One Sunday last fall, The Covington Christian Church had a visitor "incognito" in their morning worship service. The Rev. Tim Bolen came to check out the church and experience worship anonymously to see how he would feel after one visit. According to Bolen, God was leading him in a new direction after having planted and served a church in Columbus for seven years. Bolen sent out only one resume and that was to Covington Christian Church.
He sat in the auditorium and didn’t tell anyone why he was there. As he left the service, he knew he had found a healthy church that lives and backs up what is preached.
Bolen’s thoughts turned to the friendly people who confirmed his opinion, "Whether they call me for an interview or not, if I lived in this area, I would go to this church."
Bolen was hired, and as the new pastor of Covington Christian Church, his passion in life is to give families help. He says his favorite sermon is preaching on the family.
"I have been married for 19 years and have four daughters — Hannah, Sarah, Amanda and Marissa," he said feeling very blessed. "I want other people to have what I have in terms of a healthy home life. When I look around, I see so many families with the exact opposite of that. I want to help those families."
When Bolen served as pastor in Columbus, his church’s ministry attracted a lot of hurting families. Out of sheer desperation, he went back to school to earn a master’s in counseling to become better skilled and tooled. With an associate license, his goal is to be fully licensed counseling in a couple of years.
"I almost left the ministry because I thought I couldn’t help people," he said of the numbers of hurting families. "I actually went into counseling thinking I was going to be a full time counselor, but I can’t leave the ministry — I just can’t do that."
He and his wife, Mary, are both graduates of Florida Christian College where they met. Bolen’s ministries carried him from Florida, Canada, Athens, and Columbus where he received his master’s in counseling from Columbus State University. Mary has a degree in public administration. Growing up in a parsonage, she understands how challenging ministry can be. Bolen said that she is not only his helpmate but also his best friend.
To help support his family, Bolen opened a home improvement business. Later when he felt God’s direction to move to another ministry and send out his resume, Bolen suffered a serious accident. As he took down a tree, it landed backwards and broke his left shoulder and left leg. His faith unshaken, he used the following six weeks while he was recuperating to reflect.
The Bolens built their ministry on friendships. In Columbus, it took them two years to build a church community from scratch.
"When I look back, I didn’t build a church," Bolen said. "I built a bunch of friends who happened to believe in what the church was about. The best part of my ministry here is the building of relationships. When I get up on Sunday morning and talk about what God wants us to do, I am talking to my friends — not to strangers."
When Bolen counsels hurting families, he emphasizes the importance of having the support of a church community because within a church are hurting people, not perfect people. The church has always been full of people who are striving to do life better.
Bolen said that the Covington Christian Church added 30 memberships last year when the church was without a pastor. He explained that church is about becoming lifelong family and friends with the people you go to church with. He believes they survived the year because they leaned on each other.
"We have people here that provide help to those who express needs," he said in terms of finance, food, housing and job search. "We set them up with a plan for how to make those things better and healthier. We call those people through the week and check up on them and make sure that what they came here originally asking for is not only met, there is more — there is friendship."
The church is planning four marriage retreats on how to resolve marriage conflict. According to Bolen, 70 percent of the things that married people fight about are not resolvable. He teaches how to agree to disagree about those things and resolve the other 30 percent.
"I want people to know that we are here to serve the whole family," said Bolen in hopes that this ministry will be a source of encouragement and expand into an additional building to accommodate the needs."
Bolen said the state of the family has become too dependent on wealth and credit and deferring responsibility. As families are forced to deal with the economic crisis, he hopes they will become unified, spend more time together and buckle down and rely on each other. He believes families will emerge on the other side of better if they have a church family to share it with — wherever that may be.
He pointed out, "People are moving back in with family members to survive financially." "Kids that were going to launch out of the nest are going to decide to stay home a little bit longer. It’s great when you see 19 year olds having to get to know their parents when they thought they were going to wipe the dust off their feet and be an adult. Now they realize they can’t do that. It is forcing them to do what they probably didn’t do all those years — spend time together."
After coming from a portable church that had to be set up and taken down each Sunday, Mary said they have enjoyed being in a friendly and generous church with a healthy attendance and programs.
"The success is attributed to them," she said of her new church family. "We walked into what we feel is a gold mine and have enjoyed it so much."
For more information on the Covington Christian Church located at 141 Highway 142, Covington, call 770-786-1021 or visit www.covingtonchristian.org.