From Portable to Permanent: Celebrating Nine Years of Ministry

Trinity at Oakleaf celebrates its ninth anniversary this month.

Pastor Daniel Riddick (Pastoral Theology ’07) has been the lead pastor of Trinity at Oakleaf since its launch in 2004.  He and his family along with approximately 40 individuals from Trinity’s Hammond campus started holding church services in a local school cafeteria in a relatively newly developed area of town. 

The Riddick Family
From left to right: Laney, Jennifer, Daniel, and Braeden

As this church family enters their tenth year of ministry, they also enter a new season.  Construction on a new building is nearing completion, with hopes of being able to host services in early 2024.  This means that in the coming months, Trinity at Oakleaf will transition from functioning as a “portable church” to having a permanent location.

Looking back at 9 years of portable ministry, Daniel shares his perspective on how the nature of portable church has shaped their congregation, and how the transition to a permanent facility will affect their ministry to the Oakleaf community. 

The weekly routines required to have a portable church in a public-school cafeteria are often viewed as a negative to overcome, but Daniel says that he has seen several positives.  One of them, being the level of teamwork required to assemble a meeting space each week created natural avenue for volunteers to get involved. 

“People want to engage because they want to feel like they’re doing something, and with this work, the immediate results speak for themselves.  It engages a lot of people who otherwise would likely sit on the sidelines.”  

He says it has also helped them to stay focused and do ministry creatively and effectively. 

“We have learned to do ministry with exactly what we need and no more – it emphasizes the value of stewardship.” 

Trinity at Oakleaf’s current location in a school cafeteria

On the flip side, Daniel agrees there are some challenges to the portable church dynamic. 

Mainly the impact that it has on the capacity for ministry Monday through Saturday.  Whether it be for programs or organic church life, having a base of operations is a huge asset to a church body.   Trinity at Oakleaf worked creatively to overcome that challenge through local community partnerships such as renting space nearby for a teen service on Wednesdays and hosting a Food Truck Friday once a month as a way to get their name out there in the community.   He calls it “The battle for existence – the fight for people to know we exist Monday through Saturday.”

In the past nine years the church has grown significantly, now running an average of 500 on weekends and 250 in week-day small groups.

The transition into a permanent location is long-awaited and exciting, but not without some sense of nostalgia. 

“There are some things that might be seen as losses in terms of the close-knit feel that we have had for so long.  We pack a lot of people into a small space. There’s one way in and out, and I get to shake pretty much everyone’s hand who walks through the door. I love that. The new dynamics won’t be wrong, but they will be different!”

Recently, Trinity at Oakleaf hosted a special time of prayer over the new construction.  Members signed their names, prayed, and wrote scripture verses and short prayers on the infrastructure as a way to commemorate the dedication of the new building.

Reflecting on his ministry experience, Daniel says that a key part of the success Trinity at Oakleaf has seen is the team he works with; both the immediate pastoral team at Oakleaf as well as a larger ministry team with Trinity Ministries.  Trinity at Oakleaf has four full-time pastors and five weekend staff, however, they are part of a larger ministry team spanning three campuses. The internal support provided through that network has been invaluable to Daniel and the staff at Oakleaf.

Trinity at Oakleaf – New Construction

When asked if he would share practical advice for anyone who is starting pastoral ministry (especially as a church plant or a portable church dynamic) he shared two main thoughts:

On a philosophical level, he is a proponent of working with a team or a network of churches.

“God can call you to be a lone ranger and do it on your own.  But it is difficult.  For me what has made this sustainable is that I’m not really by myself.  I’m part of a bigger team.  That’s unique to our context but there are other dynamics out there where you can be part of a network of autonomous churches.  You need that relationship and community, and you don’t want to be by yourself — especially early on.”

On a more practical level, Daniel says that the actual physical systems, tools, and materials used can make a huge difference in how well the physical church experience comes together every week.

“We wrestled through options and ended up investing significantly in a system through a company that specializes in outfitting portable churches.  It was expensive – but what we paid up front was completely worth it.  Most of that material we are still using 9 years later.  You’re paying for equipment that is designed to go up and come down over and over.   Including storage systems and all that kind of stuff.  Anyone can put together a good experience once. But we have to do it 52 times in a row, year after year.  Logistically, it is worth the investment to do it and get the quality stuff if possible.”

For pastors who may be seeking perspective and insight on multi-site or portable church ministry, Daniel is available to share what he has learned and what has been successful for Trinity at Oakleaf. He can be reached via email at

Daniel Riddick is married to Jennifer (Evans) Riddick (Elementary Education ’06), and they have two children, Braeden and Laney.  Jennifer recently transitioned into teaching 5th grade at Trinity Christian Academy after six years in the public school system.  The Riddicks enjoy their Clay County farm where they board horses and care for a variety of other animals including a miniature pony which happens to be a fan-favorite with visitors.

The Riddick Horse Farm

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