Concord church grows through friendships

After getting the typical 0.1 percent response from a 3,000-postcard mailing, the new Village Church in Concord instead focused its efforts on building friendships with people in the community.

The church is about 15 months old, and a recent outdoor baptism service drew about 100 people. All of them, Pastor Fred Whaples estimated, came because they know someone else at the church.

"One hundred percent of our growth has been because someone in the church has invited friends and neighbors," Whaples said.

Now the church has extended its vision of connecting friendship and faith to its community, where it regularly works with nonprofit agencies and holds events for its neighbors.

The church has hosted two of its four summer "Cinema on the Lawn" nights, where it provides free popcorn and cotton candy and shows a popular movie outside the church, which is in the former Hickory Furniture building on Davidson Highway (N.C. 73 West).

The remaining two movie nights will show "Kung Fu Panda" on Friday and "The Blind Side" on Aug. 19. Movies start at 8 p.m.

No one hands out tracts or church information, but church members who attend enjoy meeting new people, some of whom end up visiting the church.

At the end of August, the church will host its first "Zumba Fitness Party," a women-only community outreach that will raise money for the Village Church's youth missions programs.

Church member Jill Peterson, whose daughter Crystal Wedvick is a Zumba instructor, said she and some women from the church have become Zumba enthusiasts after trying a few classes earlier this year.

"It's just fun," Peterson said of the Latin dance-style exercise. "It's like you're going to a party with your girls."

Wedvick and fellow Zumba instructor Natalie Jones, who teach at Kidz Play Here in Concord, have volunteered to lead two hours of Zumba at the Zumba Fitness Party. It costs $15, and proceeds will pay for local youth mission projects.

Door prizes, which have been donated, will be given away about every 20 minutes. Peterson said anyone can participate, regardless of age, size or fitness level. Participants are advised to wear comfortable workout clothes and shoes and bring water.

Whaples said Zumba is another way for people to meet, build friendships and share a life experience.

If any attendees visit the Village Church, he said, they will find a "Starbucks on steroids" atmosphere, where people want to get to know each other.

"You won't be anonymous," Whaples said. "We hope that every person understands they are a distinct, unique individual walking through the door."

The Zumba Fitness Party will be 10 a.m.-noon Aug. 27 at the Village Church, 9280 Davidson Highway, Concord. For more information and to register, visit

The Village Church worships at 10:45 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sundays.