Starting, a new church in Forest Park-Hope Tabernacle Community Church-has been a sometimes scary and at other times inspiring experience for Pastor Bill Teague and his family.
It was in 2002, said Teague, that God gave him a vision of starting a community church in Forest Park. His family bought into the vision in 2003 when they learned they could rent space at the American Legion Hall on Circle Avenue, and the adventure in faith began.
But several years later the church attracts only a few handfuls of followers each Sunday and Teague’s vision of a multi-ethnic congregation hasn’t materialized. To date, the church serves an entirely black audience.
Teague’s wife, Denise, who works as a travel agent downtown, admitted to having mixed emotions about starting a new congregation.
“It was exciting to start something like that, but also a little scary,” she said. “I was used to being involved in ministry, but never out in front and actually being responsible for planning the ministry-that part was a little scary.”
The Teague family felt some confidence in that all of them had been involved in ministry for years. Bill Teague was an associate minister at a church on the west side of Chicago in 1983 and helped start a new congregation in Maywood several years ago.
“My dad has always been heavily involved in church,” said Lattise Teague who, at 26, is the oldest daughter in the family. “From being a Sunday school teacher, youth church teacher, driving the church van, running the audio equipment, and video taping special events, my father was always doing something.”
And that work was always in addition to working a full-time job. Presently, Bill Teague works for Allstate as a network engineer in the IT department.
Like father, like daughters. All four of the Teague sisters talked about being involved in the church for as long as they can remember. Courtney, who is 18, lives at home and is a student at Triton College. She never feels pressured to do anything at church, she said, but is always ready to sing if called on.
Lattise taught classes, sang and helped the youths put on a Christmas presentation. Courtney taught Sunday school in addition to singing at worship. Brittanie, the youngest daughter and a student at Proviso East, taught Sunday school with Courtney, ushered and helped out with the Christmas play.
“I tried to sing once,” Brittanie said with a laugh.
Marsha McWilliams, 23, is the second oldest daughter.
“I didn’t understand [what my parents required] then, but I do now,” McWilliams said. “At Hope Tabernacle I’m a Sunday school teacher, and I’m also over the sound ministry. I take pride in what I do, making sure the mics are working and finding music for the church to worship to. If my mother and father didn’t raise me to be involved in church when I was young, I don’t think I would be compelled to be involved as much as I am now.”
Lattise remembered how, when her father decided to start the new ministry in Forest Park, he never pressured her to come along.
“My father simply told me that there was no need to leave my current church family unless that was something that God was leading me to do,” Lattise said. “I thought that was very big of him and it made me feel a sense of relief.”
The Teague daughters acknowledged there can be drawbacks to being a PK (pastor’s kid).
“Being a minister’s daughter can sometimes be hard, because there are so many stereotypes and expectations placed on you,” Lattise said.
On the whole, though, the Teagues said working as a family has made them stronger. The siblings can recognize more easily when one of them is struggling with something, and there’s a wealth of spiritual guidance in their home, which is something not every household can claim.
So far-in the four years Hope Tabernacle has been in Forest Park-attendance has not lived up to Bill Teague’s vision. Hope Tabernacle averages 25 to 30 worshippers each Sunday. It’s difficult to generate the energy many people are looking for in a worship experience with such a small group of people.
Bill Teague insists this doesn’t get him down. He believes that moving from a church of 500 to the church plant in Maywood, in which attendance was around 20, prepared him for the Forest Park experience in a way that doesn’t let him get discouraged.
“No discouragement,” he declared. “Some days we have five and some days we have 35. We still have to do the work of the Lord. I have to preach to those five just like I would to 35.”
His daughter Marsha, however, sees a side of her father not shown to the public.
“Being a full-time dad, working a full-time job and being a pastor full-time can be tiresome, not to mention being the only male in the house, with a wife and four daughters. It takes a toll on my dad,” Marsha said. “I know it hurts my dad sometimes to see the church not growing the way he wants it.”
To expand the church’s numbers, Bill Teague said he plans to reach out to the community more in the next year. Block parties that include praise bands and choirs are part of that strategy.
“We wanted to get on a solid ground during our first few years,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we had good programs and teachers so that we have something to offer.”
Teague maintains a connection with a network of Baptist churches in the area from which he can draw preachers, praise bands and choirs for the events he is planning or when he is out of town. He is affiliated with the National Baptist, Illinois Baptist and Midwest Baptist districts. His sister church is Mt. Sinai Church on the west side, led by William Lott, Sr. That connection alone gives Teague access to nine associate ministers and six other churches.
“My father has a big vision,” Lattise said. “Nothing is going to stop him from doing what he believes God has called him to do. God rewards faithfulness. In due time you will reap if you feint not.”