(RICHLAND, MI) Recently He Reigns Gospel Magazine spoke with Rev. Shawn Raifsnider, Senior Pastor of Yorkville Interdenominational Community Church in Richland, Michigan. Pastor Raifsnider was hired as full time, Senior Pastor on Sunday, October 4, 2015, and officially installed on November 1.
In talking with members of the congregation, it was apparent that God had a hand in leading Pastor Shawn Raifsnider to the Yorkville church. “We are so blessed to have Shawn leading us,” is echoed throughout the membership. “He embraces the spirit of diversity, family unity, love of God, country and freedom without harsh judgement, gossip, or exclusion.” According to Cathi Harris, Yorkville church secretary, “We knew as soon as we read his resume package that he (Shawn Raifsnider) was the one to fill God’s vision for our congregation. We had over 100 applicants, but when we made our final decision, we didn’t need to take a vote.”
Pastor Raifsnider’s biography shows his commitment to ministry from childhood. “I knew I wanted to preach from the age of 13. I first felt the call while watching a T.V. evangelist with my youngest sister’s nanny. At sixteen, I proclaimed Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. My teen years included volunteer service as an Activities Assistant at the River Forrest Nursing Home in Three Rivers, Michigan. I attended a Christian church, where I worked with pastors every day and attended a private Christian school.” Shawn engaged the challenge of studying for the ministry and began his ministerial internship at the AFC World Outreach Center in Chicago Illinois. The AFC is a multi-cultural, interdenominational, multi-faceted religious organization. It is a ministry incubator where 50 independent churches and approximately 8,000 parishioners worship.
After he was ordained, the founder and CEO of the AFC, Joseph L. Stanford offered the now Reverend Shawn Raifsnider the Ordained Minister assignment at Ambassadors for Christ of Three Rivers, Michigan and Elkhart, Indiana. Through the expansion of the AFC Family Cares Mission, he served as the Group Home Manager, implementing the Positive Youth Program in Three Rivers and Chicago. This program was funded by the City Development Block Grant (CDBG), which provided youth 2 days per week with workshops, counseling, job training, after school programs, GED education guidance and HIV/AID’s awareness and other social economic issues. He stays connected with the group of teens that he served. Some of the youth still call him “Pops” or “Papa.”
After two years of ministry, Pastor Shawn assisted in the establishment of the Ambassadors for Christ Church of South Bend. He began mentoring a whole new core of converts with the intention they should develop into a thriving congregation. He was working with Associate Ministers in both Three Rivers and South Bend. The South Bend Church began with Tent Revivals, and then moved into a rented storefront building until purchasing its own church. Pastor Shawn was in charge of the historical restoration of the facility, and administration of all church business as the church moved into the magnificent new sanctuary. During this time, he preached between both Three Rivers, Elkhart, and South Bend alternating Sundays and mid-week services.
In 1999, Shawn returned to AFC World Outreach and assisted in an annual citywide drug campaign and Cease Fire campaign, a community driven anti-gang and drug initiative. This initiative was developed due to the increase of crime in the drug-infected police beat #611. This beat was identified as one of the community’s hottest spots for criminal activity. Drug lords and gang members had employed several dozen youth to sell drugs and occupy every corner on West 78th Street from Ashland Avenue to Damen. To combat this, a huge tent was erected on 78th to conduct a 6 week youth empowerment camp. Here the Gospel was preached 4 times a week on 78th street and residents and other churches were encouraged to get involved. Many Community Marches against Crime took place as well. The hands on approach to these problems have served greatly to reduce gang presence within this community. Because of the initiative, a long-standing prostitution ring in the area, which plagued the community for 13 years, was dismantled. The number of shootings was reduced by 67% and overall arrests for crime dropped by 30% from the prior year, according to the Detective Divisions of the Chicago Police Department.
Pastor Shawn stated, “My passion in college was Political Science, but I will not engage in politics from my pulpit. However, on more than one occasion I have advocated once for a church with a letter and once with an article with positive results.” In addition, he stated that he has worked on both sides of the political party lines to achieve the goals for common good. He has fostered a beautiful long-term bipartisan friendship with more than one state Representative.
As for being a single pastor, he states, “I am spiritually married to the church. My installation vows for me are like marriage vows. I’ll be married in a physical/spiritual sense when the Lord brings someone my way. For the leader of a flock, it is important that you bring in a wife with the same mission and heart that you have. She must be my soul mate and help mate in Christ.”
“My life is too full of God’s work to separate my mission from a marital state.” Other than ministerial duties, Pastor Shawn loves to read and write sermons, 25-30 pages. “I have to reduce them to eight.”
In addition to his ministry at the Yorkville Community Church, he has served on a ministerial staff at a hospital, and as a nursing home volunteer. Shawn speaks with reverence for the elderly and connects closely with the home bound in facilities. “They can’t get out,” he said, “so we bring church to them.” On one occasion, he walked around a group in a facility singing the old classic hymn, “He Touched Me.”
“I touched all the older residents, and one lady I touched started crying. You go around and you touch these people,” he continued. “They just soak it up. They want affection. I left out of there, and I just about cried myself!” he said. “The church service was supposed to be thirty minutes long,” he explained. “But we went on for about an hour!”
Pastor Raifsnider conveys that he feels blessed to lead the beautiful congregation at Yorkville Community Church. “It’s like a Norman Rockwell painting inside and out. However, the real beauty and soul of the church is the people who worship here.”
It is obvious in the uplifting and unforgettable sermons at Yorkville Community Church that Pastor Shawn’s goal in life has carried him to bring people closer to God. His focus is on the positive message of Jesus Christ as he evangelizes from the pulpit. His love of all people shines through and he leaves his congregation uplifted. There is freedom to laugh, get rid of self-doubt, hatred, and fear. “ I live my life as a beacon, a light. I want my congregation to feel love for Christ and for living each day with joy. I want people to go with joy to meet the heavenly father. I don’t want souls to be scared into heaven.”
Activities at and throughout the community is part of Pastor Shawn’s vision for the future. Before Christmas, 2015, the church choir and other members of the church joined in the live Nativity Pageant with actors and animals at Henderson castle. The pageant was repeated at the church. Pastor Shawn acted as one of the three kings. Children made crafts, decorated cookies, and enjoyed seeing the live sheep and Jesus donkey outside in the beautiful garden. Future planning includes a block party in the summer at the church with Christian music groups and Gospel singers. For instance, there are plans to bring in a country western star from North Carolina who sings beautiful baritone gospel to participate. “I want to get the church outside the walls, and to get the community involved,” he explained.
Part of Pastor Raifsnider’s outreach ministry includes community help programs including the Lions Club, the Rotary, and the Kiwanis Club. He is looking forward to working with community service in the Gull Lake and Richland areas.
He Reigns Gospel Magazine believes that God has great things in store for both Pastor Shawn Raifsnider and Yorkville Community Church of Richland, Michigan. “Join us at a church where Christian people from all faiths and denominations join to rejoice in God’s word. Interact with a non-judgmental, compassionate, and loving congregation.” Meet Pastor Shawn Raifsnider where the entire congregation is like family for all who would enter.
The church is located at 11523 East D Avenue in Richland, MI., right by Gull Lake. It is about 2 blocks off M-89, halfway between Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. The building sits at the corner of D Avenue and 37th Streets. For more information, give the church a call at (269) 629-4729.
By Clarence Jones
Written and Revised by Clarice C. Cook, CDP
Author, Article and Blog Writer
Certified Dementia Practitioner