Former Tahoe City church closure helps create new places of worship | SierraSun.com

Former Tahoe City church closure helps create new places of worship

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

From left, Jim Jessup, director of church relations for William Jessup University; Greg Nettle, president of Stadia; and John Jackson, WJU president, at a check presentation.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Through a recent sizable monetary donation to a private four-year Christian university, a former Lake Tahoe church proved the old adage: "When one door closes, another door opens."

In mid-October 2014, Tahoe Christian Center near Tahoe City closed in face of a declining congregation and lack of pastoral leadership after being open since 1969.

"I think the (church) leadership made a principle decision to close the doors," said Tom Salter, a former pastor of the church from 1998-2006. "They approached the decision not from emotion, but from careful analysis and hard logic."

At its height from the late 1970s to mid-2000s, Tahoe Christian Center's congregation had more than 125 members, Salter said. In comparison, the congregation had roughly 30 members in 2014.

General reasons for decline in a church's membership includes individuals and families relocating, periodic fluctuations in membership and people changing churches, Salter said.

"It's a tough decision to make," Salter said, referring to the closure. " … I understood it, and I quickly came to accept and embrace it."

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Upon its closure, Tahoe Christian Center's leadership and remaining members decided to allocate funds from the sale of the church's property at 2566 Lake Forest Road — nearly $1 million — to Rocklin, Calif.-based William Jessup University.

The church had deep ties to the accredited institution, which was originally known as San Jose Bible College and later San Jose Christian College, since it was founded by school alumnus Paul Cecil. Three other school alumni including Salter later pastored the lake-fronted center.

From the $953,000 recently donated from the church to WJU, the Christian university recently presented a $40,000 check to Stadia, a church planting organization based in Irvine, Calif., said Jeffrey Weidel, a spokesperson for the school.

When asked why the university decided to donate a portion of funds to Stadia, Jim Jessup, director of church relations, said: "WJU wanted to make sure new churches can be planted in emerging communities when others shut down. We don't want to just receive money from churches when they close, we want to help establish new churches from the closure of older ones."

Since 2003, Stadia has been establishing churches nationally and abroad, according to the organization's website.

As for the remaining $913,000, the university will establish an endowed scholarship in the name of Tahoe Christian Center to ensure its name lives on in perpetuity, Jessup said.

The scholarship fund has the potential to aid a half dozen students each year, providing thousands of dollars in tuition assistance for each, he added.

The university has about 1,200 students, offering degrees in multiple disciplines including business, biology, English, Bible and theology, and pastoral ministry.

"When Tahoe Christian Center made the tough decision to close its doors … they made an incredibly generous decision to pour into the lives of young leaders by giving to WJU," Jessup said in a statement. "Transformational leaders are being made here at WJU, and this new endowed scholarship will make a huge difference in the lives of young leaders who will impact the Church, even some churches yet to be birthed."

Visit jessup.edu to learn more about the university.

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Visit stadia.com to learn more about Stadia, the vision of which is that “Every Child Has a Church.”