After 20 years in ministry at Oakdale’s River Oak Grace Community Church, Pastor Chad Allen and his family are pulling up their small town roots, embarking on a journey to a new home and to lead a new church in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.
“When you go into ministry, you know your life is not your own,” Pastor Allen said. “God can call you any time.”
He reported that he felt like God was leading him there because it’s not a place he ever would’ve selected by looking on the map. He joked that he and his wife, Rika, are “California people” and that they go to play in the snow, they don’t live in it. That’s all about to change, though, for the Allen family, as they’ll be leaving around the beginning of October for a new chapter of life in Ohio.
The Allens and their two children, Cruz, 8, and Isabelle, 6, are moving to a city named Broadview Heights, which is about 20 minutes south of Cleveland. Pastor Allen will be assuming the role of co-teaching pastor and transitioning to senior pastor in two years at Cuyahoga Valley Church. The church holds five services per weekend and is approximately 1,800 to 2,000 members, which about twice the size of River Oak Grace. Allen said that the Ohio church’s current senior pastor would like to do some missions work and other ministries and will be grooming Allen for the position.
“We’re scared, we’re excited, we’re happy, we’re sad,” he said. “…We’re excited to move. It’s a new horizon, new territory, but it’s hard to leave.”
He added that it’s not very common for a pastor to be in a church for so long. In fact, some denominational churches require pastors to relocate every couple of years.
Allen began ministering at River Oak Grace shortly after graduating from Oakdale High School. He was youth pastor there for 16 years and has been the family ministries and teaching pastor for four years. Much of his work there has included performing weddings, a lot of counseling, funerals, teaching one-on-one, and also many Sunday morning sermons — or messages — to the congregation.
“This really integrates you into the community, so it makes it hard to leave,” Allen said, adding that he’s been deeply involved in the lives of many people in Oakdale.
He and his wife have lived in Oakdale most of their lives, both moving to the area when they were young children.
Pastor Allen relayed that over three years ago when he and his wife were on a trip to Virginia they began asking each other, “Do you think we’ll always be in Oakdale?” He said that was a major turning point for them.
“It’s realizing that it’s a great big world with lots of needs everywhere,” Rika said.
Allen admitted that there once was a time when he felt he didn’t need to follow up with opportunities that were presented to him because he was very happy with where he was. He credits his mentor and the founding pastor of River Oak Grace, Ken Silva, as the one who challenged him to “prayerfully engage” opportunities when God sends them.
When Allen initially found out about the position at Cuyahoga Valley Church, he kept looking at it and pondering it. After a month of doing that, he said he felt led to submit his résumé.
“At first, I was very nervous,” Rika admitted, “but I was supportive all along. Because if God’s calling you to it, you can’t really say ‘no’.”
After about four or five weeks had passed following the submission of his résumé, Allen said he wiped his brow and thought, “Whew. Okay, God didn’t want me to leave.” However, two or three weeks after that, he was notified that he was being considered for the position. In May, he was informed that he was in the final four, and that’s when he and his wife initially visited the Ohio church.
“We were pleasantly surprised by some of what we found there,” Pastor Allen said, having never been to the Cleveland area. “But not won over.”
“It’s a different culture, different climate, but great people,” Rika added.
Two months later, in July, while he happened to be vacationing with his family, he received another call from the Ohio church to notify him that he was in the final two. Since they were already on vacation, it worked out well to take the whole family back to Ohio. He had also been informed that the “search team” had prayed about it and unanimously decided to recommend him to the elder board of the church, which also unanimously affirmed him. There, Pastor Allen delivered sermons at the July 25 church services, and he and Rika met many members of the congregation who literally lined up after each service to greet them.
Allen is humble about being selected for the position. The Cuyahoga Valley Church senior pastor reported that they had 460 applicants. Allen said that he doesn’t view it as though he was selected because he was “the best,” but that “it'’ evidence as something that the Lord wants us to do.”
“We love Oakdale, we love the community, we love (River Oak Grace) church,” he said, “but God’s calling.”
On Saturday, Sept. 25 at noon, River Oak Grace is hosting a going away potluck luncheon for Pastor Allen and his family at the church amphitheater. Administrative Pastor Phil Rohrer is the organizer for the event, which is open to the public.
Pastor Allen holds a bachelor’s degree in Religion from Liberty University of Lynchburg, Virginia and he is nearing completion of his Master’s degree in Theology from Liberty as well.
His new church home can be checked out online at www.cvconline.org and by clicking on video messages for July 25, the services he taught can be viewed there as well.