The spirit of giving is alive and well at 7712 Rodden Road in Oakdale, as River Oak Grace Community Church opens the gates of its annual Christmas Tree lot. The annual tree lot hosted on the hill of the north end church has taken on a new mission for the 2015 Christmas season. A tree lot which once utilized its profits to go toward camp for its youth ministries is now reaching beyond the church’s Rodden Road location.
This Christmas season the church has partnered with Oakdale’s Family Support Network, Without Permission in Modesto and Modesto Pregnancy Center. According to Senior Pastor Korey Buchanek, it is a change they feel is both important and valuable to the church members as well as communities.
“We’re trying to create a culture which is not about the community coming to us, but us coming to the community,” Buchanek said. “Reminding our people (members) why we are the church.”
We have made the church complicated,” he said, generally speaking of how churches have evolved. “The church existed to be the message of Jesus Christ. That’s the place we need to serve Him, not just on the weekend, but every day of our lives.”
Director of Youth Ministry Kord Jacobsen returns to the helm of the tree lot management for his second year, noting his own personal excitement as the River Oak Grace membership has embraced, the new mission of the tree lot.
“This whole season is bigger than anyone (on staff) could imagine,” Jacobsen said. “This is going to touch people’s lives forever.”
The lot opened to the public on Sunday, Nov. 29 stocked with 500 trees. They have stocked Noble Firs as well as Grand Firs which vary in size as well as price, from 3 feet to 9 feet and $25 to $100. The goal of Buchanek and his team is to finish the season with an offering of $30,000 total, enabling them to donate $10,000 to each of the non-profits.
Jacobsen continued sharing the excitement of the staff noting Buchanek’s ‘hit the ground running’ approach as they returned to the River Oak Grace Concert series, last summer.
“With his leadership and the way God works, we saw if we can do this (the concert series) we can do anything,” the youth director said.
“We’re taking something I think we’ve made a casual norm,” Buchanek said of the tree lot, “and giving it purpose.”
This is not about growing our church,” he continued. “It’s about creating a healthy environment and living God’s message.”
“This is giving tree sales purpose that makes the hours, conditions and time spent all worth it,” Jacobsen added.
“This year we had people involved in this that have never been involved,” he said of the unloading and set up of the 500 trees, “and … they were excited to do it. It just goes back to the leadership.”
“This is the goal of our church,” Buchanek shared. “It’s not just a membership; it’s a partnership with our communities and one another. All our ministries coming together. I’m excited to see how our people can step back and see that when we come together we can do great things.”
Both ministry members shared that since opening the lot they’ve received donations toward the project as well as tree sales, with customers appearing and buying multiple trees to donate to others or simply handing a check over to help fund the effort.
“This church was ready to do something that matters,” Buchanek said. “They’ve given me great freedom to do that.”
The River Oak Grace tree lot is open weekends from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weeknights from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Donations are welcome and may be turned in at the lot or sent to River Oak Grace.