By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
CARLYSS – Not long after Brian Manuel started Carlyss Community Church in November 2014, his eight-year-old son Truett presented a simple yet life-altering request – a chance to be the church plant’s first baptismal candidate.
His father could not help but grant it, with an attitude of thanksgiving.
“To see that passion and desire by my son to get baptized was awesome,” Manuel said. “We did things we knew to be right, like expose him to reading Scripture and talking about our faith.
“We were just obedient,” he continued. “When he finally decided to get baptized, it was one of those shining moments as a parent to be able to be that person who baptizes him.”
His son’s baptism was the first of two for Carlyss Community Church, which meets in town at Cypress Cove School.
Like most churches, building lasting relationships is vital for engaging potential members with the Gospel, because many previously have not attended a non-Catholic service and others rarely have stepped inside a church building.
“The families that we are reaching mostly are not your typical church families,” he said. “We are making connections with families and letting them know we are here. It will take a lot of time and movement of God to earn that trust to gain access to people’s lives and we have begun to do so.”
Manuel started the church out of his living room, with five families sent by Maplewood First Baptist Church, Sulphur – where he had served as youth pastor – to help Manuel launch the church plant.
Within three months, attendance doubled to 40 and the congregation searched for another location to accommodate its growth.
Today, as many as 60 attend its Sunday morning worship service, and Manuel credits its active outreach to the community for the expansion: Efforts include neighborhood block parties and members’ mentoring of high-risk and one-parent students.
“That leads to a tremendous amount of relational capital,” Manuel said. “We convey to our people they are centers of mission – in that way the neighborhood identifies them as a family who cares about their community.”
The church is positioned in a high-growth region, and Manuel expects an opportunity to increase attendance even more if the population in the Lake Charles area expands as expected. According to a Southwest Louisiana Regional Impact Study, the area could see 22,000 new residents by 2019.
Manuel does not know how long the congregation will meet at the school but when they do decide to relocate, he envisions a building that is used for more than just a church service during Sunday mornings.
“When it comes time for us to have a permanent location, we will have the mindset of ‘We won’t build a building seen as a religious institution,’” he said. “We will build something that is open to the public, like a community center or day care, operating throughout the week. That will open up a possibility to build even more relationships with the people here.”