Updated: Jul 3
Enjoy this detailed interview with Matt and Jen Lantz, the microchurch leaders for 727. Hear what they're doing to connect with their community.
What is your microchurch?
We lead 727, which is a microchurch in the heart of Pinellas County just south of downtown Clearwater in our house. Before the pandemic we operated on an every other week schedule. The first week is an open dinner at our home where we invite friends, neighbors, coworkers, and anyone we run into during the week to a meal around our table. The second week is a group of people coming together to open the bible and study together with open hearts.
Tell me about the people you serve.
Our weekly meals are geared toward building relationships with the people in our lives. It is our hope to be an example of Jesus in the everyday process of eating meals together. Bible study nights serve as a place for our fellow missional friends to engage the Word together as a group.
What are the major challenges your ministry is facing right now?
With social distancing rules, we obviously struggle with not having people in the house. Virtual meetings work fine, but there is something to be said for having a house full of people coming together for dinner or bible study. We miss hugs, and in person laughter, and eye contact! Virtual meetings come with their own set of technical challenges. There is a certain set of social rules that we live by as a society in regards to talking over people, timing of conversations, and body language that gets mucked up digitally.
What (if anything) is your microchurch doing currently?
We have been having weekly Zoom meetings. We spend time catching up on how everyone is doing and passing along prayer requests. However, the bulk of our meetings we are spending getting to know each of our core people a little better. We have asked our people to share something that they love and take turns teaching about a new thing each week. It has led to a lot of fun moments exploring some of our passions.
The 727 home church community shares skills together over zoom calls like cupcake decorating and making calming jars together.
What is one thing that you tried that worked, and what is one thing that you tried that didn’t work?
I think a lot of the things that we tried worked well. We are learning that some of the things us as individuals are passionate about translate well to online teachings and others do not. It also becomes apparent that our interests may not be contagious! Sometimes the skill we are learning is too technical for other people in the group. It is a learning process and gives our people a chance to teach, learn, and engage each other!
How have people responded to things your ministry is currently doing? How have the people that you’re serving seen God work?
Our people are able to interact with each other digitally and learn from each other. I think this has been a blessing to help build community among our core. We have also seen some interesting changes among our neighbors. We have had a few interactions with some of our neighbors, that have been really encouraging. One conversation in particular had a neighbor explaining how the pandemic has really shifted some thoughts he had on mortality. It feels like with social restrictions our community is becoming more open hearted with communications.
What is one thing you are hopeful for your ministry coming out of quarantine?
As mentioned in the previous question, it feels like the soil in our community is becoming richer and deeper for these more difficult conversations. We are hopeful that as social restrictions lift our house can be opened up to our neighbors to engage in these conversations that point toward Jesus.
How are you doing as a leader?
As a team, we are doing well. This time of quarantine has been a bit of a sweet experience for us. We recognize this isn’t the case for everyone, but all of our jobs were maintained through the pandemic so far. Being home has allowed some additional family time and time for reflection. Matt is more extroverted and is more keenly feeling the loss of human interactions. I (Jen) am a little more introverted and have been enjoying the slightly quieter rhythm of life. As a whole, we miss serving people but have been able to extract what we can from social distancing spaces.
What is one thing you are hopeful for you personally during quarantine?
During quarantine, the additional time at home has allowed us to be more aware of how our time is spent together as a family. We recognize our boys are growing up and we lead busy lives. We have each gotten to spend some sweet moments with our family collectively and each other individually during quarantine. Our hope is that we can continue to use this slower time to engage in relationships with our family and community in deeper ways. We want to continue to take each opportunity presented to be Jesus-like in our community.
Is there something Jesus is putting on your heart to prepare for when quarantine lifts?
While we wait expectantly for quarantine to lift, we recognize many will be excited to gather in person. Our schedules may become filled again and we may not be home as often. We also have been presented with the gift of more reflection during slower times. We see how important and valuable it can be to our walk and our ministry. We feel Jesus stressing the importance of not filling our schedule to the point we can’t do internal work.
The St. Pete Underground is a faith-based non-profit missional movement that empowers local missionaries to live out their God-given dreams. To learn more about the St. Pete Underground and 727 check out their microchurch page here.