TULSA, Okla. (BP)–In the early 1970s, Valley View Baptist Church in Tulsa was running 400 in Sunday School. Then the neighborhood began to transition and membership spiraled downward.
“When the church was founded as a mission of Nogales Avenue [Baptist Church in Tulsa] 52 years ago, the neighborhood was different than it is today,” said Verne McCabe, who has been Valley View’s bivocational pastor the past four years.
Although the neighborhood has changed dramatically over the past 35 years, when McCabe came to Valley View, the church began to reach out to the neighborhood with a Bible club on Sunday afternoons.
“We tried to minister to the neighborhood through the children,” McCabe said. “We have a van, and we bring in children for a worship rally, classes, snacks, singing and an object lesson.”
In the past three years, the church also has sponsored Vacation Bible Schools, which have grown each year, McCabe said.
“We didn’t have enough people to do them, but we’ve had other churches come in and help us,” he said.
The first year, the youth minister from First Baptist Church in Inola, Okla., brought a team of youth to do Bible school, which was attended by about 35 children. The next year, a group from First Baptist in Clinton came to help teach about 50 kids. And last year, a team from Berry Road Baptist Church in Norman reached 75 kids.
“Every year, it has gotten bigger and bigger,” McCabe said. “Bible schools were the feeder for the Bible clubs we started up every fall.”
McCabe said that during the three-year period, there were 15 professions of faith, and he baptized eight of them.
“It was worth all the effort,” he said, “but out of all that, we’ve only been able to gain one black family — a grandmother and her two grandsons, who joined the church.”
Since he’s been pastor, the church has had some growth, McCabe said, but with deaths, people moving to nursing homes or assisted living and moving out of the community due to job changes, they have had a precipitous decline.
“We decided we could do one of three things,” he related. “We could keep on doing what we were doing until we couldn’t do it anymore. We could hire an ethnic pastor as an associate and keep the church going on that basis or we could partner with a black church and share the building since we didn’t need a building that will accommodate 400 in education space and 200 in worship.”
McCabe said they came up with the idea of looking for a group to share the building, and he met Dale Rolland, pastor of Concord Community Church, a new church plant started about four years ago and meeting in the former Baptist Campus Ministry building adjacent to Tulsa Community College’s northeast campus.
“They have about 40 members on roll and a regular attendance of about 25,” McCabe said. “I visited with him about sharing our building, and we decided that would work.
“But after much prayer and deliberation, we decided instead of sharing the building, the best thing to do would be to gift the building to the Concord congregation.”
Valley View held a joint worship service with Concord in April, and the Concord congregation was scheduled to worship with Valley View at its location in May.
So it was a surprise to members of Concord when McCabe announced on May 17 that Valley View was going to disband and give its building to them.
“The pastor knew about the transfer, but his people didn’t,” McCabe explained.
Valley View’s last service was June 28, and the Concord congregation was to occupy the building July 5.
McCabe emphasized that Valley View is not going away; it’s merely changing its complexion.
“We hope Valley View will continue its ministry for the next 50 years.”
Dana Williamson is the associate editor of the Baptist Messenger (baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.