Business Plan, August 31, 2014
- Last Updated: Friday, 20 February 2015 20:49
- Published: Thursday, 19 February 2015 03:25
- Written by Wilma Zalabak
Business Plan, August 31, 2014
Grace Chapel Fellowship on Franklin Road:
And How Other Organizations Might Participate
Grace Chapel Fellowship (GCF) is a church to bless other churches. GCF started its first events on Franklin Road in 2007, and has since partnered with at least two other churches for ministry there each year. Franklin Road was chosen as a site for a federal five-year grant to improve a disreputable part of the city, and GCF partnered with the City of Marietta to build community there.
Wilma Zalabak, M.Div, was ordained as their pastor by GCF in 2000, and her personal mission and spiritual calling is “to preach the Word at every opportunity.” Since recognizing and creating opportunities to preach the Word is what drives Wilma, the purpose of GCF on Franklin Road is “to be present repeatedly among the same residents on Franklin Road, bringing solutions when God gives them, witnessing their successes, and being ‘ready to answer’ for spiritual and Bible questions.”
From the beginning on Franklin Road, GCF operated according to specific values and guidelines and has built a culture and reputation around the following:
● Aim for biblical literacy. ● Call out joy and love.
● Answer always with testimony. ● Depend on the Holy Spirit.
● Listen to the stated needs. ● Enlist the help of the receivers.
● Give no money. ● Leave valuables at home.
Services offered vary according to observed needs, from an African-American young adult Bible group, to classes of varied composition on communication skills from the Bible, to a number of different children’s summer Bible schools, Bible Fiestas, and winter Bible classes. We brought added value to the community’s summer, Christmas, and Easter festivities, as well as providing bread and produce for the youth to distribute weekly. Currently more than a dozen Hispanic children gather in a home for Bible stories once a week, a fluid audience listens and receives prayer during tailgate preaching once a week, and other community Bible groups are forming.
There are several additional project possibilities in which other churches could participate. There is need for an environmental stream clean-up project, a free medical clinic or the provision of specific medical procedures, and food pantry volunteer help, to name a few.
GCF’s purpose in bringing other churches to Franklin Road is “to bring together people with needs and people with matching resources in ways that provide uplifting and desirable experiences for persons bringing either the needs or the resources.” You, your family, your team, or your church could experience this.
Grace Chapel Fellowship Description and History
The purpose of GCF is to increase on the earth the worship of God in Bible reading, prayer, witness, vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ, and authentic connection with one another. GCF is a non-denominational (or multi-denominational, or trans-denominational), non-membership church to bless other churches, focusing on projects which increase biblical literacy.
GCF blesses other churches by raising the level of biblical literacy and awareness in the local area. It purposely meets at times offset from those of other church services and invites other churches into various mission opportunities on Franklin Road. GCF creates opportunities for churches to be part of something outside their four walls.
The purpose of Wilma Zalabak's Bible events on Franklin Road is not to change anyone's religion or church attendance patterns. She does demonstrate the Christian faith: merely Christian without additional tags, and positively Christian without negatives toward other religions. She focuses on three things: 1) Bible reading for biblical literacy, character building, and personal God-connection, 2) communication skills for better relationships, communities, and careers, and 3) sometimes possible connections between needs and resources.
GCF was begun by Wilma Zalabak in her home in 2000. The church then meeting decided to ordain Wilma as their minister, and her credentials are held by World Christianship Ministries. GCF started its first mission project on Franklin Road in March, 2007, a Bible Storytelling group.
The Bible Storytelling project opened the door to partnering with Marietta’s Weed and Seed federal grant project, adding to their repertoire of events a health fair, food giveaways, and Christmas gifting in association with Marietta Adventist Church (MAC). In the summer of 2010, the wearing of MAC t-shirts while engaging in service projects highlighted for the first time MAC’s tremendous involvement on Franklin Road under the umbrella of Grace Chapel Fellowship.
This partnership with Marietta’s Weed and Seed federal grant project also opened the way for Marietta First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), through its Disciples Mission Food Pantry (DMFP), to provide bread to families in need there on a weekly basis.
Franklin Road Description
According to the 2010 census, Franklin Road held 20% of Marietta’s population, or about 10,000 people, in 15 large apartment complexes. These apartments were built in the 1980s when bedroom communities were popular, so there is a much higher concentration of residences than is desirable today. Violent and drug-related crimes multiplied, the buildings fell into disrepair, and those who could moved away. Now the population is about 50% Hispanic and 50% African-American. Between 2007 and 2013, the City of Marietta invested the federal five-year grant and other funding in police involvement and community building on Franklin Road. Now the City has purchased three of the aging apartment complexes for razing to create potential for a more mixed-use corridor.
Franklin Road has excellent double access to I75, GA41, and other major thoroughfares. Its properties have trees, shrubbery, and even a stream, Rottenwood Creek, running through. Although most of the apartment complexes have a playground or tennis court, there is no public park or recreational facility within walking distance. Public green space is limited. Littering and trash dumping occur regularly. Some of the apartment complexes are investing in refurbishment, hoping to become a viable part of the new shape of Franklin Road.
Franklin Road has a community association and a youth organization named YELLS, Inc. which stands for Youth Empowerment for Learning, Leading, and Service. Both organizations are aware that their success in building community will have a tangible effect on the near future of that area.
GCF’s competitive edge lies in its willingness to stay and listen to the people and to speak its biblical message into the local need for community-building.
The stretch of Franklin Road included in this report runs parallel to I75 from Delk Road to South Marietta Parkway. It is home to several motels, restaurants, industrial warehouses, small shops, two daycare centers, a funeral home, and a fire station. The half-mile in the center between its ends houses most of the apartment complexes. Many of the residents like or need the walking-distance accessability to stores for basic needs. Moms with strollers and toddlers use the sidewalks while cars zoom past.
Many do find a way to drive to a church out of the area. Many of the Hispanics attend Catholic services or try other options new to them here in America. There are two churches or ministries in this section of Franklin Road, a large Kenyan congregation and a small Spanish-speaking Seventh-day Adventist group. It is estimated that half the African-American population and a smaller percentage of the Hispanic population do not attend any church.
Meeting Franklin Road’s spiritual needs requires that ministry be within walking distance, that it speak to the unchurched, and that one of its focuses be on improving the relationships among the people in the community. These characteristics are where GCF shines because we are on site, we go to the unchurched, and we teach communication skills. GCF is not in competition with any other church, but instead seeks to support its families in Bible reading and community building.
Organization and Leadership
Wilma Zalabak preaches the Word every Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the Citgo Food Mart, calling it “The Community Place.” She may develop other similar opportunities. The purpose of these preaching events is “to build a community around the Bible on Franklin Road, where people serve God and others with what they do best, and develop godly and growth-producing friendships.”
Groups of people meet together to learn and practice community, that is, to listen and talk together, around the Bible. Wilma Zalabak creates the curriculum for these groups and provides training in the communication and leadership skills necessary.
Wilma Zalabak has experience in starting and shaping groups of many kinds, including churches. Furthermore, she has taught communication skills for 15 years. She has made a special study of 1 Corinthians, the letter Paul wrote to teach the church how to be church in love and unity. Wilma’s language in these things is most recently informed by the strengths-based leadership movement, the missional church movement, and the small Bible groups phenomenon (see Selected Bibliography).
Besides commitment to Jesus and His Word, the action to which Wilma calls others in her preaching on Franklin Road is to gather a few friends, read the Bible, and talk together about it. Each of these groups has assorted volunteers who give leadership by providing food, meeting space, greeting, setup, and cleanup, and taking ownership of the success of their own group. Each group may choose to collect and distribute funds as it believes it has been guided through prayer to do. Each group may bring in other worship elements as desired. The core components of a group meeting are food, prayer, reading the Bible aloud, talking and listening with mutual respect and understanding, and more prayer.
Membership in a Bible group or GCF is by choice and informal. Ownership of the group processes happens according to each person’s strengths and talents. GCF takes its direction from God and from its people, seeking to keep communication open to both. There is no one human owner and no designated board of directors.
GCF honors copyright and publishing rights and expects others to do the same, though permission is freely given to distribute its media with appropriate copyright and publishing information attached.
Services Offered Currently
GCF has been blessed by God to offer specific services on Franklin Road. GCF partners with Franklin Road agencies and other churches to bring together these gifts. No arrangements have been made yet for perpetuity of these services, though most of them can carry on and work out their life cycles as they are.
The doctors and nurses from Marietta Adventist Church (MAC) offer health screenings at the Back-to-School event in July each year. They complete the Form 3300 for school entrance, which includes dental, vision, and hearing checks. They also offer cholesterol, diabetes, and blood pressure screenings for adults.
MAC also provides non-perishable foods and volunteers to distribute them at the large, community-led events: the Back-to-School event in July and the Holidays event in December.
Marietta First Christian Church and its Disciples Mission Food Pantry (DMFP) provide bread to give away at these same two major community events, one in July and one in December. This food pantry needs volunteers in various capacities.
MAC gives a Christmas party with gifts for the children and teens of YELLS, Inc., which is a newly started and growing agency on Franklin Road.
Marietta First Christian Church and its DMFP supply some bread to give away weekly. Recently the youth of YELLS have taken responsibility for distributing this bread and using it to bless their community.
The Atlanta Listenary, Inc., supplies Bibles to give away at all major events, as well as GCF’s preaching and teaching events. This company, which is Wilma’s for-profit business, always needs new contracts for piano lessons, piano gigs, and teaching or preaching engagements.
GCF does a Summer Bible School, with 25 attending in 2014, and some sort of Bible Storytelling event throughout the school year. GCF holds at least one on-going training class for adults on various topics of interest, and maintains tailgate preaching events at least once a week, and whenever further opportunities open. Recent changes in funding and city plans have decreased the availability of meeting places for these indoor events.
There is much room for additional organizational partners in the work on Franklin Road. Among many needs, ideas, and projects, here are four possibilities I envision that some organization could pursue. Research and plans are yet to be produced.
Rottenwood Creek runs through the environment of Franklin Road. Wilma envisions a stream clean-up and reclamation project. Even a small project could greatly improve the environment. A large project could create some refreshing green space and protect the stream from further damage.
There is a great need on Franklin Road for accessible medical services. Wilma envisions a free or reduced fee medical clinic, which keeps regular hours, offers minimal services on site, and provides streamlined paperwork, translation, and transportation. The primary needs are for common prescriptions, dental extractions, cataract surgeries, and a payment plan accessible to undocumented persons.
Wilma envisions a full-service park and recreation center, with community meeting rooms, perhaps with a chapel, perhaps with a children’s library, to be integrated into the new environment on Franklin Road.
Right now it would be great if someone were to create a mobile book and story ministry on Franklin Road. The children need books and they love stories.
GCF distributes flyers at community events, and places them in public spaces. The best communication is still by word of mouth from people who have been blessed by our services.
Telling Bible stories at the community-led events for Christmas and Easter and giving away Bible activity sheets to the children at those events are two more marketing activities in which GCF engages.
Tailgate preaching does its own self-marketing. People stop and listen from their cars. One young man said, “Keep it up. Real people see you.” Wilma trusts that this is true by God’s grace.
Recently we produced for giveaway a CD of Wilma Zalabak telling the Easter and Christmas stories along with other selected Bible stories. This CD seems to be quite popular among people who know us on Franklin Road.
First, please pray for GCF and its work especially on Franklin Road. Prayer is critical to the success of any ministerial enterprise.
Second, if your individual interests, strengths, talents, gifts, or experiences match with GCF’s work on Franklin Road, Wilma would love to listen to you and pray with you as you seek clarity regarding God’s will for your involvement.
Third, there is room for more churches and organizations to work on Franklin Road. Wilma envisions a church taking on a big project that would stand for decades as a testimony to what God can do through His people.
Osborne, Larry, Sticky Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Van Gelder, Craig, The Ministry of the Missional Church: A Community Led by the Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007).
Winseman, D.Min., Albert L., Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., and Curt Liesveld, M.Div., Living Your Strengths: Discover Your God-Given Talents and Inspire Your Community (New York, NY: Gallup Press, 2003-2004).