The spiritual shelter or haven for young adults launches a capital campaign

Since opening just more than a year ago, the Hillside Inn has established itself as a meeting place, where young adults can seek refuge from the hardships of journeying through the modern world.

In that time, the inn has already affirmed what Hillside Fellowship pastor Zack Elliott has seen for himself over the past decade, that the church is doing enough to serve the needs of the “millennial” generation.

by: FILE PHOTO - Expanding vision -- Open since the fall of 2012, the Hillside Inn is kicking off a nearly $500,000 capital campaign to begin its second phase, which will include building renovations and creating a residential guest program.That’s why Elliott and the non-denominational congregation at Hillside are already moving forward with the next phase of the inn, announcing a capital campaign Dec. 12 to support their vision of ministering to the “prodigals” who continue to slip through the cracks.

“Now that there’s actually a place like this, the people who access it, it’s just such a welcome place for them that we get confirmation almost daily of people who find their way to it and say they’ve dreamt of a place like this,” Elliott said. “We find people in ministry, pastors, who’ve said they’ve wondered how to address that.”

Elliott points to recent studies by David Kinnaman and the Barna Group, which have shown that 59 percent of youth ages 18 to 29 with a Christian background in the United States are leaving the church, as evidence of a broader trend that he hopes to address locally.

Up to this point the inn has mostly been an open space for young people to eat and drink for free, converse, study, reflect or just be themselves without any other agenda. Open 7 to 11 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, it is a limited residential program for the four current innkeepers in a rented apartment across the street.

At the vision event, Elliott unveiled a fundraising goal of $466,500 over the next year to develop the inn in three different ways.

The first is to expand capacity, through the purchase of housing in the neighborhood of the inn’s 611 N. Main location, for a guest resident program that will provide “Millennials” a place to “rest, heal, grow and go” after a few months to a year. Guests will receive guidance and support from staff so that they may “go from the inn into their families, churches and cultures in ways consistent with the life of Christ.”

Elliott said that 10 to 12 people have already expressed interest in participating in the residential program and believes they will quickly reach capacity, which is why the plan calls for raising one year’s operating budget for the inn. That would include staffing, including associate pastor Sean Flannery and his wife Melody, who joined the fold in August, a head innkeeper and a part-time administrator.

“We run really lean and keep the focus on putting the resources into expanding the vision, but we’ve brought Sean and Melody on board and their work needs to focus 100 percent on the inn,” Elliott said.
“We need to be able to dedicate their time to counseling, leading and building the team.”

Lastly, the plan calls for renovations to the inn itself, including an overhaul to its small kitchen, the instillation of art work and the expansion of its modest library. Elliott would even like to hire a local artist to install a full ceiling mural as well.

The vision event also included the launch of the inn’s website,, and the release of a four-minute promotional video by Fellowship member and George Fox University graduate Joey Barda.

Those efforts epitomize the inn and congregation’s philosophy of each person contributing according to their own gifts and abilities and represent the first avenue of the three-pronged capital campaign, a grassroots effort to spread the word about the inn in the hope that individuals will make small contributions, even as little as $5, to the project.

Elliott hopes the grassroots effort will serve as a tide, carrying the other efforts to network with the local church community and approach individual donors and philanthropists for support.

He hopes to have either secured enough funds to move forward on the purchase of a house by the spring and begin accommodating guests in the fall, but the ultimate vision is to establish a campus of buildings somewhat like L’Abri, the Christian learning community in Switzerland that helped inspire the inn.

“We need to continue the work of ministries of justice and reach out into addiction and poverty and homelessness, all those things, but at the same time we can’t ignore that poverty that exists that’s not so visible,” Elliott said. “We’re doing a lot of work in those areas, but the three or four young people sitting next to us are disappearing while we’re engaged in this work because we forgot about them.”

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