In order to hang on to the beautiful mosaic of Canyon Springs’ history we are leaving these first few bits on our website even though Pastor Jack and Jilane are no longer pastoring Canyon Springs. We love our history and believe everyone should understand the formative experience that took place in order to plant Canyon Springs Church.
Canyon Springs began in 1998 with a simple dream. My wife Jilane and I wanted to start a church that we wouldn’t be embarrassed to go to. Pretty simple really. If you haven’t figured this out already, I’ll spell it out. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Fortunately, God showed up. Let me walk you through some of the stories God has taken Canyon Springs through to grow us from from the five members of our family to 500 on a Sunday.
The First Conversation (From Jack Hawkins, founding Pastor of Canyon Springs Church)
Jilane and I were winding down our ministry at Forest Home Christian Conference center and were looking for our next ministry challenge. After exploring option after option and feeling discouraged, I had a conversation with my friend and mentor Denny. He suggested we start a church. I suggested something else. Anything else. Something with a paycheck would be preferable. The thought of starting from scratch was scary. Then Denny uttered a phrase that would change our lives forever. “If I could take away your fears about planting a church would you be interested?” I said “Yes, I would.” At that moment he told us about an organization, the Evangelical Covenant Church that would not only guide us through the process, but would pay me as well. I liked the sound of that. Later that day I came home to my wife and I said to her, “Guess what we talked about?” She said, “Not starting a church!” (We were obviously great people of faith, don’t you think?) From that moment on, Jilane and I knew in our heart that God was leading us to start a church. A short nine months later we had sold our house (at a loss) and moved to Scripps Ranch and the adventure began.
The First Meeting
When we moved into Scripps Ranch we were eager, excited, prayerful, but mostly lonely. We only knew two couples here, and both of those we had only met with once. Not exactly a great foundation for a church. Come to find out that God didn’t want people to be our foundation. He wanted that job. Silly us. We put together a core team of about 12 people that were meeting in our house weekly to put our church together. And, quite honestly, it wasn’t going well. When I look back on the photo of our little gang, only 6 of those people ever came to Canyon Springs. But four of them are still coming. God bless Bill and Edie Davis and Tom and Julie Gutierez. After a few months of small groups I turned to my wife and said, “God didn’t call me to start a small group, he called me to start a church.” So we picked a date, December 6, 1998, for our first church service, found a location, the Scripps Ranch library and we sent out a flyer to our community. We knew of 13 people who would show up. 103 did. I can still remember Bill and I jumping up and down as all the cars rolled in. We had 96 for our second meeting and 6 of those people made life changing decisions for Jesus Christ. We were amazed. Turns out God is a pretty good foundation for a church.
The First Location
In truth, our first location was the Scripps Ranch Library, but they would only allow us to meet monthly. I talked them into letting us meet weekly for a few months, but our time was running short. We were scrambling to find a facility. I had been turned down by every school in our area, several times, but I decided to make one last call to the principal at Jerabek school. A month before they had turned me down, but I was desperate. Two weeks later, I got a phone call. It was from the head custodian in charge of the facility, and he told me that we could use Jerabek school on Sundays for church. I can’t dance, but I gave it my best shot as I boogied around the room in our little condo. If I close my eyes I can still see that little auditorium, 8 foot ceilings, orange walls, tacky chairs, but it was beautiful to me and became our new church home.
I could go on and on about the ways that God showed up at Canyon Springs. In year two God opened up the doors to Dingeman elementary school and we almost immediately doubled in size. In year three I got a phone call from a pastor in Texas who wanted to work at our church for two years for free. In year four we filled the stadium at Scripps Ranch High School for our Easter services. Those are each great stories of God’s faithfulness. But the real stories are in the lives of people. Thousands have walked through our doors and hundreds have made life changing decisions to follow Jesus. Multiple marriages have been restored thanks to the power of God. Thousands of children have not only come to church, but drag their parents to church because they love it. Our children’s ministry has left a lasting legacy on this community. Our youth ministry has not only changed lives but is working to develop difference-makers who will lead God’s church into the future.
Where We Are Now (From Chad Richards, Lead Pastor of Canyon Springs Church)
In 2014 my fiancé (now wife) and I were fasting and praying about wether God wanted us to take the Youth Pastor job that was being offered to us from a church in some random city in San Diego called Scripps Ranch? My first thoughts as a young man was “that is way too far from the beach” because I was currently living on PCH in Dana Point and surfing every day. We had never heard of this town. We did not want to be in the suburbs but something was different about Canyon Springs. Their love for missions and youth was obvious and the kindness and love we felt on our first visit was endearing. Something was stirring in us and calling us down to San Diego. So, in August 2014 I took the role of Youth Pastor and it was clear that this was exactly where God wanted us.
After 6 years of leading the youth ministry I stepped into the Executive Pastor role of our church where I was able to lead our church through Covid, develop our staff and start casting vision for what the next 20 years of Canyon Springs could be like. In 2021, along with the board, Jack and I started to talk about the future of Canyon Springs. Jack started affirming in me that when he retired, he wanted me to lead the church. I felt honored and loved but we both agreed that we still have a handful of years together. Then Jacks oldest daughter had a baby. With three of his four kids in Arizona and now a grandchild on the way, it started to become obvious that their hearts were in Arizona. At the beginning of 2023, Jack shared with me that they were going to be stepping down and moving to Arizona to build their next legacy. For me, it truly was a bitter sweet moment. I was thrilled to step into the role as Lead Pastor and one of my best friends was moving away. Bitter/Sweet. We truly had and still have one of the best relationships you can have with people you work with.
Now, I get the privilege of leading our church into this next 20 years of ministry and beyond. With a new home right in our city, a staff that is on fire for the Lord, I believe Canyon Springs is uniquely positioned to make a HUGE impact. Looking back and reflecting on that day of fasting with my wife it is evident that God really did know what he was up to. We cannot imagine what our lives would have been like had God not brought us down here. We had both of our kids while ministering at Canyon Springs and are now raising our kids at this church. Canyon Springs really is a unique community and we cannot wait for you to hop in and be apart of it.
I am glad you took some moments to learn about our history. We hope that you would join us in writing the next chapters of what God is doing through this church in the middle of some town I had never heard of called “Scripps Ranch.”
I am rooting for you,
Pastor Chad Richards