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An abode of encouragement

Ministry: The Barnabas House on Chestnut Street in Newhall serves as a place for Bible studies

Posted: July 23, 2010 3:39 p.m.
Updated: July 24, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Art Dolder, far right, leads the Bible study group in the living room of the Barnabas House. Dolder started the Ministries of Encouragement 13 years ago, and bought the house a few years after that.

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On a row of homes on Chestnut Street in Newhall, the Barnabas House doesn’t stick out.

Once you pass the white picket fence and take a step in the door, you’ll find the comfortable living room, tidy kitchen, backyard and the usual homely amenities. But you won’t find a family because the Barnabas House is not a typical residence.

It is a house for ministry and gatherings.

But it’s not a church, either.

On any given lunch break or evening, you might find an anger-management group, an overeaters-anonymous group, a gathering of senior citizens, a Bible study or an English as a Second Language course.

As you walk past the living room, you’ll come upon the office of pastor and counselor Art Dolder. On his door hangs a placard reading:  “If you have troubles, come in and tell us about them. If not, come in and tell us how you do it.”

Many who enter Barnabas House often do have troubles, and they seek guidance from Dolder or other groups that meet at the house.

Dolder, of Newhall, started the Ministries of Encouragement 13 years ago. Before that, the ordained minister led The Christian Family Church for 14 years. He began to sense a calling that would lure him out of the church walls.

“I felt that there was a need for something that wasn’t necessarily a church-related activity that could encourage people that were Christians but weren’t really involved in a specific church,” he said.

“I think there are a lot of Christians in this valley are not churched, but they believe in Christ,” he said.

So, Dolder and his wife left The Christian Family Church and started Ministries of Encouragement, to minister to people’s spiritual and personal needs through Bible studies, Biblical counseling, life-enrichment seminars and with a helping hand, according to the organization’s website.

“We lost the security of ministry in a church to start something new, and this was not sponsored by anybody,” he said. “We were totally under a free-will offering.”

After a couple of years, the Dolders found the home on Chestnut Street that they named after Barnabas, a Biblical figure of encouragement.

The Barnabas House is labeled as a Christian resource center that features Bible studies, gathering activities, counseling and personal discipleship.  Dolder spends much time counseling troubled marriages in his office. He himself has been married 44 years.

“The goal of the ministry is to encourage people into the faith and to encourage people to develop their faith,” he said. 

The Dolders open up the space to several community groups looking for a safe, inviting place to meet. Hood believes that people are drawn to the house because it is nonthreatening.

 “It’s very comfortable. It has a homey atmosphere not an institutional atmosphere,” he said.

“We don’t expect much out of people when they come here,” he added. “We don’t expect them to become givers; we don’t even expect them to participate. We’re just open to them.”

That atmosphere is what has drawn Canyon Country resident Tim Hood, 51, to the ministry for the last three years. Hood attends Thursday men’s lunches and Bible studies at Barnabas House.

He initially came to the house at a time when he was struggling with some personal issues, he said.

“It was really nice people and I enjoyed being there,” he said. “There are people from all different churches there, I think that’s interesting.” 

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