Edward’s Calvary Chapel draws young adults
EDWARDS – It is 7 p.m. on a Sunday night and the auditorium of Berry Creek Middle School is packed with young couples and 20-somethings, some looking fresh from a bike ride, others still with a race number from that afternoon’s triathlon pinned to their jersey.It is a typical service at Calvary Chapel Vail Valley, an Edwards church that has seen not only more people going to services, but more people getting deeply involved, volunteering with the church and joining the prayer team. Like some other churches in the area, it is focusing on the young crowd.”It’s a new season,” said Tommy Schneider, Calvary’s senior pastor. “We’re experiencing growth in all areas, especially the young adults. A lot of people are moving here and seeking community and fellowship.”Not only are Calvary’s three Sunday services filling, but many of the people who come are investing their time and looking for something beyond a weekly meeting, he said.”It seemed there used to be a lot of people who visited church, whether just vacationing or just tasting spiritual things. Now they’re hungry for it,” Schneider said.The church is focused simply on the Bible and genuine love and community, he said, but he believes it is God that is drawing people through the church’s doors.
Finding communityCalvary’s night service is key in creating a community for young adults, said Eagle resident Amber Cranford.”There’s a huge young population that goes to that particular service,” said the 28-year-old snowboarding instructor. “It makes it easier to attend because you can’t always get Sunday off around here.”Cranford said she grew up going to church in the South, but stopped going when she left home. “There’s an empty place in a lot of us. You try this and that, and in seeking it all out, God is what I found,” she said.She moved to the valley as a ski lift operator three years ago and started looking for a church.She is now involved in a women’s Bible study at Calvary. She said she had the choice of finding friends at the bar or at church, and at Calvary, she has found “deeper, honest relationships” and people who are “wholeheartedly interested in their faith.”Eagle-Vail resident Ann Stevenson, 30, said Calvary’s Bible-based teachings and genuine community is what drew her to the church when she moved to the area from Golden a year ago.
Her Christian faith had always been important to her, she said, and she was looking for a place where people were passionate about their faith.”I’m meeting people who are also new, people who have ended up in the valley,” she said. She said she also liked that Calvary had other activities and outreaches besides its Sunday services where she could really get involved. She attends services, small group Bible studies, is a member of the prayer team, and various get-togethers, she said.Planting roots in the valleyCalvary member Mike McClintock, 38, said part of the reason churches are seeing more involvement is that more people are settling down in the valley and starting families.He came to the valley in 1996 as a “ski bum wanting to live where there was snow,” he said, and ended up staying. When he and his wife, Krista, got married in 2000 and had two children, he said it made him really think about where he wanted his roots to be.
“I had a serious spiritual change,” he said. “Having a wife and baby made me see that there are more important things, like helping others and doing what we can for young people in the valley.”A friend invited the couple to Calvary, and they found what McClintock calls “a weekly charge.””The pastor delivers a message through the Bible that is applicable to my life to which I was blind before. It’s important to meet with our brothers and sisters in Christ regularly to share in the common experiences of life,” he said. “Whether being prayed for or praying for someone else, I enjoy hearing, seeing, and sharing hope.”Schneider agrees that having families encourages people to start going or return to church. The church has had 24 weddings in 24 months, he said, and many new babies, too.”It’s hard not to think of God in the face of birth,” Schneider said.Living the ‘ski town lifestyle’The church is not what many may think of when they think of Vail, Schneider said, and the resort lifestyle can be a bit of a distraction from spiritual things. Sporting events like bike rides or races are often held on Sundays, he said.
However, Calvary’s night service allows people to go to their races and still come to church.Schneider first came to Vail in the ’80s as a ski bum, he said, but even then the natural beauty of the area made him think about God. There is a verse in the Bible that says nature itself displays the attributes of God, he said.”I remember one time back when I was a ski bum, sitting on top of Vail Mountain and looking out, and I thought, ‘There has to be a God,'” he said.Stevenson said that in a ski town there is an emphasis on having fun. “It’s about living to the full in the physical sense. But sometimes you have to ask, ‘Is that it?'” she said.That is a common desire in everyone, Schneider said, but some have been drawn to live spiritually full lives, too.”This valley is full of people who are sick of dying,” he said. “So they’re climbing, hiking, riding. They just want to live.”Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.