Everyone has a story, and we’re glad your story is a part of the Story of Oak Hills Church. As a part of our 30 Year Celebration, we’re publishing stories from Oak Hillians here. It’s our way of celebrating how God, the Author of Days, has weaved our stories together to form this church called Oak Hills.
If you’d like to contribute, simply write a short statement answering the question, “What does Oak Hills mean to you?” It can be about a ministry you serve in, a small group you’re a part of, a moment of worship, a retreat or other significant event, or a time when God met you through community. Send your story and a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My husband, Rick and I have been attending Oak Hills Church for over 16 years, along with our two sons, Daniel and Nicholas. I cannot imagine my life today without having Oak Hills in it. I would not have known that it is possible to have an intimate relationship with God and been given the tools to pursue it. I would not have experienced the love and acceptance of a church family, where others are for you and see the best in you. I would not have the deep and lasting friendships with some truly amazing women. I would not have had the opportunity to work along side dedicated Primetime staff and volunteers and had the pleasure of working with delightful and funny children and learning how big God is right along with them. For that matter, I wouldn’t have felt the creative energy and excitement of Arts Camp as a parent or a teacher and been truly amazed and inspired by the sheer enormity in the planning and the talent of the workers and students. And I would not have received all the benefit of well thought out and articulated sermons that clearly understood the human condition and could get right down to the heart of the matter in ways that made me laugh and cry (sometimes at the same time).
I would not have gotten a peak behind the curtain from Pastor Kent or a probing spiritual disruptive questions from Pastor Mike, some very painful at the time but always for my good and His glory. I would not have known that you could do church and have fun at the same time. And lastly, I would not have had the privilege of being a part of something that is bigger than me and I would not have known that any perseverance and commitment on my part would be more than well worth it. Thank you Oak Hills Church, it’s an honor to praise God and worship Him together!
During the holidays last year, my husband’s cancer took a bad turn and he came home from the hospital right after Thanksgiving on Hospice Care. He needed someone there 24 hours a day and I had to work and my son had college. I was overwhelmed with trying to decide how my son and I could do this (my son was in college and my daughter lived out of town).
The care pastor from our church with help from Men’s Groups headed up by a close friend put together a sign up list to help stay with my husband during hours we were not there. My door remained unlock for almost three months as people came and went, never leaving his side until we got home. People signed up to walk my dog, bring food, make meals for him and to just be there to talk with him or help with his needs. We did not even know many of the men coming. Some we had seen but we were able to see Gods love as these people blessed us. They also took care of our yard with so many people.
One of the men was a recent retired firefighter and he helped arrange for the local fire department to help bring my husband down the stairs for Christmas Eve service at our church and allow him to spend Christmas with all of us and then came back and took him back upstairs to our bedroom a few days later. My co-workers could not believe the help my church provided to us. We could not believe the help they provided to us or continue to provide. I broke my hip two weeks after he died in January, and women signed up to help me.
How wonderful to belong to A Church of Love—Oak Hills Church in Folsom.
Many years ago, when we were still at the old building, I was cutting hair in a local salon and Kent happened to come in for a haircut. By the time I was finished, I knew I had to visit the Church this man was so excited about; and I knew what he had in his heart was real, and I wanted to experience it. I have been a part of Oak Hills every since.
In 2008, my 5 year-old grandson was diagnosed with cancer and we lost him just two months later. I will never forget how Kent and Manuel were there for us. Kent did a beautiful eulogy and Manuel so graciously performed two songs that were chosen by my daughter. I hold these memories very dear.
One of my biggest blessings is being able to give back by volunteering. I’ve been working multimedia for about 2 years now and I am still in awe at how rewarding it is. I love coming to rehearsal on Wednesday nights to prepare and listen to band practice—and even at 5:30 AM when my alarm goes off, I am happy to come serve.
I am especially blessed to know Kent, Mike, Manuel, Brian, and Rick but I also have to give a big thank you to Karen Bredahl, my multimedia mentor. Karen is one of the many who works “behind the scenes” but is such a big part of the weekly production. She is extremely devoted and always there to make sure things run smoothly.
I can’t imagine my life without Oak Hills. Thank you to all the staff and volunteers who make this church the best.
When people ask me to describe my church, I’m always at a loss for words…Because we are so indescribably weird! Like, when Mike Lueken texts me some out-of-the-blue message about spiritual formation and how it ties into his “hipster” fashion sense (and expects me to agree), I literally laugh out loud, and my friends ask me why I’m laughing. I have to tell them, “My pastor just texted me this nonsense gibberish about how he actually believes he’s a hipster!” I then show them the message, and they give me that blank stare.
“Why is your pastor texting you?”
“Because he’s weird.”
“Oh my gosh. I can’t believe you just called your pastor ‘weird’.” I mean, my pastors are my friends. How many people get to say that? 🙂
Since the day I first stepped into an 11am service at Oakie Hills, I never had any doubt that I’d belong here (because I’m so weird!). It’s only been seven years, but it feels like a lifetime of family and relationships that I would not trade for all the money, gold, or sushi in the world! I have about 10,000 stories to choose from, but since I only get a few paragraphs, I’m gonna just focus on my earliest memories. The first ministry I got plugged into was our Wednesday night “242” college group, led by David “Holky” Holcomb and Brian “B-Rob” Robertson, where we met at a cafe and played ice-breaker games until we remembered we were supposed to leave some time to spend in Scripture. (Okay, I promise we always got to the Scripture part. In fact, we got super deep. I can remember so many instances of formation in those times.) Words to describe that experience? Nope. Too much wonderful conversation and laughter to account for, so I’ll just leave it at that. But this group was made up of my first dear friends at Oak Hills, and from then on, I never stopped making friends!
I started attending this church all by myself. Occasionally, some or all of my family would join me, but for the most part, I have been a single rider. Now, don’t get me wrong; my family is beautiful. But I never found my other family until I ventured over to 1100 Blue Ravine Road. Like Michelle Flynn mentioned in her Story, I also chose my family. One of my “other mothers,” for example, is Colleen Gray, who is one of the most inspiring women I know. (She is one of the reasons our church can so easily grasp female leadership as a very necessary gospel calling. Personally, this is one of the many things that Oak Hills means to me, and all those wonderful women who minster within the walls of this church rock my world! Thank you for being examples to us all!)
For the support I got from this body when I lost my dad, and all the love, prayer, and visits when he was sick, I can never show gratitude enough. And goodness knows I would never have been able to record my album if it weren’t for so many of you! Oak Hills is my home, and it’s a pleasure to worship, grow, and serve with each of you. Xxoo.
What does Oak Hills mean to me? The first word or thought that comes to mind when thinking of Oak Hills Church is community and all that entails, the good, bad, and sometimes ugly. I question the age old saying, “you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family,” because I believe you can and I did.
Oak Hills Church has been mine and my husband Tim’s family since September of 1991. At the time, we were both very young (literally and spiritually) Christians with wide-eyed enthusiasm of wanting to change the world, or our little corner of it known as Folsom, California. We fondly remember the first time we attended an afternoon service at a rented space down the road, which was followed by some fellowship time. I guess folks could tell we were brand new, because two seasoned Oak Hillians–Carol Patterson and Steve Grendahl—came up to us and introduced themselves and welcome us to the church family and said, “We exist to introduce Jesus to the non-churched in unconventional ways–are you in?” Yep, we were in. Over the next few years, we dove in to the ministry with deep passion and conviction and a bit with naïve enthusiasm. It was exhilarating to have a front row seat and see lives change as they developed a relationship with Jesus. We forged many, deep relationships as well, a few we still hold dear today.
As the church grew into more of a spiritual formation ministry, we found ourselves in the midst of life’s messiness, part due to our own sin and self-discovery and part circumstantial life stuff. We began drifting away from these relationships and even the church itself. For a time, it felt ‘safer’ to attend a different church body and a place where we were anonymous. It was a time to be alone with God. As uncomfortable and often sad time it was, God used that time to help us reflect on our relationship with Him mostly, as well as the importance of a solid church community in our lives. It was the death of a dear Oak Hillian that brought us back to Oak Hills. There’s something poignant about grieving together that is a reminder of the strong ties God had put into place.
Since we’ve been back and have fully committed to be a part of this community until we move or die, we’ve experienced many life challenges in the form of major health, financial and relational struggles. I just keep thinking God must love us a lot! Through these hurdles, however, once again the beautiful community know as Oak Hills Church has once again embraced us with compassion, love and friendship. Happy 30th Anniversary!
Our family has been part of Oak Hills for 20 years. Everyone in our family has come to know the Lord through the ministry of Oak Hills Church and now our lives are intertwined with the families of Oak Hills Church.
What Oak Hills means to me became crystal clear in the summer of 2002. It was a difficult time in the life of Oak Hills Church. There were a lot of changes at Oak Hills and our family was having trouble adjusting and like many we chose to run away rather than confront the questions we had. So after eight years of attending Oak Hills, our family left thinking the grass is greener somewhere else. My husband stopped attending church all together and my daughter and I began church shopping. We landed at a church in Rocklin for a while, but it never felt like home and after Easter in 2003 my daughter and I returned to Oak Hills. A few years later my husband returned to Oak Hills too.
After returning to Oak Hills, I had a different outlook of the church. I started looking at the church as family. Church is more than a building and it is a place where we share life, ALL of life—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and we’ll go through it all together because we’re family.
What does Oak Hills mean to me? Celebrating New Years Day in P.J.’s over brunch with our extended Oak Hills family, that’s what Oak Hills means to me. Sharing anniversaries, graduations and birthday celebrations together, that’s what Oak Hills means to me. Walking down the hallway, beside a hospital gurney, while my daughter is being wheeled to surgery and looking up to see my Oak Hills sister in Christ waiting in the hallway with a hug. No phone call was necessary, she was just there, that’s what Oak Hills means to me. Worship and prayer together with a handful of my Oak Hills family in a hospital room, that’s what Oak Hills means to me. Extended time off from work and a job to return to, that’s what Oak Hills means to me. Meals delivered, encouragement, prayers, parking passes, cafeteria meal cards, more prayers, tears, laughter, more prayers, waiting, worshiping, sharing the burden, and more prayers.
Simply put, Oak Hills means Family to me and I am blessed.
The meaning of Oak Hills in my life over the past 29 years is extremely hard to pin down. It means challenge, formation, comfort, love, acceptance, and serving to name just a few. But mostly it means community. I have learned from Oak Hills what treasures there are in stability. I have had the incredible joy of raising children with my friends and sharing the struggles of toddlers and teenagers and wedding planning and the new delights of grandparenthood. I get to see those same kids from my 2 and 3 year old Sunday School class of many years ago bringing their 2 and 3 year olds to church today.
I have served with many people over the years that I will always carry in my heart and I have laughed and cried and broken bread with people who are like family to me. I have learned that community means keeping an open heart – some people precious to me have left for other places, and some are newcomers whose stories and lives I am so grateful for. I think the part of Oak Hills that symbolizes this best for me is when we gather together as hungry, needy people to share the Lord’s Supper and remind each other that our faith is a bond that makes us a family. Thanks Oak Hills for the chance to love and be loved!
I came to Oak Hills just after “the change” had begun. I had been leading spiritual formation retreats at another church for a number of years when the pastor decided he wanted to go a different direction philosophically. He was uncomfortable with the whole silence and solitude concept and practice.
At the same time, Oak Hills hosted a conference with Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. I attended and connected with Dave DeRoos who introduced me to Mike and Kent. They wanted what I had been doing since they had just started moving more toward formation and away from the high production church model.
Before long I got a Macedonian call: “Come over to Macedonia and help us”(Acts 16:9.) One church did not value what I was doing and the other did. Easy choice.
But that was not all of it. I was drawn by the authenticity in the preaching of both Mike and Kent. They both were committed to sharing their lives from the pulpit in appropriate but refreshing ways. No pedestals for them. What you saw was who they truly were. Their preaching was practical and honest. No exaggeration or manipulation. No creating guilt to motivate people. No emotional appeals. No “preachy” tone or mannerisms. They were interested in the transformation of lives by pursuing God, listening for His voice, and allowing the Spirit to do His work in the crevasses and cracks and deep places in our lives.
Most people don’t know that I often go to church twice on Sunday. My wife has a ministry and involvement at another church, though she is fully supportive of the program at Oak Hills. So, after our Oak Hills service I often hustle to her church to be a family together in worship. Often our friends ask why I don’t just attend her church and move from Oak Hills. I politely smile and answer “To move from Oak Hills I would have to tear my heart out, leave behind a bunch of people I dearly love, and disobey the call of God.” Not much more needs to be said after that.
After having my dream of being a Stay-At-Home Mom in a picket fence scenario life implode into a volatile and scary divorce during which I was isolated and mourning the time lost with my precious three year old daughter—one morning I ran into my effervescent apartment-mate neighbor as she skipped out the door to church service. She invited me along, I declined. I’m an introvert and was a suffering introvert—the saddest kind to be. But after watching her blossom (and she had her own struggles), one day I bravely accompanied her and in the original modular buildings, I first heard Pastor Kent speak. I’d never heard a sermon spoken such as his as my religious background was nonexistent with my immediate family and minimal with my distant Southern Baptist and Methodist families who could be quite strict and scary in their religious fervor. That sermon by Kent—that changed my life and gave me a church home—was over 18 years ago.
I remember when we were first informed that Pastor Mike was to join the church—I was devastated. I’d finally found a Pastor in Kent who spoke truthfully and down to earth and I couldn’t conceive a new pastor could come near Kent’s (to me) lofty reverence (now Kent, I know you well and you’re not allowed to shoot “I’ve won” glances at Mike). Pastor Mike had a skeptical believer to contend with in me. Today, I cannot imagine Oak Hills without the dynamic duo of Pastors Kent and Mike and I hope that each know how very precious they are to me for so many personal reasons.
I also enjoyed cleaning the church with girlfriends and how priceless a time it was to serve humbly and feel God’s quiet constant presence even when the chairs only held the remembrance of congregants.
And as if that wasn’t enough to have moored me to Oak Hills, years later, in a story too long to tell, God brought me together with my husband, Rob, in a most marvelously romantic and God led journey. We’ve been on that journey now for over 10 years, sustained in part by Pastor Mike’s astute and gently pastoring of us whenever needed.
I cannot say enough about the part that Oak Hills has played in my life, the journey, the staff, so steadfast, humble in Christ and giving of their time and love to each of us in our personal ways.
My blessings and thanks eternally to Oak Hills, and for Pastors Mike and Kent.
Before prison, I knew very little about God, and that little that I knew, I did not want it. My spiritual awakening and transformation of my inner-man began in prison. Chapel of the Good Shepherd in Solano State Prison was my first church home ever. For six years, I was chaplain assistant and as I was drawing closer to God, He was becoming more real to me and drawing closer to me. The more I was learning about God, the more I wanted Him in my life.
Upon my release from prison, it was important for me to find a good church home. I checked out some churches in this area and I landed at Oak Hills Church. After my first service at Oak Hills, I went upstairs to meet with Pastors Mike and Kent. I gave them my testimony and they welcomed me. While in prison I heard people talk about churches out here who didn’t want ex-prisoners in their church. But Oak Hills is the church embracing everyone.
I heard a story about a man pacing up and down in front of the church, and God came to ask the man what seemed to be troubling him. “I want to go to this church,” the man answers, “but because of my appearance they threw me out!”
“Do not let that trouble you,” said God, “For that church threw me out a long time ago.”
Oak Hills Church is the opposite of that. We did not throw God out. Oak Hills celebrates God in our midst all the time. We are a living church, we embrace God and Godly living. We imitate Jesus in our walk. We are the family of compassionate believers. We are the community that thrives. We are the church after God’s own heart.
Colleen Gray, Pastor of Children’s Ministries
How does one pick a “story” from 15 years of learning what the family of God is supposed to be? Do I share about tragic heartbreak and the amazing friends who carried me, encouraged me, and believed in me? In 15 years, there have been times I thought I couldn’t survive the pain, but this family of God, Oak Hills Church, taught me otherwise.
Maybe I share stories of how Oak Hills’ leadership has encouraged me to discover, grow, and become the leader I could be in Christ. I could go on and on about how I have been gently (and sometimes not so gently) pushed outside my comfort zone with the secure belief that God could take me beyond where I believed I could go and even be a leader in this process of becoming more like Christ.
Or I could rave about the delightful volunteers I have had the privilege of serving and doing life with and who have not only made Prime Time Children’s Ministries a better place, but have enriched my life in more ways then I can list.
I could highlight events I will never forget, friends who will be in my heart for eternity, or children who I’ve had the privilege of watching grow and become young adults who are finding their unique place in God’s Kingdom.
Oak Hills is not just my family of God, but my family. Oak Hills has helped me discover anew a God who loves unconditionally, encouraged me to develop a deeper life as God’s child, step into the scary uncertainty of community, and think beyond the walls of Oak Hills and see the whole world with Kingdom eyes.
Yes, I have seen us mess up at times. Yes, I have grieved as precious friends left, some with anger and disillusionment. This is not a perfect church, but it is my church, my local piece of God’s family, where I am accepted, loved, encouraged, challenged, lifted up, and even rebuked. I cannot imagine life without my church and I have been spoiled to ever go/work anywhere else.
I can’t pick a “story” that represents what Oak Hills means to me but hopefully, you’ve gotten the idea. If you want individual stories, let’s schedule a coffee (or a day or a week). Thank you family of God here at Oak Hills Church for my 15 years. Here’s to 15 more.
What does Oak Hills mean to me? That is a very though-provoking question, that does not have a quick, easy answer. The meaning of my 14-year experience in being a member of the Body of Christ at Oak Hills Church is complex, to say the least. A wonderful blessing beyond question! But that blessing has come from unexpected joys…and challenges.
Oak Hills is not “just another church.” Based upon a deep, serious and prayerful search for truth and the leading of the Holy Spirit, the pastoral and elder leadership has been willing to risk for the sake of helping the people it has been called to shepherd (from children to seniors) to understand the meaning and purpose of human existence. To understand that the Christian faith is not just about “Heaven one day,” but Christ right now! It has been consistently courageous in its commitment to help its people to understand what Kingdom living and missional Christianity is all about. That has blessed my life beyond measure.
In my 80th year of life, and as a follow of Jesus Christ for 53 years, my faith is more alive today than ever, because of the ministry of Oak Hills Church. Its ministry has broadened, deepened and strengthened my faith in the one, true God: The Triune God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Its worship services, retreats, small groups, opportunities for service (within our church family and beyond), and the fellowship of friends, has penetrated deep into the heart of who I am as a follower of Jesus Christ. Thank you Oak Hills…and to God be the glory!
I grew up at Oak Hills Church, so it’s hard to pick one moment or experience that can fully encapsulate my time here. As a kid I was involved in the Christmas performances and Sunday School activities. I went occasionally to The Thing in middle school and The Vibe in High School, but I would say it was getting involved in Children’s Ministries that really cemented my place at Oak Hills as something more than “my family’s church.”
Through time spent in the Preschool room with kids, adult teachers, other young volunteers, and with guidance from Colleen, Oak Hills became my church in meaningful ways. I started volunteering there in middle school, and continued through high school. When I went away to college, I missed the kids and Oak Hills. No matter what church I went to, in college, ministry, or grad school, it felt like nothing could compare.
I went to churches with fog machines and satellite services at four locations, as well as contemplative services rich with tradition. No matter where I went, Oak Hills was always home, and I always looked forward to coming back for holidays and vacations. Now, I am so excited to be back at “home,” and so grateful to be on staff. Oak Hills has changed a lot since I was a child, and I am excited to see how God continues to call us always “further up and further in!”
My story with Oak Hills began a little over 16 years ago. I am one of those members who became attracted to Oak Hills by the “You’ll be surprised” slogan I saw on a mailer and some car license plate holders around town. I had rejected organized religion in my senior year of high school, but after 40 years of trying to live life by my own personal religious beliefs, I found myself with a growing emptiness inside, could see my marriage at the time had no spiritual foundation, and felt a yearning to ensure my young daughter would be exposed to the kind of belief in God my parents had instilled in me. I convinced my wife to attend one of Oak Hills’ services held in the portable buildings, but that service became only a one-time attendance for us. A few years later, the marriage was over, and I was at the lowest emotional point of my life. I knew something had to change it in a big way, and I remembered how surprised I was at feeling so comfortable in that singular Oak Hills church service experience years before. I had felt like I had come home in some way, so I committed to begin attending regularly with my growing daughter.
I took the advice from one of the weekly messages and got involved in a small “seeker” group, to explore the still conflicted feelings I had about God, religion, and the Church. That small group experience changed and saved my life. It helped me remove a number of planks in my eyes, and influenced me to finally ask Jesus to come into my life and take the lead. He’s been faithfully doing so ever since, and has restored my faith in God and the Church. I’ve been blessed with an enduring love from my wife of the last 11 years (who I got to know through an Oak Hills’ single parent’s group), the privilege of regularly serving on the Oak Hills worship team, and a daughter and step-daughter who are continuing to grow into ever amazing and wonderful young women.
What does Oak Hills mean to me? Oak Hills, its pastors, and its many caring and loving members have taught me how to form a deep and meaningful relationship with Jesus, so I can glimpse a bit of what living in God’s kingdom is like every day. Oak Hills quite simply means the world to me!
My demeanor is hard to read and apparently I’m unapproachable. Laura Chick told me she thought I was a “bee-yotch,” whatever that is. When Kit Reiman found out it was me, she considered asking for a different usher-buddy. Diane Carlson told me I’m the scariest woman she’s ever met. Even some of the men were…are…whatever…are afraid of me, including the one they call “tough boy.”
I took Evey DeRoos’ Enneagram Test [Ed. Note: A rather complicated and detailed personality test.] and wanted to end it all in the parking lot afterward. I’m an 8 (the Challenger); a 1 (the Reformer); and a 3 (the Achiever). This basically means my true sweet self within is trapped by the fears of the power-hungry, armored-up 8 and the perfectionist cravings of the 1, both wrapped up in the image obsessed manager of the 3. You can see why people don’t always warm up to me. I’d be afraid of me too.
I vowed off of women’s retreats in 1994 after having to suffer through birthing stories while sitting in the car-exhaust perfumed atrium of the Clarion Hotel in midtown Sacramento.I’d just found out I couldn’t have my own children, something I didn’t know how to feel about and I sure didn’t want to talk about it.
So just getting to the Oak Hills women’s retreat in 2010 was a minor miracle. The first night I sat in the second to the last row and cried like a big baby while I listened to Colleen Gray share her heart. Mine’s been broken ever since. It’s a good thing because if it hadn’t been broken that very second, I would have smacked Suzie the prayer leader for calling the entire team over to lay hands on me. Allison Carlos didn’t lift a finger to rescue me; she was too busy guffawing in the chair next to me. One day Allison…to the moon.
This all happened, no lie. And it’s all good. After years of feeling like I don’t fit in, I’ve learned to trust the church again. Mike Lueken says I harbor a deep-seeded fear of rejection. Takes one to know one, Mike.