quite smoothly,” says Thiessen, who is providing administrative oversight to the Sunnyside ministry team. “There is remarkable unity.”

The eight-member Sunnyside ministry team includes two student interns from Fresno Pacific University, the Mennonite Brethren university located in Fresno. Additional FPU students are involved in the new church plant.

“We pulled together staff and interns for the re-launching in three weeks versus the nine months you’d normally expect for a church plant,” says Thiessen. “This has allowed us to release several young people into ministry opportunities.”

When The Grove was planted in 2007, MVCC and Butler Ave. MB Church, another Mennonite Brethren congregation in Fresno, provided the core group. The group targeted the Sunnyside community of southeast Fresno.

Over the next three years the church plant grew and organized small groups, children programs and community ministries. A year ago, The Grove commissioned Lowell and Melissa Ens as their first missionaries; the Ens family is serving with MB Mission in Peru. But the congregation had its struggles and in late June 2012 The Grove contacted MVCC asking for help.


“We met and came up with a plan and then implemented it almost immediately,” says Thiessen, pictured left at a fall MVCC Sunnyside service. 

For three Sundays in August, The Grove congregation worshiped with MVCC while meeting with MVCC Lead Pastor Fred Leonard and other MVCC staff to plan for the re-launch. MVCC Sunnyside held its first service Sept. 2 at Fancher Creek Elementary School.

Mission USA director Don Morris says, "It has been a great restart with a very positive atmosphere, great music, a good mix of young and older leadership and tremendous support from several entities.”

While the Sunnyside community has good and vibrant churches, Thiessen says, “given the size of the community, it can support more.”

Southeast Fresno is an area that is growing numerically. Just south of Fancher Creek Elementary on a 40-acre parcel of land is a new neighborhood that has developed in the past five years. According to Thiessen, the community is ethnically diverse, with white, black, Hispanic and Southeast Asia families.

As MVCC and MVCC Sunnyside anticipate restarting their ministry in southeast Fresno, Thiessen asks for others to join them in praying for “wisdom and the ability to penetrate the community in a fresh way.”


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