Every Sunday the auditorium at Glenridge Middle School is transformed into a church service. About 300 chairs are placed, coffee is brewed and a worship band takes the stage.
It’s another day at Lake Baldwin Church — and their doors are wide open.
The church that meets at the nearby middle school hopes to look after its community through its services and partnerships with local charities.
It’s a place where people of all beliefs and backgrounds are welcome, Senior Pastor Mike Tilley says.
“We wanted to have a church that related well to all sorts of people,” he says. “We have a lot of people in our church who believe in Christ, but we also have a lot of people who are earlier in their spiritual journey (who) are either just exploring Christianity or in some cases even skeptical of the faith. There’s a lot of diversity of views within our church.”
Starting at 10:45 a.m. every Sunday, Lake Baldwin Church offers sermons and live worship. They host community groups as well, where people come together and study the Bible.
There’s also a children’s program run by Heather Shiflett called SPLASH KIDS, as well as a middle school and high-school ministry.
The church also does its part to give back to the community through local charities and nonprofits, including Elevate Orlando, which empowers underserved youth, and the Toolbox for Life program with the 306 Foundation, which helps to provide victims of human trafficking with health care, education and other community resources.
On July 22, the church hosted an event dedicated to serving families in need who send their children to Glenridge. The event gathered school supplies, food and clothing to go to the school’s dedicated stockpile for needy families.
“One of the interesting things about Glenridge, even though this is such an affluent neighborhood, is there are actually 50 to 70 homeless families who send their kids to Glenridge, and a lot of others who can’t put food on the table,” Lake Baldwin Church Administrative Manager Katie Pollard says. “We figured since we’re right there at Glenridge, let’s do something to help that effort.”
The church currently is stepping into a new chapter, with several changes underway, Tilley says. It starts with them bringing on Assistant Pastor Joe White, whom Tilley calls an “excellent communicator who relates well to all age groups.” The SPLASH Kids ministry has also begun a new format called “rotation stations,” which gives children a chance to learn Bible stories in a hands-on way. The church’s new Youth Director Mark Mckinney also brings his experience after growing a teen program in Liverpool.
Lake Baldwin Church is the realization of a dream for Tilley and his wife, Molly. The couple had worked for almost three decades at Cru, an international entity that teaches leadership to people in Africa and Europe and helps communicate the gospel to university students.
Tilley and his wife decided they wanted to start something on a more local level, and were part of an initial group that started Lake Baldwin Church.
They had their first worship service Feb. 6, 2006, at the middle school.
“A bunch of people saw that opportunity and began to dream about that,” Tilley says. “Parallel to that, my wife, Molly, and I were thinking about planting or pastoring a church in the area.
“We didn’t want to just be the next suburban church,” he says. “We wanted to be in a location that was close to the heart of the city. We really wanted to connect with the city and be a church that was for the city.”
Since then, the church has grown to about 300 members. Attendance at the church has grown by 76% since 2012.
Tilley says what makes Lake Baldwin Church so special is the sense of community.
“One of the things that we’ve learned is that — in a culture so fragmented and so fast-paced and so into social media — individual people are kind of longing for a place where they can have community and where they can have relationships,” Tilley says. “If you’re new, you’re going to feel welcome. If your life isn’t all together, that’s fine, because none of us have our life all together.”