New Vision: A story of a pastor and a church choosing the hard path

The final gathering of Hope Crossing on June 4, 2021

Friday night, June 4, 2021, Lakewood Connects Executive Director Reg Cox and his wife Amy attended the celebration of 64 years of a Lakewood church, Hope Crossing, at their closing service. Reg serves as a mentor supporting pastors and churches so they can thrive… so, you might rightly ask, “how is this church closing a good thing?”

Pastor Matt Ellis, his wife Carrie, and family had been brought in to “transition” an older church to a new vision and future!  Transitioning Churches (older churches with a new pastor, worship style, and ministry plan) face a high risk of failure. Pastor Ellis and his leaders knew this as they started 12 years ago but things looked good as the church grew for 8 years. But over the past 2 years and through the pandemic a combination of trials converged on Matt and the church, and they realized that they had very little chance to move forward to a place of “thriving.” The decision was made to close Hope Crossing and sell the building, hopefully to another church. 

In April, the Hope Crossing leaders met with another church who needed a building. That church enjoys 250+ active members and shares the vision and core theological values of Hope Crossing. The building was sold to this church at an affordable price. Why? Because it never was about Hope Crossing or Pastor Ellis; it has always been about loving our neighbors and advancing the good of the community. Period.

The event that Friday night brought Reg and Amy to tears as story after story of changed lives were shared. The impact of Hope Crossing will be a testimony of God’s goodness and mercy for generations to come! In fact, the church lives on right now inspiring every church in the city!

But there’s something else you should know; in May, Matt lost his left eye during a routine surgery. So in one week Matt lost his eye, his job, his church and what can feel like his life’s purpose. But the bigger story isn’t about a lost eye or a church ending; it’s a story of a pastor, his family, and church that put the needs of their community first! This is a hard path, but it is the only path that leads us to become what church, faith, and community must become!

Thanks for supporting pastors like Matt and churches like Hope Crossing by supporting Lakewood Connects. Together we are rewriting the story of how faith can affect the greater good in a community and in our world! 

Old Church makes Young Hearts Soar!

Hand embroidered tea towels

Holy Shepherd Lutheran Church has been meeting on Kipling Street on the edge of an older Lakewood neighborhood for over 60 years and is comprised of older members who share a long history of worship, service, and love. What you need to know about them is that the positive impact of the church reaches far beyond their neighborhood with an energy surpassing the youngest churches in our community! 

For decades the church has “adopted” their neighborhood school, Eiber Elementary. Eiber students primarily come from families who receive government assistance, and the pandemic has been especially hard on them and their teachers. The educators were tasked with developing online curriculum, remote learning strategies, and handling dual class teaching situations… all new tasks, and they pulled this off in a short turnaround window! Nothing like this has happened in our lifetime and for educators the responsibility for the future success of an entire generation was laid on their lap!

In order to show appreciation for these incredible teachers, one of the members of Holy Shepherd made 50 hand embroidered tea towels and crocheted dishcloth sets for every staff member. These towels were distributed during “teacher appreciation week” along with a note signed by the members and staff of Holy Shepherd. It matters to have your sacrifice and hard work noticed and, we are all indebted to this church for making such a powerful statement representing the appreciation or our entire community!

It’s not the size, location, or age of a church or its member that really matters… what matters is figuring out what resources you have that could bless others in your community and then taking initiative to go to any length to translate the love we feel into the love others experience! That is a lesson we can all learn from Holy Shepherd… an old church that was able to make young hearts soar to new heights of joy!

Serving Churches that Serve the Community: Mission 98

Mission 98 partners with churches to share the compassion and good news of Jesus with people in motels, mobile home communities, and apartment communities in the Lakewood-Denver metro area.  One of the reasons I was excited to join the team at Mission 98 is a conversation I had with LuAnn Turner, Mission 98’s Founder and now-retired Executive Director. “Mission 98 is here to serve churches,” she told me. It took me a minute to digest that statement but the significance of it quickly sank in.  Mission 98 is a para-church ministry. As a former Lead Pastor, I was familiar with para-church ministries—often very good ministries—who approached me looking for volunteers or financial support. I get it. They were doing good ministry, and they needed volunteers and funding to keep doing it. 

But here was LuAnn turning that expectation on its head. Mission 98 doesn’t partner with churches so that churches can contribute to their ministry. They partner with churches to help them flourish in their ministry. So they
approach church leaders not asking for volunteers and funding—but asking how they are doing and how Mission 98 can support their ministry. Mission 98’s ministry is grounded in relationships, and that includes the churches that they partner with. 

There are two general ways they partner with churches. If a pastor wants to encourage his or her people to serve beyond the walls of the church and see how God is at work in the community, they can provide opportunities for people to serve and catch a vision for ministry in the community. As they serve in ministries such as kids clubs, teen nights, community meals, clothing ministry and special holiday events, they will get a taste of sharing the love and gospel of Jesus in relationships and there’s a good chance they will get hooked! They will get to know, love, and respect people who are different from them and that, too, will enlarge their vision of how God is at work in the world. They will also learn some simple but effective ways of caring for neighbors and sharing the gospel that can translate to many different ministry settings. People who serve with Mission 98 will raise the temperature of their church’s mission and outreach.

The second way Mission 98 partners with churches is when a church wants to reach out to people in a specific motel, mobile home park or apartment community. Mission 98 loves this because they believe God calls every church to reach out to love their neighbors and share the good news of Jesus. They think the best way they can help a church succeed in this ministry is in an ongoing equipping relationship. Mission 98 can share some vision, strategies, and lessons-learned from years of reaching out to people in apartments, mobile homes, and motels. They’ll invite that church to come and visit the ministries to help them develop their own vision. Fundamentally, they believe in the local church and we are more interested in seeing ministry multiply in local churches than they are in building up the ministry of Mission 98.

For more info about Mission 98: contact Fred Elliot-Hart or visit Mission 98’s website.

Mission 98 is a key partner in reducing suffering in Lakewood! 

Mission 98 partners with churches to share the compassion of Jesus with people in motels, mobile homes, and apartment communities in Lakewood through connecting residents with programs, resources, and relationships that transform their lives in positive ways. For years Mission 98 has linked churches to neighbors in need in April a group of fathers and their High School senior sons visited and Lakewood Connects, Reg Cox put them to work delivering furniture to a grandmother in Section 8 housing who was raising her 3 grandchildren. During the pandemic the needs of the most fragile community members increased dramatically. Thousands of people who never needed support found themselves without work, short on rent, out of food and struggling with transportation issues they have never experienced before. Elementary aged students in this mix suffered the most and the video here gives a glimpse into the connecting and partnership building role Lakewood Connects takes to link Mission 98 to churches in our city. Collaboration reduces suffering and when we lower suffering, everyone in our community wins! 

Our Everyday Neighborhood Hero: Bernadette

Family Engagement Liaison, Bernadette Marquez

Wednesday of Christmas week 2020, Lakewood Connects Director Reg Cox stopped by to visit Foothills Elementary School’s Family Engagement Liaison, Bernadette Marquez, at the end one of the hardest years in American education history. Teachers and students were at home for a well-deserved break by Wednesday, but not Bernadette. She was at school creating hope for hundreds of families and kids, and Lakewood Connects was blessed to be there supporting her!

Reg was there that day to deliver computer routers that Lakewood Connects partners had supplied to support student remote learning tech needs. Bernadette’s job is to create family connections, support student success, and link families in crisis with help. But in addition, she also manages “Foodies” (a pantry located on school property). Lakewood Connects was blessed to be part of establishing Foodies, which provides food, clothing, and medical supplies for the community.

Wednesday afternoon, December 23, the school cafeteria was full of wrapped gifts and boxes of food and turkeys for families dropping by to pick them up. Bernadette could have been home with her family but she was so fired up to be there instead, because the food and toys had been donated by local churches, neighbors, and businesses, and she couldn’t wait to give all of these goods out to her families.

When neighborhood organizations come together a kind of “synergistic goodwill web” forms and together they are able to solve problems and remove barriers to alleviating suffering. Bernadette’s reward is the encouragement she feels working with her neighborhood partners. What a little thing it is to build a partnership, but that little thing is changing the lives of hundreds of people in hundreds of positive ways! 

A little encouragement goes a long way… like the encouragement you’ve given to us at Lakewood Connects! Thanks for your support that ensures that our work and vision of building partnerships to alleviate suffering continues. This model of collaboration building, the re-envisioning the role of “church” and the tangible proof that government, education, business, and faith can be problem solving partners is catching on in other places nationally! Thanks for making this all possible!

Happy New Year!

The Board and staff at Lakewood Connects

Fruits of Relationship Building: Lift Zones!

Foothills Elementary Principal Josh Shapiro and Green Mountain High School Principal Colleen Owens

Lakewood Connects Executive Director, Reg Cox builds relationships with leaders from Government, Education, Business, and Faith because you can’t create breakthrough solutions to the problems of society without first building partnerships! Every partnership is formed one-on-one and upon these relationship foundations come problem solving ideas, plans, and vision!

Problem: Students in K-12 need reliable at-home internet, but many do not have it! Solution: Create a partnership with an Internet provider and set up “Lift Zones” at different facilities offering free internet for students/families to use from their cars in the parking lot!

Comcast, the School Foundation, and Lakewood Connects are finalizing the “Lift Zone” plan. A list of possible facilities were proposed, including 6 churches! The Comcast team was surprised that so many of the proposed sites were churches! That’s when the Executive Director of the School Foundation responded, “Churches are our most important education partner!”

It’s during these little moments when all of this relationship building pays off. It really did matter that we raised money for school projects, showed up for after-school tutoring, hosted Christmas Parties, sponsored Teacher appreciation events, and attended PTA meetings at a school where our kids never attended! You can’t improve a community if you don’t first build relationships! But we can’t build relationships that matter without your help! Thanks for supporting Lakewood Connects so together we can build relationships that change the future of the world!

To read more, check out the Denver Post story about Lift Zones.

Pantry Partnership Program Part 2

Just before Thanksgiving, we began this story about the partnership Lakewood Connects is participating in with two other nonprofits and Jeffco Schools to build, resource, and develop three elementary school pantries/hubs in Lakewood. In September we were awarded a $30,000 grant to support construction of these pantries/hubs and this is the next part of the story!

School district facility management approved the project and all three schools have determined their pantry/hub location, but more importantly, each school has received $5,000 in grocery store gift cards! What does this mean? This means that during the past two weeks school staff have begun giving families in need thousands of dollars in grocery store gift cards.

Situation: Many of these families are essential workers. That means they work in service industries and have a difficult time supporting online school for their students. As work hours have been recently cut for some of these families, they now face an unprecedented financial balancing act! The gift cards were something they didn’t expect and arrived at precisely the right time to transform their family Thanksgiving from a week of stress and anxiety to a time of great joy and blessing!

What’s next? How do we make these pantries/hubs sustainable for the long term without taxing school staff? The Lakewood Connects board is involved in discussions with partner nonprofit, Benefits in Action, and the Lakewood Faith Coalition to develop plans to build out a website, communication plan, volunteer sign up, training plan, and finally a food resource plan for these pantries/hubs. This long range plan will be built with trusted community partners and designed to support the five schools now in the program and the many others in the district that we will expand to support in the years to come! Look for upcoming Blogs that will update you on the progress of this work. Your insight/ideas/expertise in this program development are welcomed!

Pantry Partnership Program Part 1

Reg Cox with Benefits in Action Director, Jane Barns

Our world has changed over the past eight months in dramatic and challenging ways. The pandemic split us physically and ideologically and made election year tensions more divisive. The danger in retreating from society is that we can miss noticing the challenges of our neighbors and when we do see them, we’re too emotionally exhausted to find ways to help out!

Beginning last March, Lakewood Connects joined county-wide discussions with over fifty different organizations to build collaborative solutions for serious community food challenges. In September we were awarded a $30,000 grant to support construction of “Pantries” or “Hubs” at three Lakewood elementary schools. We’re excited to tell you this story in our next few newsletters!

Pantries/Hubs Goal? Build a sustainable network of school pantries at Lakewood elementary schools while merging district protocols with a vetted and trained support staff of community volunteers. The long range vision is to guide each “Pantry” into becoming a “Resource Hub” adding neighborhood leaders and community resources such as job enhancement, cooking classes, social emotional support, etc. A local pantry organized and staffed by neighbors and friends can remove barriers many in our world today face to realizing a thriving life.

On the 9th of September, two local nonprofits, Benefits in Action and the JeffCo School Foundation, partnered with Lakewood Connects to apply for a city of Lakewood Cares Act Grant. After the grant was awarded, our Director Reg met with school administration, the principals of the three schools, their leadership teams and the directors of both partner nonprofits to develop the next steps to setting up these Pantries/Hubs over the next few months. Realizing this goal is would be impossible to achieve in the middle of a pandemic without the support of dozens of leaders from multiple organizations that have stepped up to make this breakthrough plan a reality!

What has happened so far? School district facility management has approved the project, all three schools set up their contact leader to lead Pantry/Hub development and, most importantly, each school has received $5,000 in grocery store gift cards! (More about this part of the story in our next blog and December newsletter!)

These last few months Lakewood Connects has been involved in building and supporting partnerships that will bring solutions for some of the most nagging and heartbreaking challenges our community has ever faced. Know that this Thanksgiving week hundreds of families are experiencing a time of gratitude and relief thanks to your support. We can’t do this without you!

Lakewood and Jefferson County is struggling… what is Lakewood Connects doing about it?

reg's computer

The goal of building partnerships in Lakewood and Jefferson, County is a Healthy Thriving community. We believe suffering is unnecessary for our friends and neighbors and here are a few ways we are partnering with community leaders during to bring positive change to our city:

  • Racial equity: Lakewood Connects Executive Director, Reg Cox, serves on the Health Department’s Racial Equity and Food Policy Council. This past June the Health Department declared systematic and structural racism as a health crisis. We are proud to work to heal injustice in our city.
  • Food: Lakewood Connects is partnering with, Benefits in Action to develop two breakthrough programs; the first is called; “Food Delivery” and links church members to Benefits in Action to deliver food to over 350 addresses in our area for residents who cannot go to food pantry sites. For more info on volunteering, click here.
  • Helping Neighbors with Needs: Many in Lakewood are struggling but are unsure how and where to get help. Lakewood Connects and Benefits in Action developed a Navigator Program so trained volunteers can help people find support.
  • College Students Serve: 450 new freshmen start college at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood Monday 8/24. Lakewood Connects partnered with CCU’s Service office to introduce these students to 9 Lakewood Service Organizations helping the homeless, kids needing tutoring and other programs linked to loving our neighbors. We will sign up 100’s of students for yearlong service.
  • Tutoring: For 8 years Lakewood Connects has helped recruit 150 volunteers to tutor 150 students in local elementary schools. This year tutoring goes online. We are working to recruit tutors and develop connection activities for students and their families. Click here for information on volunteering with Whiz Kids.

Faith Response to a Crisis Stories – April 2020

Finding Food for a Community in Need – Concordia Lutheran

Concordia food drive 4.2020

After the stay at home order and ensuing economic struggles to our community, Concordia Lutheran Church was determined to continue being a Matthew 28 church. Concordia put out an urgent request to its congregation and to the Green Mountain community for food or money donations to help support the pantry at Foothills Elementary School, called “Foothills Foodies” and the Jeffco Action Center our community’s main Nonprofit supporting food supply for the city. The church members and the community around the church responded with an abundance of love and joy! As of April 1, there have been over $2,000 in cash donations and over 600 lbs of food donated. Concordia will continue this food drive every Saturday until all needs go away! Food donations can be delivered to Concordia Lutheran Church and cash donations on the website (be sure to choose COVID-19 Care Cases as your donation destination). Pastors: Gregg McCaslin and Patrick Moore


Church is OPEN! Stories about Calvary Belmar

Calvary Belmar has been active supporting Foster and Adoption families. Their worship each week is full of the Spirit and that Spirit has moved them into the neighborhood around them through acts like this:

  • Single Moms: They assist single moms with groceries cards, ground beef and recently distributed $1200 worth of Grocery Store and Walmart gift cards.
  • Food: The church supports the Action Center with volunteers and collects food for foster care families.
  • Prayer: Church leaders model a community pastoral prayer. Recently a staff member engaged a grocery store manager about praying for her. She began to cry, thanked the pastor and said; “We need it!”
  • Homeless: Local homeless friend, Rick, lives in his car. After the car broke down church members towed it to a shop and put him in a hotel for the weekend. Now he’s good to go!
  • Local Businesses!  The Church supports a couple of local restaurants by purchasing burritos then distributing them to front line workers at other local businesses! They also donated PPE for their employees. This is how “Love your Neighbor” is preached effectively today!

For more information, email Pastor Scott Morrison.


Mission 98 turning Bad Times into Opportunities for Connection

Mission 98 food bags 4.2020

Mission 98 is all about building caring relationships in high need apartments, motels and mobile homes. Recently, Mission 98 team members have focused on delivering food bags door to door. After the delivery they ask, “Would you like us to pray for you?” Almost everyone says, “Yes!” The “caring” part of their mission is all about relationship connections.

Each person has a story… they’ve heard stories about of the family member deaths, miscarriages, job losses and fear. Relationships help heal fearful hearts!  Just because the world is in chaos doesn’t mean we have to allow it to own and control our community! Contact LuAnn for more information and how to help.


Practical Marriage Advice for your neighbors from Vineyard Lakewood

Troubling times are especially hard on family relationships. Weeks into quarantine, every family relationship will show signs of strain! That’s why Vineyard Lakewood has put some helpful marriage tip fliers out in neighborhoods where members live! “Hope” is just wishful thinking until you make it tangible, achievable and practical!

Pastor Christian Summers 

LW Vinyard 4.2020


A small church taking on a big mission: reduce community suffering – Mission Lakewood

Mission Lakewood Church began to respond to the impact of COVID-19 immediately! They redesigned their website and social media pages to aim their members and friends towards opportunities to help.

Near the church is Foothills Elementary, so Mission is supporting their pantry, “Foothills Foodies.” This church of 100 brought 27 bags of food filled with what a family would need for a full day. The church has continued to be an important partner in their neighborhood supporting food drives and delivering it to families in need.

For Pastor Darvin Wallis, it feels overwhelming to consider how much need and suffering is bubbling just below the surface. But, as he watched people show up with bags of food he knew that; “God’s got this!” Three church member families have lost their jobs, and yet, all three of those families brought food for children in the community! Three families who were not sure how they were going to pay their mortgage were still buying food to give to others! That kind of love and sacrifice is irrational yet that’s exactly the sort of love Jesus equips us to have.

Pastor to Pastor – The Importance of a Spiritual Retreat by Pastor Mike Hooven

Hooven.5.2020 spiritualretreatBLOG

For several years now I have been taking some time in the late fall to get away on a spiritual retreat. This consists of going to a retreat center for 3 or 4 nights. There are many different places that are free or discounted for pastors to go to. One that I have gone to is free. Last year I went the way of an Airbnb in Steamboat Springs. I would not suggest this route unless you know the place is isolated. While I was able to accomplish a lot, I could have accomplished more in an isolated location.

I began this practice after my second year of ministry in 2017. This is my first church as the lead pastor; I was feeling overwhelmed, beat up, spiritually dry, directionless and so much more. Trying to get through this at home was just too hard. At home there were too many distractions and too many people vying for my time. I felt like I was constantly dodging arrows. I needed to rest and reset.

I have known of different retreat centers from my time in Indiana. There was a place in Danville, IN, on a farm that my pastor at the time knew about. We had a staff and spouse retreat at this place. The man who owned the farm had built it himself to bless pastors and their families with a place to go at no cost. You only needed to bring yourself and your food. This place was amazing, there was enough room to sleep 12 comfortably, a hot tub, huge fireplace, a pond to fish out of and so much more. But the best thing that it provided was a place of solitude. A place where you could get away from everything and get with God.

So when I needed such a place I began searching online and was fortunate to find a great little cabin on a ranch. I love that there are farmers out there with a heart to bless pastors. I was able to secure a reservation at the beginning of December in 2017.

After my first spiritual retreat, I was convinced that this is something that needs to be a regular yearly practice. I have determined that for myself, early October would be the ideal time. I say this for a couple of reasons, first it allows me time to be prepared for the upcoming holiday season, second it allows me to seek God’s direction for my church for the upcoming year. I am able to get a handle on the next years preaching calendar, hear from God about the things I need to focus on personally, pray a lot, sit in God’s presence and rest.

I don’t lead a large church, however, that doesn’t keep the enemy from trying to tear me down, frustrate me or attack me from all sides. As pastors we all need a time of rest, a time to relax and be in God’s presence and recuperate. We all know about Sabbath, we preach about it, encourage others to honor it, but how often do we truly practice Sabbath? We may be able to take a family vacation, but let’s be honest, the first two days you’re trying to relax and depending on your family relaxing may not be a possibility, then when you finally do get the chance it’s time to go home, back to your ministry and the demands that are a part of that.

When I returned from this year’s retreat, my heart was softer than it has been in a long time. God used my time with Him to challenge me personally and professionally. Today, I am convinced that I would not have handled this Covid-19 situation as well as I have been able to. I have been able to lead boldly and decisively, because my heart was already prepared.

I encourage any pastor to take a yearly spiritual retreat. You, your family and your ministry will be better because you did.

Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

Pastor Michael HoovenCloverdale Church of God