Palm Coast Community Church celebrates its 20th anniversary and the journey to the milestone.
A series of leaps of faith led Billy Wight and his family to Palm Coast in December 1994.
Wight was a high school senior in a small town in Georgia when he first connected with the church, a connection that would eventually lead to the seminary.
“I didn’t like church in high school. I didn’t see how it related to me,” Wight said. “A friend invited me to his church and it wasn’t like any church I’d been to. That’s when I really started my relationship with God.”
The attraction for Wight was the less traditional approach of using modern music and interpretation of the Bible, and would become the foundation for the type of church he would one day lead – Palm Coast Community Church.
His faith continued as he attended and graduated from Auburn University with a degree in forestry. But his heart wasn’t in forestry.
“My wife and I quit our jobs so I could go to the seminary in Nashville,” he said.
Upon completion Wight was given an opportunity he didn’t expect, the chance to start his own church, one targeting a younger population with a modern approach.
“Normally when you leave the seminary you go into an existing church,” he said. “I was approached by a friend in Colorado who asked me if I wanted to start my own church out there.”
Wight consulted with one of his professors at Auburn about whether he should go the traditional route or start in an existing church. His professor encouraged him to go to Colorado.
“He didn’t give me the answer I expected,” Wight said.
After a few months in Colorado Wight realized that the area didn’t have the community support needed to start a new church and he began looking at other areas of the country.
“Someone asked me if I had heard of Palm Coast,” he said. “I hadn’t.”
With enough money in the bank to support them for six weeks, the family moved to Palm Coast.
Wight said he received support, both monetary donations and faith, from the Peniel Baptist Church in Palatka. His initial salary and operating costs were dependent on donations.
“We were telling people about our church and they would ask where the church was,” he said. “We would tell them we didn’t’ know yet.”
Finally, an agreement with the Flagler County School Board found them a place to have services at Wadsworth Elementary. On Sept. 10, 1995 Palm Coast Community Church had its first service with 200 people attending. The congregation was made up of people in their 20s and 30s and their families, many who had been invited through phone calls and mailings.
“We used the direct approach. We had a group that called people; back then everyone had a home phone. We told them who we were and asked if they were interested. Some said yes and others said no, we didn’t do a hard sell,” he said. “Younger people were our focus. There weren’t any churches specifically for the younger families at that time.”
Continuing to grow, the church moved from services at the elementary school to its current home at 1 Pine Lakes Parkway with a membership that was nearly 800 in 2005.
Community is an important aspect of not only the church name, but also its mission. Over the years Wight and his church have worked with and helped other churches in the area, and helped Epic Church to open. Epic has offices at Palm Coast Community Church and meets at Buddy Taylor Middle School with a younger congregation. The branching out and opening of the new church brought the membership of Palm Coast Community church back to 300 members.
“In the business world this would be competition but we aren’t in a competition,” he said. “We work together, it’s the “community” in our name,” Wight said.
The church has added a preschool, a project members of the church took on themselves. Their current enrollment is 83 children, ranging from birth through VPK.
“Most everyone is here because someone has invited them,” Wight said. “That’s still the number one way people come to church.”