About the Westside Vineyard and Plans for Succession of Lead Pastor (extended)
The following was developed to help serve the various potential conversations and connections which we believe will best serve God’s purpose for both the Westside Vineyard and its’ future Senior Pastor-Leader.
Short History of the Westside Vineyard
1974 - Kenn and Joannie Gulliksen moved to the Westside of Los Angeles to start a new fellowship which God soon led to identify as the "Vineyard" (… which would later emerge into a movement under John Wimber’s leadership when Kenn and John left association with Calvary Chapel.)
1981 - Kenn moved to plant another church and the Westside Vineyard transitioned to the pastoral leadership of Jim Kermath.
1991 - the remaining church was struck with an unplanned and more difficult loss of the senior pastor. This eventually led to Associate Pastor Brad Bailey becoming the Lead Pastor.
During the years that followed, the church restored solidity and a forward-looking vision, averaging about 300 lives in weekend gatherings.
2000 / 2001 – After decades without a facility of its own, the church finally purchased a property in Mar Vista… adjacent to Santa Monica. Both the process and the property were unusually positive, and the church began to grow in part from the dynamics of a more local and engaging presence.
2002 – Opened The Coffee Connection, a full time coffee house / café. (Open Monday through Saturday 5:30am to 9pm). This business is now thriving with 50 to 70 patrons packing our indoor / outdoor space at nearly all times.
2004 – Launched Comunidad Viña – Spanish language congregation (same as the more commonly used name La Viña). Currently averaging about 70 in attendance and growing.
2011 – Launched The Learning Zone, an after school program for under-served kids from first grade through 7th grade. Serves about 28 children and their families with an average of 70 or more on a waiting list.
2018 - Launched a new church - the Mid-City Vineyard - led by one of Westside Vineyard’s Associate Pastors and a team of about 40 members. This plant was formed by the ARC large launch process and publicly launched in January 2019.
2019 - Over the years, as the original generation has grown older, there have been very intentional investments into the next generations. This has naturally led Brad to begin preparing for his own succession to a younger leader.
Current Picture of the Westside Vineyard
There are many ways one might want to describe the nature of a church. The following are some which we hope will serve clarity for one called as the next Senior Pastor-Leader.
The “Westside” of Los Angeles is made up of several sizable cities / areas including Santa Monica, Culver City, Venice Beach, Marina Del Rey / Playa Del Rey, Palms, West Los Angeles …and an area known as Mar Vista at the hub….which is where the church facility is. The total population across this area is between 400,000 and 500,000. (More here.)
The Westside has long been one of the lowest in churched faith… with about 3% attending churches.
While there is a strong quality of community that runs through each area of the Westside…there is also a larger than usual number of lives who come, usually in young adult “first career” years, to live for unknown seasons of life…often enjoying the community…but if they become married and begin families, are usually challenged by the dynamics of cost and distance from family…leading many to move at such a juncture.
Much of the entertainment and tech-media industry has moved or located to the Westside, due to its natural qualities, and this has brought more younger creative professionals and notably rising housing costs.
The Westside is arguably at the forefront of the increasingly dominant post-Christian culture…in which fewer lives tend to consciously think much about the Christian faith or church as something that may provide the answer to their deeper needs. In addition, it has become increasingly liberal in political viewpoints, which can bring a mixture of associations with the “Christian faith” and “church.”
While some of the wider cultural shifts are common to any urban environments in our country, what some may find unique from some parts of the country is that there is less background in churched culture. However, while one may feel the increasing secularization of younger lives in particular, spirituality in various ideas and expressions has been a part of the west coast culture… which serves to maintain a space for spiritual discussion.
In the midst of the above, the Westside Vineyard has found itself sitting at the center of the Westside… more likely known in positive ways; for the uniquely coffee house so many enjoy (study at, meet at, etc), services to the community, low political associations., etc
The following are just a few characteristics which may help understand the church’s “culture.”
Committed and Pursuing Multi-Generational Community
We had tended to be younger than some of the Vineyard churches simply by nature of the leaders and core. As the church became more centered in “forty-something” years, a very significant development of the “next generation” took place which led to forming an young adult distinct worship service and community. After several years, we faced many challenges including the growing alternative of some new churches more defined by twenty-something dynamics, our young adult community aging into “thirty-somethings” which would affect the long term needs of younger adults, and the growing gap of the general adult gatherings aging into a “fifty-something” center. Based on seeing that a multi-generational quality was 1) the only sustainable reality for any longevity, and 2) a quality we held which was rich and appreciated by many, we re-integrated the community. Following a loss of some young adults through the initial hard process, we are now seeing a notable new season of young adults growing in a very healthy and more integrated manner….including their emerging leadership in various ministries. Continuing this process is at the forefront of strategic choices.
The Westside Vineyard is a bit more diverse than usual (and never as diverse as we believe it could be.) This tends to include ethnic diversity, socio-economic diversity, generational diversity, and political diversity.
The Westside Vineyard began in an era when young lives found Christ more associated with challenging but positive values… which a contemporary church provided an opportunity to engage and even connect in community around. The nature of the Vineyard has also been that which has less of a common association or identity in both traditional Christian culture as well as the general culture at large. As such, upon acquiring a facility which situated the church in a highly visible public corridor, a more diverse set of backgrounds has tended to come explore the church. This has notably increased both those who have been in highly “churched culture” as well as those quite undefined in their spiritual search. The more “churched cultured” often bring more political and religious “baggage.”
The diversity of the church is a beautiful testimony of finding unity in Christ…as most understand that faithfulness to Christ transcends embracing any single political affiliation in itself. However, it is also challenging as more come influenced by what might be deemed the cultural ideas and fears of the “Christian Right.” These are rarely expressed but nevertheless are known to affect the mindset of some.... in contrast to many others who likely fear “religion” in quite different ways. While this can be a challenge, many would likely say it is what they find joy seeing transcended… as Christ brings that which keeps all such matters in a healthy perspective.
The natural inclination of the current Senior Pastor has been to correlate our larger weekend gatherings to reflect less of an “insiders meeting” and more along the lines of when Jesus gathered on seashores and hillsides and spoke to disciples and those who may have just begun as curious. We have not been drawn to a need to create a distinct “seeker-sensitive” style, but rather to speak in such a way that “we include everyone in the conversation”… limiting the dynamics which can create “insider” and “outsider” or “us” vs “them” dynamics. We simply want to gather as if our unchurched neighbor was gathered with us.
High Trust / Low Divisiveness
The Westside Vineyard has enjoyed a high degree of general trust for the leadership. Over the past 25 years we have navigated the purchase and transition to a building, various staff transitions, and cultural changes… without controversies of integrity or division. This may be due in part to steering more thoughtfully rather than making many quick short turns and changes which can diminish trust over time. We have tended to consider underlying changes that are needed to be made, and to do so in a manner that is thoughtful and less inclined to simply chase the “new” things.
Vineyard Movement Association and “DNA”
While the Westside Vineyard may have been the first Vineyard, initially shaped by Kenn Gulliksen more than the emerging and defining influence of John Wimber, that changed decades ago and any distinction (which was minimal) is non-existent. Like many Vineyards, many who come know nothing about the movement. We do not refer to Vineyard movement references as if people all would know them… nor do we avoid wanting them to know. We value referring to the larger Vineyard movement to give people windows into what the great world of the movement we love. This may include references to conferences, class offerings of Vineyard teaching, VI classes, etc.
Most people who come to the Westside Vineyard from other Vineyards express how familiar it feels. This appears particularly true when the comparison is more with what some refer to as “classic” or “centered” Vineyard. Some have referred to the Vineyard at large as having some churches on the “seeker” end and some on the “renewal” end. The Westside Vineyard, while being more centered in our practice, has found some value and engagement in aspects of each of these aspects and tended to avoid publicly defining ourselves in an adversarial position to these (we would not denounce seeker-sensitivity or renewal orientation as each may reflect honorable intentions, even while we would not choose to shape our ministry in the same way).
As for involvement with the movement, we have long held a strong commitment to actively support the movement. This includes our entire pastoral team attending regional and national gatherings, attending area meetings, contributing the requested 3% of our resources to the work of Vineyard USA, and serving the wider health of churches when needed. Our current senior pastor has served as the Area Pastoral Leader (and currently is) as well as the leader of the Vineyard India Partnership. Other staff serve on the regional children’s and youth teams.
Our worship remains fresh through the various emerging leaders, and team members bring genuine heart and work. The choice of worship songs includes both old and new Vineyard published songs but far from exclusively so. Currently we have two primary worship leaders, one who is also our Youth Pastor and one who receives a small stipend as he has a full-time career. We have also had some growing gifts among youth which has allowed them to develop strong youth worship and also begin to participate in leading in the main adult services.
For many years the Westside Vineyard maintained an unusually strong and well participated group life…at one time as high as 70% of those attending on weekends. However, this has declined over the recent decade…likely due in part to having had predominantly younger adults in earlier years with whom community is easier to pursue and the general towards more who are more casual attenders of weekend. However, we have never allowed the significance of group life to lose its vitality. We have continually looked at fresh initiatives, such as community wide focused groups, to keep at least a solid number of groups and positive experience in those groups. Our pattern has been to have groups run 9 months of the year…taking a break in the summer…and having a fresh launch promotion every quarter. Currently most of our groups are doing a focus that parallels our weekend series through the Gospel of Luke. However, we have recently also expressed a new wider freedom for more diverse groups as well. Currently there are about 10 regular weekly groups and plans to re-launch Alpha in the summer.
In past years we became active in servant evangelism type ministry. Such serving oriented projects have become limited. Recent years have included holding an annual series of free movie nights for young kids in the neighborhood, an annual free car wash, and a few other events. However, while the breadth of outreach events has become more limited, in other ways we have developed a far greater engagement with the community due to having the full-time coffee house filled with local patrons, the after-school Learning Zone program, and various community meetings held at our facility.
The Westside Vineyard developed a strong commitment to global missions early in its life. This has included a commitment to give 10% of our contributions to that which serves beyond out communal life (that ten percent does include our commitment to the Vineyard movement, local outreach initiatives, as well as various local and global partnerships). Our primary focus is Asia and the closed countries within it…and the emerging Vineyard movement in India. We generally have one or two small trips each year to one or both of those areas.
While Brad has long been the primary “voice”… he has always enjoyed sharing the teaching with the other pastoral team. He will generally shape a series… often with the team…and then speak on about 70% of the weeks.
It is difficult to “define” a preaching element as there are many different qualities and approached which can be deemed “good.” Generally speaking, we tend to take preaching as a significant element to prepare, have maintained strong teachers, and had a tendency for people to express that the teaching / preaching is one of the qualities which draws them to the church. A primary quality that we have sought to value is that of speaking inclusively to those with limited background or belief, not by being “lighter” in what we speak about, but in speaking to make sense to those who do not yet believe.
In 2000 we purchased the property of an old iconic large Italian restaurant with approximately 10,000 sf building and two moderate parking lots. This property at the intersection of two major thoroughfare street which run through the whole of the Westside (and beyond) … and through which over 100,000 cars pass each day. We renovated the building but maintained the overall structure and style. The former main dining room was developed into the main general use / sanctuary. The Kids Church area was developed into a “park” theme. There are two smaller buildings in one of the adjoining parking lots which serve primarily for high school and middle school (as well as various mid-week groups and rentals.) In addition, there is about 1500 SF of office space upstairs and 1,000 sf of high ceiling basement downstairs which serves to store all functional equipment. The space offers a special quality as it brings old world beauty combined with new world technology. The overall functional experience is that of being well proportioned in seating, parking, and children’s rooms, for gatherings of about 210 adults or less.
In the past two years we have completed about $200,000 of large updates including complete upgrade of sanctuary staging / audio-visual / lighting; replacement of all carpet and chairs, complete renovation of the kitchen; and all new exterior signage.
The Westside Vineyard has had an unusual longevity in its staff team… and staff have generally expressed an unusual quality of enjoyment working with each other. Each hiring has tended to be done thoughtfully and led to many years of mutual appreciation. The few transitions in recent years which have served to help meet budget changes have come with good natural and positive circumstances.
We have sought to honor that paid ministry roles should be “more than just a job” to the employees… that it is best to compensate those self-motivated rather than use compensation to motivate. ….and as an employer to also recognize that “it is a job”…and to not neglect practical job needs for the sake of being related to ministry.
The current team includes a Pastoral Team of six, an Administrative/Facilities Team of 4, and 1 Café Manager (in addition to several café barista employees). The following is a list of the current roles:
Lead Pastor (Communal Teacher, Team Leader and Coach)
Pastor of Operations (All Operations, Hospitality, Worship and Prayer Ministry, Missions, and Young Adult Community)
Pastor of Community Life and Care (Newcomers, Group Life, Marriage & Family, Women)
Pastor of Youth (Worship Leader)
Pastor of Children & Middle School (Director of the Learning Zone)
Pastor of Comunidad Viña (Spanish language congregation) – Part Time
Ministry Support Manager (Office Management, Facility Usage)
Business Manager (Accounting & business needs of church and café)
Assistant Facilities Manager - Part Time
Worship Leader - Small Part Time Stipend
Manager of The Coffee Connection (Café) – Three-Quarter Time
The Westside Vineyard has enjoyed many years of relatively stable financial means. We have tended to be make changes when needed in a timely manner in order to avoid the type of financial “crisis” which would harm the ministry, or those lives involved. This has protected our focus through changes including the more challenging response to the 2008 / 2009 national financial crisis and an equally challenging loss of an unusually large proportional contributor. Currently such adjusting has involved preparing for the supporting a new church plant that involved a large team of contributors.
In addition, the entire facility was already completely paid for… while having likely more than doubled in value since its purchase 19 years ago.
The current annual budget is $1,042,535.00. This would appear to be a reasonable budget based on current giving patterns. Our Coffee Connection café is now hugely successful as a means of creating connection with the local community at large and its income is nearly covering all related expenses, including staff, and related portions of utilities, custodial work, etc. Comunidad Viña congregation’s giving is covering all related exposes of past-time pastor and set up. 2018 was the strongest financial year for both of these entities.
We have also been blessed by various large “special” gifts over the years which if deemed not to be recurring in nature, we have set apart from operating use. Such funds are now total over $1 million and are informally designated by the Board for appropriate levels for: Capital Expenses (Future facility and equipment repair / replacement); Buffer for operational deficit (providing grace if changes required period of transition); Expansional (future establishment of new church plants in other areas of Los Angeles).
This provides a significant financial means of grace for a succession in which it is not uncommon to have some loss before greater growth.
Current Sense of Outlook in Church Community
The general focus is fresh and forward looking.
The younger adult lives are quickly growing as a expanding community. A strong core are hosting a mid-week group, monthly meals after service, as well as regular social events.
The senior pastor has recently stated in public and writing the following defining priorities:
In the next 5 years, we are partnering with God:
To connect an increasingly secular culture with God…with a goal to draw 100 more lives into active connection to Christ…in which ultimately at least half are those with no prior roots in “Christian belief.”
To live and model being united in God across racial, generational, and political differences…embodying that which our world so desperately lacks and even God’s people are challenged to show.
To transition the leadership of the Lord’s Westside Vineyard Church to the next generation…while investing dynamically in the generations that follow (children and youth.)
To plant at least one more church in the Los Angeles metro area… which will provide our Vineyard DNA in another hub to serve Los Angeles in the years to come.
To bring God’s blessing to those that the powers of this world deem most powerless…solidifying and expanding the Learning Zone to raise the future of local lives who know and honor God… supporting the emerging of Vineyard churches throughout India and those daring witnesses of Christ throughout southeast Asia….and so much more.
ABOut the search process
Our goal is to begin to engage those who may provide a connection to someone who will have the gifting and call to lead the Westside Vineyard. This is a process we want to begin now… but recognize that we are not able to control the timing of such connections. Brad’s desire is not to be too slow…knowing that the time is now to begin the process of transition…but neither to be too fast…as we are aware of many who have expedited departures and the choice of successors to serve personal plans.
Initial contact and conversations may likely be with Brad - the current Senior Pastor. A Succession Team that includes Associate Pastors, some Elders, and some representative committed members will review those identified as potential new Senior Pastor-Leaders… followed by varying degrees of interviews, visits, and ultimately prayerful mutual discernment.