Arizona Hills Community Church Celebrates 20 Years
By Laura Latzko
Arizona Hills Community Church held its first official service with 100 people in the Pioneer Village opera house on Christmas Eve 1999.
Twenty years later, the church built by Bob and Janet Lehman endures and serves the community, despite not having its own building. Three years ago, Senior Pastor Randy Williams took the reins of Anthem’s first church.
Janet says the couple had an epiphany while hiking Daisy Mountain. They wanted to create a church that was part of the community and they’ve succeeded by fostering relationships with their neighbors.
“It is an honor and privilege to be part of people’s lives. We have been a part of people’s lives during the hardest and best times of their lives,” Janet says.
Arizona Hills has also brought people together during the country’s tough times. In its early years, parishioners gathered at Anthem Community Park to mourn after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. During the financial and housing crises in 2008, the church offered spiritual and emotional support. This was a challenging time, though, as numbers declined. It has since recovering, boasting 250 people from Anthem, New River, Desert Hills, Tramonto and Black Canyon City.
Securing a permanent building is part of the church’s plans, as having its own spot would allow it to offer youth groups during the week, banquets on Saturdays or Sundays and a space for weddings and funerals.
Over the years, Arizona Hills has participated in Anthem Days, Autumnfest, the city’s Independence Day celebration and Veterans Day parades.
Arizona Hills has further given back by putting in plants and a vegetable garden at schools, collecting school supplies for teachers and students and sending individuals on mission trips to Mexico.
Arizona Hills has moved over the years to Anthem School and now Boulder Creek High School, but it still possesses the same values.
Williams says it’s been special to be a part of a church with such a rich history.
“For a church to survive and thrive as it has for 20 years, and to not have a building, is a miracle,” Williams says. “Kudos to Bob, but we just thank God that he has kept and sustained this church over 20 years. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Before he was hired by Arizona Hills almost three years ago, Williams worked as an associate pastor at North Ridge Community Church in Scottsdale for 12 years and as a youth pastor in Phoenix.
Williams has always felt accepted and embraced by the Arizona Hills congregation. Bob has been his friend, confidante, cheerleader and mentor.
“No one wants this church and me to do well more than Bob,” Williams says.
Although Bob is no longer the church’s senior pastor, he and Janet continue to be involved. When he is in town, Bob greets fellow parishioners in the lobby.
“When you invest in the community as long as we have, you just love the community,” Bob says.
The couple continues to stay busy. In 2018, Bob and Janet founded Mission Recharge, a ministry organization in which they provide coaching, mentoring and counseling to ministry leaders around the world.
Bob, who is on Mission Door’s executive leadership team, was a Phoenix Police Department police chaplain for 26 years. Janet has worked as a substitute teacher for the last 20 years and served as the children’s director for several years.
Bob and Janet met as students at NAU. Janet came from a faith-based background, while Bob did not. He found his calling as an undergraduate and went on to study ministry in graduate school at Denver Seminary. During that time, Bob and Janet helped to start several ministries, including a college ministry.
Later, while living in California, they founded college campus ministries at the University of the Pacific and San Joaquin Delta College. Bob also helped to start and pastored for Desert Sun Church in Phoenix from 1984 to 1995.
They always sought to create an inclusive church community, where everyone is welcome.
“From the very beginning, starting something from scratch was in my DNA,” says Bob, who has four children and 14 grandchildren with Janet.
“Because we were the first church in Anthem, we always had a desire to be a place where people feel comfortable, regardless of your background,” Janet adds.
Bob says his experiences helped prepare him for starting and leading his own congregation in Anthem. For him, Arizona Hills has been an educational experience.
“Personally, the main thing I have learned is relationships matter—a relationship with God, a relationship with your family and a relationship with your community,” Bob says. “If you are good at building relationships, you will be good at anything you do.”
Williams agrees. Bob built a strong foundation that still shapes the church.
“We are interested in touching the lives of people in the community, whether they are in our church or not,” Williams says. “Folks just need to know that Jesus is at the center of everything that we do. We believe that with all of our hearts, and we want to love people just like Jesus loved people.”
Williams plans to continue the church’s family-oriented focus.
“When someone comes into our church, they definitely feel part of the family, and they feel welcomed. They feel cared for. That’s the kind of church that I wanted to be a part of, and that’s the kind of church that Bob built,” Williams says.
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