February 4, 2018 Pond Springs Church
Tucked away on a side street, known as Pond Springs Road, between Anderson Mill Road and McNeil, you will find the magnificent gem that is Pond Springs Church. The church is small, but God's presence is felt within the walls. To give you an idea of the size of this church, I will point out that on the church bulletin there is a note that reads "Denise's birthday is this Friday. Happy Birthday, Denise!" Now, some churches may need the last name so everyone knows "Denise who?". At Pond Springs, it's obvious that everyone already knows and loves the one and only Denise at this church. Since I am on the topic - Happy Birthday, Denise! I hope you have a wonderful day!!
With only slightly more observation, I believe finding the entrance to the church would have been easier, but I parked almost immediately as I turned into the parking lot without realizing that everyone else was parked around the corner in the back. I arrived right at 10:43 AM (service starts at 10:45 with coffee/donuts beginning at 10:30), so most everyone was already inside. I got out of my car and looked around. Should I go to the front or the back? I hear a woman speaking to her son who was sitting on a swing "I don't care" she said. "Let's go inside" she says as she is walking towards the church away from her teenage son. He sits there a moment then follows her inside. - So neat that this church as a playground outside for the kids. I follow behind walking into the 2nd door, which is this church's entrance. Almost immediately a woman approaches me and greets me and asked me if I had ever been to church at Pond Springs. I said "no" and she welcomes me and invites me grab a coffee and a donut and take it to the sanctuary. I figure, "I went to the gym today, and they do cut the donuts in half... half a donut won't hurt". So I decide to help myself to some complimentary tea and a half a chocolate donut when I am approached by a man from the church who asks if I live in the area. I advise yes, I live only 3 miles from the church. He welcomes me and says he is glad to have me. The same woman who already approaches me says "sit anywhere you'd like". My first impression before the service: WOW! I can't tell you how many churches I have visited where no one has said a single word to me and I already feel so welcome here!
Next a man approaches the podium. He has us recite this saying: "It's not about me; it's not about you; it's all about Him!" two times. The first time, I think was just so we all knew what we were supposed to be saying. This was a neat way to instill active participation into the service, and also set our minds straight so we all remember the reason we were all in the room. Next the screen displayed a hymn that I have never heard before, a version of Great are you Lord, but the notes are posted on the screen and I know how to read music, so I was able to sing along. The next song was another version of Great are you Lord, one that again I had never heard of but the sheet music was on the screen again, so I enjoyed singing along. The worship leader is a male with a low voice, and as a soprano I had some difficulty picking out higher notes to the songs I was singing for the first time. I feel like I should have apologized to the couple sitting in front of me, but all the same, I was enjoying the music. The next song I did recognize! For the next song, the worship leader moved his podium over near a man playing the guitar. This was yet another version of Great are You Lord (I'm starting to see a pattern), only this one I have heard on the radio from All Sons and Daughters. This time the screen only displays the words only rather than the sheet music. That's okay, I know this one. The remainder of the worship songs (and I apologize, I do not remember what else we sang, though I know we sang at least 3-5 others), the worship leader continued to move his podium back and forth from the center of the room, to over by the guitarist. Each time he had the podium in the middle, the song had the sheet music, and when it was near the guitarist, there were words only --- Except once. For one of the songs, he pulled up a karaoke-type video and we sang to that. Overall, I feel like we got a very eclectic mix of worship songs.
Next was preparation for communion. I feel like I really jumped the gun on disrupting the woman in front of me as I tapped her shoulder and asked if it was open communion or if closed for members only. Different churches do different things. Had I have looked at their website closer, I would have seen that it is open communion. About 45 seconds after I asked her that the man said "This communion is for all believers". I felt like slapping my forehead, guess I should have held off on asking her that. During communion, a man led the worship song from the back of the room a capella. The "bread" was a cracker that you are to break a piece off of. I tried to break it, but felt like I was taking too long so I just took a bigger piece than I had originally intended, but there was still plenty left. Feeling like I had missing the "breaking" part of "breaking the bread", I looked around for instruction. Do we partake right away or all together as a congregation. I see a woman in a yellow shirt silently finish her prayer and then partake of her piece. I mimic the behavior as the congregation around me finishes up the first verse of the hymn. Next a man introduces the blood and as the trays are passed, the congregation sings the 2nd and 3rd verse of the hymn.
After communion the pastor, who I later learned is Richard Singleton, began to speak. He did not have a microphone, but it was not needed. He spoke loud and clear. The sermon today was titled Small Church: Big Christ (the image above showed on the screen, I pulled it from their website). The pastor began his sermon by showing us a series of graphs, one that showed that 83% of all churches have less than 500 members and 46% of all churches have less than 200 members (Disclaimer: I believe these numbers are accurate, if not exactly to the percentage, they are very close). My impression of his beginning his sermon with these numbers was one of acknowledgement and understanding that this is a pastor who truly inspires his congregation that small does not equate to less. This point was brought home as he points out that there are many things that can be accomplished at Pond Springs that larger churches can not accomplish. He pointed out that large churches strive to connect with a small bodies within the church by creating small groups. He smiled let out and chuckle and said "Here, all we have to do is show up!" I look around and see, that's true. He points out the fantastic things the church has been able to do such as send out missions trip and I know that pastor has reiterated the desire for each of the members to continue going to Pond Springs each week, because they are making a difference. He ends by reminding the congregation to celebrate what God has done.
After the service was over, I had the opportunity to speak with several other members of the church - all who approached me first. - What a welcoming church they were. One lady, Cindy was her name, even invited me to their woman's Bible study. This invitation does not exactly line up with my mission that I feel called to perform, but it felt SO good to be invited and I was made to feel very, very welcome. As I was leaving,the pastor, Richard approached me and I had the opportunity to speak with him. I explained that I am just your typical church hopper. Through speaking with him, I was actively encouraged to do something I have been wanting to do for YEARS now... start this blog! And, I cannot think of a better more welcoming church to be the first blog entry!
So, in short, Pond Springs is a delightful church full of welcoming individuals who exude the love of the Lord. If you are in search for a church home in the northwest Austin region, I would definitely recommend you at least stop by and visit Pond Springs Church.
Below you will find information from the Pond Springs Church website that is intended to help first time visitors of Pond Springs Church:
A typical Sunday worship experience at Pond Springs:
- Casual dress is the norm
- A space that is warm and inviting
- A friendly, small-church welcome
- Call to worship with Scripture reading (shared participation by women and men in our call to worship)
- Blending of traditional hymns and contemporary music (we alternate between singing a cappella and with light instrumentation, such as guitar)
- "Offertory" (guests are not expected to make a financial donation, but this is a great time to pass along a Connection Card so that we can learn more about you)
- "Scripture Reading"/"Praise Prayer" (led by men and women)
- The Lord's Table (we practice a weekly Communion/Eucharist that is open to all believers...everyone belongs at the table)
- King's Kids (a class available during the sermon to kindergarten and under)
- A sermon that encourages, inspires, and equips (we cover series through books of the Bible, topical sermons, current events, special seasons, liturgies, etc. The sermon is usually about 25 minutes long and is provided in a casual, approachable style)
- A pastoral blessing of peace over the gathering to end the service
While this is what you might usually find during our weekly Sunday morning gathering, we leave ourselves open to creativity and change!
See You Soon at an Upcoming Gathering
- 13300 Pond Springs Rd. Austin, TX 78729
Sunday Morning Classes - 9:30 am
Sunday Coffee, Donuts and Fruit - 10:30 am
Sunday Praise & Worship - 10:45 am
Heritage (Retirement Center) Service - 12:30 pm
Wednesday Evening Gathering - 7:00 pm