Carpenter’s church grew out of Carpenter’s Kitchen, a soup kitchen which provides a lunch meal on Sundays served by multiple churches in Lubbock located at Broadway Church of Christ’s Youth Reach building on the NE corner of Main and Ave. S. The churches providing the meals, at some point, began having devotionals in the foyer before the meals. In 1997 Jim Beck returned to Lubbock from Kenya and began working as an Involvement Minister at Broadway. He then began going to the Kitchen each week to hang out and get to know people.
Bringing a missionary’s perspective to the ministry, Jim saw need and opportunity: the need for consistency (at this point different teachers from different churches were leading the devotionals each week) and an opportunity for community development in addition to benevolence, in other words, more family than food. So he approached the Broadway Elders requesting to take over the Kitchen devotionals to provide consistency (which naturally upset some of the other churches who enjoyed their opportunity to teach once every few months). So Jim began leading the devotionals. Around sixty people would join in the small foyer of Carpenter’s Kitchen each week. The local people were very involved in the devotionals – leading songs and participating in discussion.
In 1998 Jim quit working as an Involvement Minister and began focusing fully on the inner city. The early mission was “Creating Community”. The objective was to simply get to know people. At this time Jim also had several of his LCU students very involved in the ministry (Gabe Maudy, Brent McCay and others). They spent time hanging out at the Kitchen, on the streets and in people’s apartments. During this time, Pioneer Park Church of Christ contacted Rodney
Plunket about donating their building to the group that was meeting at Carpenter’s Kitchen. At the time Pioneer Park had just a few members meeting in their huge building in North Overton (located where Ramirez Elementary School is now located).
Broadway accepted the donation of the building and Carpenter’s Church began meeting there. At this time Scott Mack was the only Elder over Carpenter’s Church. The new property was an overwhelming acquisition and Jim quickly realized he could not do LCU and Carpenter’s by himself. On Jim’s recommendation, Broadway hired Brent McCay as a full-time minister at Carpenter’s church. Their first Mission Statement was “Creating an Atmosphere where God can do His thing”.
One of the first things they did in the new building was to “renovate” the auditorium. They tore out all the pews, podiums and other religious relics and replaced them with grungy couches. This was part of trying to create a comfortable place to hang out. For “church”, they had casual conversations about God. This early group was very indigenous to N. Overton. There was a mix of families, children, elderly (all in homes) and homeless individuals. Early on, like most inner city ministries, they had efforts focused on children and families.
In an effort to create the atmosphere where God can do his thing, they ate meals together, celebrated birthdays and holidays together – they did things to try to become family. In the early years, Jim and Brent would take turns keeping the building open on really cold nights in winter (a traditional still alive today). At that time there were many government resources available, including very accessible rehab, MHMR, AIDS testing, which were all services offered and represented by the state in Carpenter’s building. After a few years Carpenter’s had a second Mission Statement: “Ever Becoming a Community of Love”.
Around 2003 McDougal Companies began the revitalization project in N. Overton. Jim and Brent fought the project but ultimately lost the building along with their neighbors whose homes were demolished. Today there are extensive college apartments, homes, restaurants and a Wal-Mart in their place. Pioneer Park was bought and with the funds Broadway Church of Christ built a new building at 1916 13th ST.
Things changed in the new building. Without the neighborhood surrounding it the group dynamics changed. Many families and children no longer lived in the area, and so the group became more and more a homeless and transient group. During this time Carpenter’s had a third Mission Statement, realizing the overwhelming effects of chemicals on the community, it was, “Living Under the Influence of God and Nothing Else”. They had many discussions in those years on Recovery topics in relation to walking with Jesus.
The first eight years were relationship and trust building years. They grew slowly – for the first three years people would ask Jim and Brent each week if they would be meeting again the following week. The group was fragile early on, having a history of abandonment from people and churches, the people were slow to believe this group was staying and becoming their own.
After an eventful decade many had grown to trust Carpenter’s as their church; one that had been consistent and gained their trust and commitment. There were and there are always many new faces, some homeless, some students, some families from other churches who have become disillusioned with traditional church and have found an alternative in this unsophisticated community.
Around the end of the first decade Jim and Brent began passing leadership on to two young men, Chad Wheeler and Barrett Smith. Both were Bible/Ministry graduates from Lubbock Christian University and had been involved in Carpenter's Church as students. Chad began as an intern in the fall of 2007 and started full-time in January 2009 when Brent transitioned out of ministry at Carpenter's. Barrett began as an intern in the fall of 2008 and joined the team full-time as a missionary supported by South Plains Church of Christ in January 2010. Jim also transitioned out of his role at Carpenter's in early 2010 and began preparation to return to ministry in Kenya. A year later Chad's wife, Jaime, joined the team full-time as a missionary supported by Monterey Church of Christ and multiple individuals.
During those transition years there were also several new ministries that developed. Notably, Carpenter's initiated and hosted what was called The Nightly Prayer Vigil. This was an effort to provide a safe, warm place to stay during the winter months for the many who found no room in shelters or weren't allowed to stay for whatever reason. But without zoning to operate as a shelter we faced a serious dilemma. We realized, however, that as a church we could legally pray all night. And if people fell asleep during prayer, well that's an age old Christian practice also. With the help of dozens of churches providing volunteers to host on various nights we welcomed in over 300 individuals (between 30-60 a night) each winter for two years. Those were incredible, exhausting and blessed times.
We also saw the development of a community garden which became known as the Community Garden of Grace. We had four hard working years of growing relationships and fresh veggies. But in late 2012 the garden was overrun with some ferocious weeds and we made the difficult decision to shut down the garden for a time to kill the weeds (along with everything else). Lord willing, we hope to begin again some day.
Another major change came in January 2011 when Carpenter's Church became a distinct 501(c)(3) entity headed up by its own Board of Directors. This was a natural development supported by both Broadway Church of Christ and the Carpenter's Church community. The hope from the beginning was to see Carpenter's grow its own indigenous identity and leadership and we have been blessed to find both. We continue to be served and led by a wonderful group of leaders, both on the board and in our community.
more to come...