Charley Scandlyn, a father of seven, longtime Menlo Church pastor and former executive director of the Ravenswood Education Foundation, has started a new church – and intends to breathe fresh life into the former First Baptist Church site at 1100 Middle Ave. in Menlo Park.
He worked since March to recruit a staff and volunteers from the community to prepare the facility for the new church's first service, held Sunday, Aug. 19.
"It's like planning a wedding, except you do it every week for the rest of your life," he said.
Scandlyn calls the church New Community Church, a name he said encapsulates three of the church's goals: to bring in new people, develop community and offer a religious place for individuals and families to worship.
Scandlyn is no stranger to Menlo Park. He holds a master's degree in theology from Fuller Seminary, and came to Menlo Park in 1991, when he began work at Menlo Church, then called Menlo Park Presbyterian Church.
In 2007, he was founding executive director of the Ravenswood Education Foundation. He has coached youth sports in the community, and his kids have attended Menlo-Atherton High School.
About two years ago, the Baptist congregation that previously occupied the Middle Avenue church had grown fairly small – at the time, it had only about 10 congregants, Scandlyn said. Its members asked the Baptist denomination for support because they didn't want to see the church site redeveloped, he said. Aaron Sciford worked with that church as interim pastor until July, when its last service was held, Scandlyn said.
He began to talk to the Baptist congregation and agreed to switch from a Presbyterian to a Baptist ministry, but to start a new church there. (The shift to a new denomination has been "quite seamless," he said.) Starting earlier this year, he began working as pastor to build up a new congregation, which will be affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA denomination.
He compared the new church to a startup, noting that he's developing many of the church's programs from scratch. He said he's received a lot of support and volunteer hours from people in the community, who have assisted with landscaping and refurbishing the facility.
He also has a staff working on developing curricula and community outreach plans, and ironing out financial details: Jaron Cheung is associate minister of youth, young adults and community engagement; Alice Siu is part-time director of infrastructure; Aisea Lupeheke Taimani is associate minister of worship; and Ever Turcios is part-time associate minister and manages the church's finances and accounting.
The church shares a location with the New Beginnings Preschool. Scandlyn said he's focused on helping the preschool thrive and serve the community.
Unlike some other new churches that operate much like startup companies – in which investors essentially tell the churches they must grow fast or they will pull funding – Scandlyn said he's not concerned about such restrictions from the backers of his new church. (This trend was recently the subject of a podcast series by Gimlet Media and featured in a recent episode of This American Life).
"What we're doing is building a community, not a corporation," he said. "We plan to be in it for the long haul."
So what does he hope to see his church evolve into? In three to five years, he said, his vision is: "a diverse, loving community of people that's vibrant, growing, following Christ in deep ways and making a difference with the real needs of the area."
Services are held weekly on Sundays at 10 a.m. at 1100 Middle Ave. in Menlo Park.
Visit the church website for more information.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story misspelled Charley Scandlyn's name. It is Scandlyn, not Scandlan. Jaron Cheung was also reported in error as Jason.