Refusing to Let Challenges Hinder Growth

May 29th, 2011
Dave and Becky

Dave Stambaugh, Pastoral Associate at Hollywood United Methodist Church, is responsible for spiritual formation, adult education, membership, pastoral care, and small groups. He recently talked with Betsy Hall about the church. Here are some highlights from that phone call.

Hollywood is a diverse urban church that is a growing, vibrant, and progressive congregation in the heart of Hollywood. Worship attendance has been steadily growing for the past five years, currently averaging about 300 worshipers, with an average age of 39 and a strong children’s ministry. The church worships at 11 a.m. in the heart of Hollywood, one block from the Kodak Theatre. Rev. Kathy Cooper-Ledesma is the Senior Pastor at the church.

With the growth in worshipers comes the challenge of where to park. The church’s parking lot has only 120 spaces, so Dave says it gets “real interesting!” They were concerned that the lack of parking was turning people away, so they encouraged leaders and other members of the church to park offsite. By doing this, they’ve been able to make room for an additional 50 vehicles. There is also a parking complex nearby, so they validate parking for people.

This past Easter they had 1,000 worshippers at two worship services (9 a.m. and 11 a.m.). The church has been growing at a rate of 10-15 percent a year, and their sanctuary holds 600-650 people. Dave shared that it is easy for people to slip in and out of church: people can be anonymous. The nature of a big city is that people can remain anonymous, so they have been very intentional about making sure they have good greeters and ushers.

Growth Groups move discipleship to where people are

As they became more intentional with small groups, which they call Growth Groups, they’ve seen their attendance in more intentional discipleship increase. The groups meet in people’s homes around the city every other week for an hour and a half to two hours. They emphasize flexibility; as Dave said, “We make it easy for people, as much as possible, to come.” Many people are in the entertainment industry and are gone large chunks of time. The church has also found that offering a potluck dinner (like soup and sandwiches) makes it that much easier to come. They’ve found that a lot of people work late, so they’ll begin at 7:15 or 7:30 p.m.

One reason the church leaders added Growth Groups was the understanding that people in LA might not come to the church more than once a week, even though the doors were always open. 

Growth Groups have become a vital way for people to grow in their faith when and where they are. The other church night is Thursday when the choir, children’s choirs, and a Growth Group for parents meet, and they also have a fellowship dinner.

Growth Groups offer fellowship, study, prayer, and discipleship in a way that helps people get involved without location being an issue.

Responding to the challenge

It can be difficult with everyone being so busy to get a group started. One group had six people committed to a time and place and Dave encouraged them to begin meeting. He challenges all the small group leaders to commit to growing their group. Dave offers study suggestions if groups ask, but each group selects studies tailored to the needs and personality of their group.

One or two times a year, everyone is asked to participate in a church-wide series where a book will be used as part of a sermon series. Growth Groups study the book, and even casual attenders are encouraged to read the book. The church has found that studying a book together creates a sense of family and builds community.

The church is also committed to social justice and outreach. Through their ministries to the homeless every Tuesday, church members assemble 120 sack lunches, feed more than 100 people, and supply them with clothes and personal hygiene products.


Dave Stambaugh is a certified candidate for ministry as a local pastor. He received his Masters of Divinity degree from Alliance Theological Seminary and his Masters of Sacred Theology from Drew University.  Becky Stambaugh has a Masters Degree in Counseling, and is now serving as the Children's Ministry Coordinator at Hollywood United Methodist Church. The Stambaugh's have been married for twelve years. You can follow the Hollywood United Methodist Church on twitter and facebook

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