church180 outdoor

How a First Year Church Plant Cultivated Community in 2020

Feb 18, 2021

Last year brought many obstacles for churches to open their doors for broken people. When COVID-19 spurred a global panic, it challenged how churches cultivated community to encourage, disciple, and provide outreach in all spheres for the congregation. A new church plant in south San Diego, Church 180, faced similar obstacles weeks after its grand opening in January of 2020. Church 180 saw them as an opportunity to put their mission statement into action – to see people turn toward hope in Jesus during a time of crisis.

church 180 outdoor service

How God Performed in Church 180’s First Year

Church 180’s main pastor, Tony Collins, and his wife Kelsey played influential roles this year by accommodating their organization’s resources to help others in need. With the help of the congregation’s generosity, Church 180 brought others to become baptized, attend virtual community-driven courses, and gave generously to the struggling families in south San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. 

Church 180 Brought People to Give Their Lives to Jesus During a Challenging Year.

In 2020, Church 180 brought eleven people to be baptized along with offering and facilitating virtual discipleship courses to help grow their congregation into mission-driven individuals for their surrounding communities.

Raquel was one of the eleven members that got baptized this year. Before attending Church 180, she felt disconnected from intentional fellowship. She allowed herself to be part of the new church plant when they stretched their arms to serve and connect her community to the heart of the Gospel. 

Knowing that I was going to be a part of a community that was going to give back was big for my family. We didn’t want to go to church for the sake of going to church, we wanted to be part of something bigger. And because I grew up in the [South San Diego] area, I wanted to make sure that I wanted to give back to my community and show that example of Christ to the people that I grew up with and grew up around. Also, I wanted to make sure that we [husband and I] were going to be an asset to an organization to use our strengths for the greater good of our community.”

church 180 baptism

Even though COVID-19 brought obstacles for the congregation to meet in person, it didn’t stop Church180 to connect virtually with people to the heart of God. The new church plant succeeded in helping others to learn more about the foundations of God’s church through virtual discipleship courses. 

  • 47 people attended New to Church 180 (the church plant’s welcome course)
  • 28 people attended Alpha (evangelistic-based course)
  • 34 attended Rooted (a community-driven and discipleship course)

Generosity Was the Powerhouse of Church 180’s Successes to Become Reality 

The generous hearts of Church 180’s members opened the doors for the new church plant to provide for the needs of struggling communities in South San Diego. In the spring of 2020, Church 180 organized an Easter gift of $3,923.95 for homeless college students and struggling military families. In the summer, the new church plant gave a Back to School Gift of $6,112.35 to students in need. 

As the holidays rolled around, Church 180 fed seventy-five homeless families with a Thanksgiving Dinner and gave over one-hundred toys to poverty-stricken children in Tijuana, Mexico. The new church plant was blessed to serve communities in need with every season that passed in 2020. 

What Has Church 180 Learned in the Past Year?

The new church plant thrives in connecting others with something bigger than what they see in their day to day lives. Before the pandemic took place, Tony Collins was adamant in leading others into a faithful and life-giving community. The life-giving community that blossomed in the church’s first year made accommodating efforts for their congregation to feel connected even through digital platforms. 

During the first few months of quarantine, Zoom was a primary resource for people to connect digitally. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Tony and his leadership team were accustomed to virtual meetings. 

“The cool thing is that we did a lot of [virtual] meetings before COVID-19. We bought a zoom room in 2019 and had meetings in it, so we were a little ahead of the curve,” says Collins.

Fortunately, this platform strengthened Tony and his team to continue pursuing their efforts to grow their church, and serve those in their surrounding community. That said, Tony and with the encouragement of his wife, Kelsey utilized digital platforms such as Zoom to disciple others at the best of their abilities. 

Tony and his team’s faithfulness to serve digitally and physically paved the way for God to offer them multiple outside services when quarantine subsided. Church 180 organized their first Worship Night in the Park service with a socially distanced yet community-enriched atmosphere back in September. The service included light worship music, a brief message from Tony, announcements regarding service projects, and testimonies from others who were impacted by Church 180. Since this event, Church 180 organized monthly services at their local park while abiding by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to keep people safe from the COVID-19 virus. 

church180 outdoor

Church 180 shows that they are rooted in remaining steadfast during trying times. Tony saw how the pandemic affected others to drift away from seeking hope. The pandemic continues to disrupt communities nationwide. Hurting people encouraged Church 180 to go the extra mile by serving the community in hopes that they seek Jesus during every season. The church exceeded its own expectations by how it positively impacted the lives of their community. Church 180’s considerate accommodations and motivation to simply give back reaped beneficial rewards for others to feel connected during a time of hardship. Church 180 breaks the norms of bare minimum service as they continue to find new avenues by how they can serve their communities better. 

This story was written by Church 180 member Thalia Rodriguez on behalf of Tony and Kelsey Collins.

Tony and his wife Kelsey Collins have been married for almost thirteen years and have many years of experience doing ministry together. They have been a part of church planting in New Zealand before moving to South San Diego to plant Church180. They have three daughters: Ruthie (7), Ginny (5), and Lottie (3) and a son William (almost 1). Their favorite activities include doing anything as a family, hanging with friends, and outdoor adventures.

Tony and Kelsey Collins

Church Planters, Church 180