“Fun and laid back” describes the Grass family perfectly, so it’s no surprise these are things they would look for in a church. Because of where they were in their faith journey, they knew they also needed “open-minded and practical.” “Dave and I both had been away from church for so long and had questions about our faith,” Cheryl said.
Dave and Cheryl both grew up going to church. Cheryl’s family attended a non-denominational church until her parents’ divorce when she was 11. Dave was raised Catholic, but stopped attending when he got older. Aside from Christmas and Easter, church wasn’t a part of their lives until their boys, Gavin (now 6) and Caden (now 4), came along. Dave and Cheryl felt church could be valuable for the boys as they grew up, so they started looking for a church that would be a good fit for all of them. They were living in Nashville at the time, and a friend told them about the North Point partnership church there. Dave was familiar with Andy Stanley’s practical teaching through his podcasts, so they visited and found that it was a great fit. When they decided to move to Jacksonville, the same friend told them about Access Church.
On their first visit, Access seemed to be exactly what the Grasses were looking for, so they kept coming back. “The people were welcoming and friendly, and the music was amazing,” Cheryl said. “A huge plus was that our kids loved it. Another was the practical teaching. Anyone can relate to the messages from Andy, Rich, and all the pastors. I really like inviting people to come check out Access because I feel like everyone can take something away from the messages.”
Joining a Starting Point Group seemed like a good place to begin connecting. They joined with friends Katye and Chris Bennett, and found themselves surrounded by people with questions similar to theirs, all in different places with their faith. “It was the first time we have ever been in a setting where we could be open about our questions and our doubts about faith and beliefs and not feel judged,” Cheryl said. “It caused us to have many conversations at home and really opened our minds and hearts to God.”
Their experience in Starting Point led them to a surprising decision. They decided to attend GroupLink and try a Community Group. As GroupLink approached, Dave and Cheryl felt hesitant about being in a group. “We didn’t know what to expect,” Cheryl said. “Does the group just sit around and pray and read the Bible? Will it be boring? Will we have things in common with others in the group?”
But there were more surprises in store. “We quickly found out that group is just time with adults – getting to know each other, being supportive, and doing life together,” Cheryl said.
In their Community Group, Dave and Cheryl have found a place they belong. “I didn’t think we would ever join a Community Group!” Cheryl said. “We stayed away from church for so long because we didn’t feel like we belonged. But when you have a feeling of belonging, it just makes you feel good, and you want to come back for more.”
Dave said, “We’ve got a good group. It’s not at all what I thought it would be. We have fun, and it’s comfortable. When you’re comfortable, you gain trust and become more open. When that happens, strong relationships are built.”
This is really what the Grass Family wants to experience with God, too, as they continue on their faith journey – to be more trusting and vulnerable and to have a strong relationship with Him. “We’re excited about our faith journey, and a lot of that is because of the people at Access,” Cheryl said. “Everyone we’ve met has been understanding, kind, and willing to listen and have discussions whether we are at church or in our Community Group.”
With connection like this, you can keep asking the questions that matter most, about relationship with Jesus. “We don’t have all the answers yet, and probably never will, but what we’ve learned by being a part of Access is making us want to dive in and explore things further. Access helps us enjoy and be excited about the ride!”
Posted February 9, 2017