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Year brings change to church

One-year-old Valencia Christian Center outgrows its room capacity

Posted: April 17, 2009 10:21 p.m.
Updated: April 18, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Valencia Christian Center antendees enjoy the praise and worship during a service at Pico Canyon Elementary School's multipurpose room.

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When Pico Canyon Elementary School first set up the multipurpose room for a Valencia Christian Center service, it set up around 300 chairs.

"I didn't think I would ever fill all those seats," Pastor Marlon Saunders, the founder and senior pastor of the church remembers thinking.

He even asked to get rid of some of the chairs, since only 20 to 30 were being filled.

A year has passed since then and things have changed.

Since its debut, the church has outgrown the maximum capacity of the school's room.

Even a local fire marshal approached the pastor on two separate occasions and expressed a concern for safety.

"In a year, we went from 20 to 30 people to around 400," Saunders said.

Saunders, in order to accommodate the church's overflow, plans to add another Sunday service within the next few months.

So how does a brand new church gain so much popularity in such a short amount of time?

Although the center has a Web site and The Signal covered its launch a year ago, Saunders attributed the growth to people talking about their experiences to neighbors and friends.

"More so than ever, it's by word of mouth," Pastor said. "People don't know how fun being a Christian can be."

Saunders emphasized that the church keeps its arms open to everyone.

"Everyone" means people from different ethnicities, economic statuses and even different religions.

"Christians from other denominations, Catholics and Jews are among attendees of the church," Saunders said.

The church has traditional Christian values and its teachings won't change.

Some look for an establishment to get fulfillment, some look to convert, and others just want to reaffirm their own beliefs, Saunders said.

In any case, "this is not just a black church," Saunders said. "It's for everybody."

This includes people outside of the Santa Clarita Valley. People drive from Palmdale, Chino Hills, Inglewood and other cities within L.A. County to come to the center's services, Saunders said.

He even knows a woman who flies from New York as often as she can to attend a service.

"She was visiting family in the SCV and someone took her to a service of ours," the pastor said. "She was blown away."

The pastor also knows of four families who have moved to the SCV because of the Valencia Christian Center.

"The excitement about God is obvious," Saunders said. "Our enthusiasm is very evident, and it's contagious."

Saunders said he wants to paint the picture of Christianity as a joyous one, and is proud that Valencia Christian Center facilitates not only a positive and welcoming atmosphere, but also a musical one.

From the moment people walk in to the moment the service is done, people are on their feet, he said.

He added, the members of Valencia Christian Center believe in giving God their best in everything.

"People shouldn't have more fun at a Britney Spears concert, or a Hannah Montana concert, than they would have at church," Saunders said. "Our music reflects that we give God our best."

In addition to the music, "the preaching is passionate (and) people are enthusiastic to be there."

And that's what Saunders wanted when he first started the congregation. He wanted people to have a desire to attend services.
He is aware there are people who feel that going to church is a chore or an obligation, he said.

He believes church isn't supposed to be this way.

"We need to have something there for people to want to come to church," he said.

In building his vision of the center, Saunders incorporated Christian values, up-beat music, enthusiasm and a different emphasis on what's possible.

"Too many churches emphasize what we can't do," the pastor said. "We focus on what we can do. All the things that we can't do are still there, and still important, but because the church focuses so much on the positive, there's no time to think about doing the negative.

"From what I hear, from what I've been told," the pastor said, "it's the type of church that people have been waiting for."

Valencia Christian Church meets in Pico Canyon Elementary School for 10 a.m. service every Sunday. The school is located at 25255 Pico Canyon Road in Stevenson Ranch. For more information, contact Pastor Marlon Saunders at (661) 977-4100 or visit www.valenciachristiancenter.org.

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