Vineyard Central

1757 Mills Avenue
Senior Pastor: 
Kevin Rains
Vineyard Movement

A Unique Community With Unique Ideas

Relationship to this Church: regular attender


Date Attended: March 18, 2007

Was the building easy to find? If you drove, was it hard to find parking? How about the exterior or interior signage? what would you do differently?
It was easy to find as it was next door to where I was staying (in the home of the church leaders). It's a "new church" in an old church building. There was little signage or any of the traditional mileposts/marketing one se es at today's "non-denominational" churches.

Did anyone approach you and speak to you before the service got underway? If so, how did you feel about that? Can you share their name(s)? Did you know them before your visit?
Yes. Members of the community were very open about having me and anyone attend their church. I knew some of them and was always meeting more of them.

As you observe the people doing their church thing?, what goes through your mind? Are you able to understand why they do what they do? Do they seem sincere?
I don't understand why any Christian or believer does what they do so far as it concerns worshipping a supernatural deity. I DO understand how what happens at this church and within this community is a force for good, for making the world a better place. Their sincerity is inspiring. Even though I think they're speaking only to the voices in their heads when they pray, I think they're acting with h earts full of love. And I love that in turn.

What do you think about the rituals (the liturgy or the program)?
I think they are entirely unnecessary. You can make the world a better place without believing in a supernatural deity.

Check out the church program/bulletin. Is there anything in it you find confusing or offensive? If this were your "business" how would you improve this communication piece?
There was no bulletin. This is not a business. It's a mission and you get the sense of that immediately.

What did you think of the music? Did you enjoy any of it? Was it boring? Write down the feelings you had while watching or participating.
The music was standard Christian music, which I always find a little off-putting with its references to supernatural beings, heaven, hell, and all that. The feelings I had were "Why? Why not just be people? Why do you need all this imagery and backstory?"

What did you think of the prayers? As you listened to the prayers, what did you learn about the people, either good or bad? Did they "major in the majors" or get lost in the minors?
The prayers were irrelevant to me. I think I'm starting to see prayer--voiced prayer, anyway--as a way of making a public declaration on what you hope to achieve. Saying these things, these goals, in front of others in a prayer is, I think, a way of holding your feet to the fire. Like telling your friends you're going to lose 20 lbs. this year. By going public, you increase your committment by default.

Did the speaker or pastor seem likeable? Weird? Is she/he a person you'd enjoy having coffee with? If not, why not?
Absolutely. Rose Swetman was the guest speaker, and she said something wonderful about this particular community, how you don't need to believe to belong, and how they put belonging before belief, which is a great, great thing.

How about the quality of her/his talk: does the speaker need public speaking lessons or is she/he pretty good? Did she/he seem engaged/sincere/condescending?
She was very good. She spoke about her shortcomings, she connected people to her story. I didn't check my watch once.

Did the talk itself hold your attention? Was it enjoyable? Thought-provoking? Relevant? Credible? Did any part(s) of it particularly stand out to you in a positive or negative way?
Yes, yes, yes, yes, no. The only part that wasn't credible was the whole supernatural deity part. Because that part isn't ever credible, in my opinion.

Did anyone approach you and speak to you after the service ended? If so, how did you feel about that? Can you share their name(s)? Did you know them before visiting?
Yes. Kevin Rains, Jason Evans, and a few others... "So... what did you think?" And their questions were not geared for flattery (me to them) or trying to convert me. But simply honest: what did you think of our church?

Did you bring any adults or children with you to our service? If so, ask them about their experience. What did they tell you?
Traveled solo, as is my wont. But if I were in Cincinatti, and my wife said, "I'd like to check out a church service," this is where I'd go. Hands-down.

How was your experience at the church overall? Did you enjoy it? Would there be any point in you going there again?
It was wonderful. This community and others like it give me hope for Christianity. Even though I'd like to see all religion go away someday, it's currently a part of my world. And if to see it practiced without hypocrisy is the best I can hope for, then this church gives me that hope.

If this church expects to attract people like yourself, what do you suggest they improve that you haven't already mentioned?
Tell people about what you're doing. Don't expect a supernatural deity who (in my opinion) does not exist to fill your church--go get 'em!


According to the Hebrew sense of the word (the original sense) the word "holy" refers to "otherness" -- since the ancient Israelites were the "Chosen People" because they were different from the pagans around them. This otherness is what makes something holy; it is what separates the sacred from the secular.

Vineyard Central is all about the accoutrements of secular life. Their enormous compound has an engraving, in huge lower case letters, that says "small things done with great love to change the world." How ironic. Inside, it is more like a shopping mall than a church. Free coffee. A food court. Pizza and big pretzels for sale. Wi-fi. The list goes on. The "sanctuary" is really a state-of-the art sound stage, with jumbotron screens, movie theater seats, and cup-holders for your coffee.

It's like everyone is encouraged to consume caffeine during the so-called service, confusing the "presence of the Lord" with drugs.

By being so plugged into secular culture, the place is -- by definition -- unholy. By using the worst of consumerism to allegedly make a point about God, churches like Vineyard Central do nothing but propagate blind acceptance of the status quo.

One must think Jesus would have walked into the place, turned the tables over, and proclaimed, "My temple should be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!"

Does the Dean of Cinncinatti have a template for writing these ratings? He just says the same thing and changes the name of the pastor and church.

I suspect that the so-called "Dean of Cincinnati" has mistaken Vineyard Central with Vineyard Community Church (VCC) in Springdale. They are not the same church. In fact, Vineyard Central and VCC could not be more different. Calls into question the veracity of his reviews if he can't make a simple distinction like that.

Even if he does mean VCC, digging a little deeper would reveal a lot more truth than the surface assessment he provided.

Frankly, I think this whole idea of rating churches is terrible, and this mistaken review by The Dean proves why.

I marked myself as a regular attender because there was no option that fit this posting.

As I am currently a regular attender of Vineyard Central for the past 16 months - the church he is describing is clearly not Vineyard Central - Vineyard Central is in Norwood, OH and meets in a 100 yr old, former Catholic church St. Elizabeth - corner of Carter & Mills. It is an old church in dis-repair - and a very sacred space. I invite you to come to the "real" Vineyard Central. We are a collection of house churches - with Sunday attendance of about 50.

As a former regular attender of Vineyard Community Church in Springdale, OH - whose pastor is Dave Workman - the description he gave corresponds more closely to that Vineyard. It is a church of 5000+.

So, you can see my confusion over his review.


Elaine, you corrected "the description he gave" without identifying whom "he" might be.  In addition to yourself, Jim Henderson, Matt Casper, The Dean of Cincinatti, Erickyp and Dle have all thus far commented on this thread.  Maybe you're referring to comments by The Dean of Cincinnati, as these were previously corrected by Dle.  If so, would it be fair to say that you accept as applicable to Vineyard Central of Carter & Mills in Norwood, Ohio the comments by Jim Henderson, Matt Casper, Erickyp and Dle but not those of The Dean of Cincinnatti, as these applied to Vineyard Community Church of Springdale, Ohio??

I'm curious: what do you like most about the collection of house churches aka the "real" Vineyard Central? 

 Rob - the original post is a little old.  I don't remember my password. So, I've signed in as ElaineH.

Regarding the posting on Vineyard Central, several things have changed since this post went up.

1. they no longer hold weekly Sunday services.  they rely on the house churches to meet people's needs. However, they do have large group gatherings about once per month in St. E.

2. Kevin Rains recently stepped down as the pastor. 

3. I no longer attend there.

Regarding your question on what do I like most about the collection of house churches - my husband and I had no success in joining one of the house churches.  Some of them were closed to newcomers at the time we were trying to join, others were in the midst of taking a summer break, etc.  We did visit a couple of them, but none really worked for us. That combined with other issues resulted in my removing myself.  I did volunteer for several months at the neighborhood cafe - The Speckled Bird. It was a way for me to maintain contact with the community. When it closed last summer, I stopped going into this neighborhood.  I currently consider myself church alumni.

hope that answers your question.

Hi Elaine,

Might you and your husband be open to hosting a new house church in your home?  Perhaps the new pastoral team could assist you in getting something started, even if this took time.

Thanks for your post and clarification.




Your original question,

"I'm curious: what do you like most about the collection of house churches aka the "real" Vineyard Central? "

combined with your new question, 

"Might you and your husband be open to hosting a new house church in your home?  Perhaps the new pastoral team could assist you in getting something started, even if this took time."  

Giving you the benefit of doubt, I'm going to chose to assume it was not your intent to make me feel like I was set up. If it was your intent, I have to tell you it doesn't feel very authentic for you to ask the question without disclosing you are part of the VC community.  Only an insider would know the language.  Am I totally off base? Are you part of the VC community? 

I care a lot about the VC people - that is why I volunteered at the Speckled Bird last year - their church culture didn't work for me.

If you are interested in having a real conversation about why I am not at VC now, then ask someone at VC to give you my contact information.



I am not part of the Vineyard Community and have not visited or worshiped with a Vineyard church for over 20 years.  What language led you to think otherwise?  I do support house churches, and have a favorable impression of the Vineyard.

I did go to a wedding a few years ago in a restaurant where some friends from the Vineyard got married and the pastor who officiated was from the Vineyard.  The wedding wasn't announced as a Vineyard event.

Thanks for the clarification.  it would have better for me to have been curious and ask you what your experience has been - but my miss.

The language used was when you suggested I speak with the pastoral team - this is not language or a structure used at the big Vineyard Community Church. (I was on staff at the big Vineyard) the only Vineyard I've known to have a pastoral team is Vineyard Central.  I made the assumption only someone who had been part of the culture would know that. And, you are part of the house church culture - just not VC. My mistake and I apologize.

Since you do not know me and my experience with church, it felt a little presumptive for you to offer a solution.  I realize your intentions may have been good - but offering a solution for something I've not presented as a problem AND not asked for help with -  doesn't feel good. it also implies that we had not thought of this ourselves. 

I can appreciate that house church has been a good experience for you, and perhaps that led you to assume it has been for everyone.  I am glad to hear it is working for you.

When we attended VC, it was during that brief window of time when they were actually holding Sunday church services plus house churches.  That is how we came into the community.  As they modeled house church, it did not work for us. The people are great and I still have contact with many of them.

My spiritual and community needs are now being met through A Small Group which is not a religious group. It is not perfect, but it has been my best experience with a small group yet.  (btw I've been a Christian for a very long time.)

while I consider myself church alumni - I am still a follower of Jesus.

Thanks for the conversation.


Elaine, I'm curious - what would church small groups need to include for them to work as well for you as A Small Group?

Helen - I'm not sure that is the right question. Perhaps if I tell you how I experience A Small Group - it will tell you what has been lacking in my Christian groups. (I'm posting this here - but I'm not sure it is a churchrater kind of thing.)

Being part of A Small Group (ASG) - has helped me to become more myself - to become more real.  

It is my theory that when we are born into this world - we are our perfect selves. And then, life happens.  Our parents, teachers, siblings, bosses, strangers, etc. wound us.  and because we are children and not equipped with the capacity to understand why they are hurting us, we learn to cope by hiding/protecting parts of ourselves. By the time we are 30 or 40 years old, the best parts of us are hidden deep inside and only taken out with people we really trust...and sometimes not even with them.  worse, we have hidden ourselves from ourselves - we don't even know we aren't being true to who God made us.

[Thinking about this reminds me of a story. Have you ever read "The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real" by Margery Williams?  It is about a toy Rabbit becoming real]

Anyway, this leads back to ASG - because ASG is my safe place where I have felt affirmed and loved for just being myself - a place where I can express myself - my dissent - my strengths and weaknesses - and it is all accepted.  I am accepted for who I am - a work in progress - not finished - but becoming real. Authenticity, transparency, dissent are valued and practiced.  Not perfect, but practiced and something to aspire to.

Being with other people who are practicing this too - increases my desire to have this kind of environment where ever I show up - and to want this for everyone.  For all of us to feel safe and loved and able to lay down our facade's and be ourselves all the time.

As I have healed some things, it is becoming easier for me to carry this with me where ever I show up.  not 100% yet - but when I am "awake" I can be myself and I feel closer to God. I also am more authentic in my interactions with others.

While I have been in some mediocre small groups and some pretty good small groups, I have never experienced this level of acceptance in any church group.

For me, these ASG experiences are what I see that Jesus modeled and I feel closer to God.  All of this is transferable into a Christian environment - but so far, I have not had much luck having it accepted when I've offered it.  Peter's book, "Community - the Structure of Belonging" is beginning to open some doors in the Christian community.

that is my answer to how I understood your question...

Thanks Elaine - that's very helpful.

My small group experiences - in fact my experiences with Christians in general - have been mixed. Some are much better at being accepting and affirming than others. I haven't found that being accepting and affirming have been emphasized in the Christian communities I've participated in so it's not surprising it's hit-and-miss whether the Christians who belong to them are that way or not.

And hit-and-miss isn't really good enough, is it? Because if one person makes you feel awful the whole situation feels unsafe.

Some churches have more than one elder, and in a network of house churches one might see a team of elders working together.

You had spoken of being interested in participating in a house church, but the existing groups didn't welcome you, and the neighborhood wasn't a fit for you, and so I thought perhaps a house church that wasn't in the same neighborhood or one of the existing groups might work better for you.  I guess not.  Glad to hear the present small group is working better for you.

 Rob - 3 years has elapsed from the time I wrote the first post on VC - lots has transpired since then.

The A Small Group I referred to is not just a small group.  A Small Group is an association of like minded citizens in Cincinnati - it is based on the work of Peter Block - His book, "Community - the Structure of Belonging" - explains much of what this group is.  You can also go to to learn more. There is a booklet on the site that explains the 6 conversations we use to build relationship and community.

I've tried to explain to Helen - above's post - what is different about A Small Group.  I'm not sure I succeeded but it will give you some sense of what I am talking about.

blessings to you...

Sounds like you'd give A Small Group five stars!  I'm glad it's been so helpful to you, but I'm sorry to hear that church-related small groups haven't helped you in similar ways.  Thanks for the link.

 Rob - today a friend commented on my post on Churchrater - after re-reading our conversation, I realized I failed to be curious and ask you to tell me more about your experience with house churches.  I've made the assumption it has been a positive experience for you - would you tell me more?

Thanks, Elaine