God is active. He is always moving, dreaming and planning and every once in a while, often when we least expect it, He lets us in on what He is up to.

That is the story of Commons. I first heard about Commons via a phone call one night at my house in Kettering, Ohio. I was serving as a youth pastor, and as I saw an incoming call from friends in Kansas City. I was excited to answer. Pam and Cary Decamp were on the other end of the line, and as pandemic restrictions were beginning to loosen up, they had called me because New Haven Church was ready to do something new. 

Pam serves as the worship director for the New Haven church and as I spoke with her and Cary, I was excited to learn that New Haven was going to launch a second service again. New Haven has historically had two worship services that mirror one another. This time however, the worship committee wanted to do something different. They wanted to start a service that would reach a new demographic of people—the unchurched and the dechurched. 

I gave Pam some names of people who I thought would be good to connect with and wished them well on their new endeavor. It was exciting to hear that New Haven was doing something innovative and new for the community. Many people are searching for a safe, spiritual home in our cities. Oftentimes as Adventists, we attempt to meet everyone’s needs with one style of worship. New Haven wanted to do something for the people who were still searching for that place to call home.

As time went on, people including Dave Kennedy, Michael Knecht and Pastor Douglas Elsey began meeting at the Decamps home, and as the team of people grew, so did the dream God was placing on people’s hearts.What followed was hours of conversation, visioning, prayer and study looking at new and innovative ways to do church. As the group grew to about 30 people, they moved the meetings to the gym at New Haven, and a leadership team was put in place. The new leadership team (how I came to be part of it is another story) worked tirelessly to build and develop Commons and on Sept. 10, 2022, Commons officially launched as the modern expression of worship on the campus of New Haven. 

The service is simple. It consists of a few worship songs, prayer and a 25-minute sermon. We keep it casual, and so far it seems to be working. Since its launch, Commons has become a vibrant and exciting expression of New Haven. The group has grown to a regular attendance of over 175 people, many of whom have not attended any faith community since before the pandemic. In addition, we have launched small groups, connect events, and have gotten involved in a number of service projects.

With the addition of Commons, it has been incredible to watch our whole church grow. We like to think of ourselves at New Haven as one house with two rooms. We are one church, with two expressions, united under one common vision to Love More. As we continue to create safe, open space as a community for more people, we cannot wait to see what God will do as we continue to follow His lead.

Kyle Smith is associate pastor at the New Haven Church in Kansas City.