People who visit the new Access Church, meeting at Bloomingdale High School each week, will find a congregation that shares the burdens and the joys of life.
The non-denominational sermons focus on issues that affect many, said Senior Pastor Jason Burns, who started the first Access Church in Lakeland about four years ago.
"We talk about things people actually deal with in their lives ... like marriage and money and fear. Our goal is to be a life-giving church … to be very helpful. We start with the assumption of 'what are people dealing with' and we ask a lot of questions of our church."
About 150 people a week have attended the first few services at the church, headed by Pastor Ryan Jordan, a 35-year-old husband and father of four who lives in Valrico.
"We are only three weeks into our launch and we are loving every second of it," Jordan said. "We've had a great response in terms of numbers. With church planting, there is no way to gauge who is going to come when you open. You kinda just throw the net out. We feel very encouraged by the response that we've had."
Access Church didn't start out as a church at all, Burns said. It started out as a Bible study for college-age young adults. "But, a year or so into it, it had become their church. So, we decided to call it a church."
From that, the vision has grown, Burns said. He said he and his wife, Lis, see the church expanding across the Tampa Bay area. Valrico was their first choice for a second congregation because it is well populated and in a good location to draw from the surrounding communities.
"One of the things we've done very intentionally is tried to create a church people actually like to attend," Burns said. "People feel very comfortable inviting their unchurched friends. We don't ask for money, so people don't feel they will be accosted for money."
An offering is collected, but no one is asked to commit to a specific amount. "If you show God's love in tangible ways, if you show people what a healthy church looks like, people just give," Burns said.
The church in Lakeland provided the seed money to start the church in Valrico. While neither has an independent church building yet, that's not necessarily a bad thing, Burns said. It allows the church to use its resources out in the community.
"This new campus, we were intentional about making it multi-generational," Jordan said. "We have teens and college kids and people in their late 50s, all sitting side by side, all worshiping God together. I'm encouraged to see the broad range of age.
"Our vision, our mission statement is that we exist to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ," Jordan said. "We want to do that in Valrico, FishHawk, Brandon and Bloomingdale. Our hope is to be a blessing to the community."
Jordan said the congregation will be participating within a month or so in packaging meals for a non-profit organization called Feeding Children Everywhere. "We'll be giving the meals to local schools where kids go home hungry."
The church will offer child care for all ages during its 10:30 a.m. worship services.
To learn more about Access Church and its philosophy, visit access.tv on the internet.