Sealy “After Dark”
A little more than 2 years ago Pastor Jonathan Brandenburg accepted a call to LifeBridge Church in Sealy, Texas. At the time, LifeBridge, launched by three laymen in 2013, had approximately 40 worshipping on a Sunday.
Sealy is a small town in southeastern Texas. The population is roughly 7,000 people. One of the first things Pastor Brandenburg noticed when he moved to Sealy from Austin, was that the town closed down on Friday and Saturday nights. “Maybe the Whataburger stayed open,” Pastor Brandenburg said. He was concerned for the young people of Sealy. “I know what happens on a Friday and Saturday night, and I bet it isn’t prayer.”
Determined to be a church responsive to the community, a desire to reach the unchurched and a heart for kids, LifeBridge decided to try a monthly Friday night program for students in sixth to twelfth grade. “We wanted to give them a place that is safe and non-threatening. We would give it a try one Friday night and see what happened,” said Pastor Brandenburg.
The program, named “After Dark,” would be hosted in the 18,000 square foot old bar and auction house that the congregation was leasing. (This property was gifted to them a year later along with six acres of land.) With approximately four volunteers, LifeBridge hosted their first “After Dark.” Only a few youth-mostly from LifeBridge-came the first night to play games, listen to music, eat and hang out.
One year later, 147 students attended “After Dark” with a group of approximately 30 volunteers. The program expanded to include a Fifth Quarter event after home football games and students requested worship be included. They named it “After Life Worship.”
How did the word of this fun and safe environment spread? It was all grassroots marketing without a dollar spent on advertising. It was all word of mouth!
From a small group of 40, LifeBridge has grown to 90 to 100 people worshipping on a Sunday. Additionally, the congregation opens the restaurant part of their building once a month to serve community meals. This past Thanksgiving, roughly 100 people showed up for a meal and an additional 125 meals were delivered. The Holy Spirit is definitely at work in Sealy, both before and “After Dark!”