While Spark Church is just a little more than a year old and is still relatively small, Pastor Garrett Hamblen says the church is already making an impactful difference in the community.
Members gather weekly for worship on Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. at the B&B Theatres at The Grove movie theater (located north of S.R. 54, just west of I-75). But, they actually do much more than just that.
The church members have chosen to focus on four community needs they see in Wesley Chapel and the surrounding areas, including foster care, human trafficking, schools and pregnancy care centers.
“We are moving forward in a lot of big ways,” Pastor Garrett says, “and doing things that have never been done in our area, that I’m aware of.”
For example, Pastor Garrett says that the church members are working to create a foster care support network, with the goal of bringing other churches on board to support the efforts.
“We had 15 people go through training from a national-level organization that teaches churches how to do this,” he says. “We want to rally around foster families in the area — even though currently there are none in our church — and meet their physical needs, such as buying new clothes or a bed for a kid who gets dropped off at 2 a.m., or even have our children’s ministry do babysitting for foster families.”
He says church members also are working with Bridging Freedom, a local organization that supports minor victims of human trafficking, offering a therapeutic safe home campus community for girls, ages 12-17, who have been rescued from forced prostitution.
Spark Church has formed a partnership to provide support that includes painting, landscaping, helping with the property and working on building a new home, as Bridging Freedom is expanding.
Pastor Garrett says his messages on Sunday mornings currently are focusing on the same theme.
“Each week, we pick a new problem in the community, look at what the Bible says about it, and talk about what the church should do about it,” he says. “Then, we go out and work towards that.”
While Spark Church is growing in the number of people who attend, Pastor Garrett says it’s also growing in “depth,” with 90 percent of its members serving the church at least once a month. The people who find the church tend to be those who are passionate about making a difference.
“They’ve been to churches that don’t do a ton of outreach, but they want to go deeper,” he says. “They want their lives to be more meaningful. They want to go out and fight for our community.”
He says they also want to do life together — and not just on Sunday mornings. Pastor Garrett says an astounding 95 percent of church members are involved in weekly “core groups” of people who meet together to study the Bible, support each other and develop friendships. The church also has interest groups, where people go out to dinner together, or get together to do crafts, play disc golf, or pursue some other hobby.
This sense of connectivity may be formed because so many people experienced the isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic, and are now ready to get back into the community and make friends. And, Garrett says the church is ready to respond.
He says he moved to the area several years ago, when he took a job at Loving Hands Ministries, a drug rehabilitation program in Dade City. He also served as the young adult pastor, then executive pastor, for Calvary Assembly of God in Dade City.
He is licensed as a minister through the Assemblies of God and also has a Bachelor’s degree in Business and an Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, both from Indiana State University in Terre Haute.
Garrett and his wife Katterine live in Wesley Chapel, just a few minutes away from the movie theater where the church meets.
On Sunday mornings, Spark Church takes over one wing of the theater, offering worship in a large theater, kids’ church in a smaller theater, and a nursery in a birthday party room. He describes the kids’ areas as “locked down” for safety, in a corner of the building where no public traffic passes by.
Miriam Ventilato lives nearby in Wesley Chapel and joined Spark Church with her family a little over a year ago.
She, her husband, Tony and their teenage kids — ages 18, 15, and 13 — are all involved in the ministries of the church, from singing with the worship team to putting out advertising flags to draw attention to the church’s meeting location.
“It’s not just one-and-done on Sunday,” Miriam says. “It’s doing small groups, working in ministry together, and volunteering together. You really become like a family, and people notice when you’re not there.”
That great sense of connectivity and willingness to work together leads to the outreach that she and others who participate in the church think is so important.
“We’re basically showing people the love of God through tangible ways however we can,” Miriam says, “whether that’s through partnering in work days or looking for opportunities to serve wherever there’s a need.”
Miriam adds that it’s easy to get on board with the idea that her church can make a difference in big community problems, just by touching one life at a time. It starts with her pastor and is encapsulated in the name of the church.
“I think that Pastor Garrett is contagious,” says Miriam. “He says, ‘What fills, spills.’ So, we want to fill ourselves up with things that make a difference so we can spill it out into the community, just sparking each other to bring change.”
Spark Church meets at the B&B Theatres Wesley Chapel–The Grove 16 (6333 Wesley Grove Blvd.) every Sunday at 10 a.m. For more information, visit SparkPasco.com.