PORT ST. LUCIE–Tim O’Carroll is a busy man these days.
In addition to leading Discovery Church through its first building program in a pandemic, the pastor also serves as associational mission strategist for the Treasure Coast Baptist Association, an association of 65 churches in Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties.
Pastoring the church, leading the building project and being available to the association of churches, O’Carroll typically puts in 12-hour days. “I am sustained by the strength of the Lord,” he said.
In 2009, as a church planter, O’Carroll launched Discovery Church in Port St. Lucie, a city on the Atlantic coast of southern Florida. Since then the congregation has relocated five times.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the work moves forward.
“This is the first project of this size that I’ve been a part of,” said O’Carroll. And its been a learning curve with special considerations during the pandemic. For example, the different contract workers cannot be in the building at the same time, slowing down the work.
Also, some unexpected expenses cropped up and “the Florida Baptist Financial Services has been a huge support,” says O’Carroll.
The church has met for the past seven years at Savannah Ridge Elementary School in Port St. Lucie, and built a strong relationship with the staff, administrators and students, discovering new ways to minister to the school.
Grace Packs was initiated at the school, sending backpacks of food home on Fridays with students who would otherwise go hungry during the weekend. After sponsoring the ministry for three years, the backpack project is now operated by a local non-profit.
Four years ago, the church began a mentorship program helping 3rd graders with their reading skills once a week. Also, for three years, the church sponsored a fall festival on the school grounds with trunk or treat, music, bounce houses and food. All proceeds from food purchases were donated to the school’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO).
And in past years during Teacher Appreciation Week, the church bought hundreds of restaurant gift cards to give to the teachers.
“We are very present in the school, and it’s been a great opportunity,” added O’Carroll.
To help maintain a sense of community during the quarantine, Discovery Church members, and their small groups–Discovery Groups–began meeting online through social video conferencing. Church leaders regularly made phone calls to check in on members.
Also, as Sunday services are livestreamed, the church’s greeting team, or Home Team, are present online, welcoming each person who joins the service through comments on the livestream. “I’m really proud of the church being engaged with our on-line presence,” said the pastor.
Desiring to express appreciation to first responders during the pandemic, Discovery Church purchased and Tim personally distributed Chick-fil-A meals to 50 members of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Department.
The next week at the county’s fire district headquarters, the church provided identical meals to 120 firefighters. “We wanted to be present and say thank you,” said O’Carroll.
They also are partnering with the local Boys and Girls Club to feed families in need.
“What an amazing journey it’s been from the beginning to walk with Tim and the leaders of Discovery Church,” says Craig Culbreth, catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention’s east region. Despite the challenges of construction during this time, their new facility will be an amazing tool to touch and change lives.”