After years of doing urban ministry, a 2010 conversation with gang-affiliated teens led Darryl and Stephanie Answer to contemplate what it would look like to live in a neighborhood, follow Jesus, get to know their neighbors, join what’s already going on, and see what the Spirit does. In 2011, they attended the very first CCDA Immersion and were pleasantly surprised to discover people who were asking and answering these same questions. Their time at the Immersion was so impactful that they considered moving to Chicago. However, they both felt that God had called them to Kansas City, Missouri. So, they returned home with a renewed passion for the work they’d been doing for years.
In 2013, the Answers moved into the east side neighborhood and started getting to know their neighbors. They joined the neighborhood association, visited churches, and connected with the local teens. They quickly realized that there weren’t any gathering places (e.g., restaurants, coffee shops, etc.) in the community, so they created their own in the local park with a grill. These outdoor gatherings eventually evolved into monthly potlucks that rotated from home to home. They even started a playgroup for families in partnership with local nonprofits. The playgroup provided a safe space for children to play with each other while providing parents with an opportunity to connect with other parents. After about 3 years of building relationships with their neighbors, Darryl and Stephanie decided to start inviting people into discipleship. “We started in our home with one neighbor and her 2 kids back in 2016,” Stephanie shared. “And that’s when we say New Community Church began around our dining room table with one neighbor.”
Today, New Community Church is a flourishing group of worshipers who are committed to valuing the east side community. As church planters, Darryl and Stephanie had many opportunities to learn how to work on a shoestring budget, adapt to last minute changes, and expect the unexpected. Because of this, they felt they were uniquely equipped to navigate the rollercoaster ride of doing ministry during a pandemic (a feeling probably shared by many CCD practitioners). Their 6 ½ year old daughter, Jaidyn and 4 ½ year old son, Kian, only experienced minimal interruptions in programming at their school and daycare. This allowed Darryl and Stephanie to care for others. They shifted to live streaming Sunday services on Facebook and hosting weekly fellowship and prayer time via Zoom. The Zoom gatherings were a sacred space where people were able to decompress. Because of the relationships church members had developed from being neighbors, they were even able to do regular gatherings in backyards and on front porches that helped them stay connected. In the midst of all the heaviness the COVID-19 pandemic has brought so many, New Community Church experienced joy and growth. “We baptized people in a parking lot last summer!” Darryl said, “I borrowed a horsetruck.”
Darryl and Stephanie are just two out of many Kansas City area CCD practitioners who are excited to welcome the CCDA family to the 2021 National Conference in November. “Kansas City is an innovative city that’s continuing to deal with its past. There’s a racial awakening, a move of justice. Because of the pandemic, it’s almost like we have a fresh start. As a city, there is this spirit of reimagining going on right now. We want people to help us reimagine,” Darryl said. Stephanie added that CCDA conferences have always been like a family reunion and that she’s excited to see old friends and to hear stories of the creativity people have tapped into in response to the pandemic.
Of course, no conversation with Kansas City residents is complete without a list of their top spots for bar-b-que. Their list includes Gates Bar-B-Q, LC’s Bar-B-Q, and Q 39. However, Stephanie wants it to be known that Kansas City has good tacos, too!
Author & Interviewer: Nilwona Nowlin (CCDA Cohort 4)