Our History

Taken from: 50th Anniversary Announcement


In August, 1951, the first Lutheran worship service was held in Gilroy under the leadership of the Reverend Milford Brelje, a young seminary graduate who had been placed in Gilroy to begin a Lutheran presence in the communities of Gilroy and Hollister. The first service was held in a renovated funeral chapel purchased from the Habing Family Funeral Home. That facility, now converted to the Tasso's Old House Restaurant, served the needs of the small and growing parish for 18 years.

Pastor Brelje served Good Shepherd congregation until 1955 when he took another position. The Reverend William Schreyers succeeded him as pastor in 1955 and served the congregation until 1970 when he retired. The Reverend William Anderson was called to serve in 1970 and remained at Good Shepherd until 1978. The present pastor, Reverend Ronald E.Koch has ministered continuously from 1978 until the present.

In 1969 the congregation built its current church and social hall buildings on land that had been purchased at the west edge of Gilroy at 1735 Hecker Pass Highway. In 1982 the congregation built a classroom building to house the Vineyard Christian Preschool, which had been using the church social hall for classes. The Vineyard Preschool was established by the church in 1975 to serve the needs of preschoolers in the growing Gilroy area. It has a reputation as the highest quality preschool program in the community. The enrollment is 96 children with 8 staff. Each of the four sessions has 24 students and a long waiting list.

The congregation under its current pastor, has become involved in many social ministry areas in the community. St. Joseph's Family Center Ministry in Gilroy and Lutheran Campus Ministry at U. C. Santa Cruz & Cal State University at Monterey Bay are two of our mission outreach projects. Good Shepherd has served as an alternate homeless shelter to the Gilroy Armory for weekends in the winter months. Pastor Koch participates in the Gilroy Ministerial Association, and together with other local churches, Good Shepherd members have been active in gaining community support for the city council to allow for a permanent transitional shelter to be built. On four days of the week, Narcotics Anonymous uses the social hall for meetings. The Cub Scouts meet once per week during the traditional school months. The Gilroy High School music program uses the sanctuary for recitals of the solo and small group competitors. In 1990 a pipe organ was installed through donations of members, and in 1996 a grand piano was added to meet the needs of the church's fine music program. English Handbells ring at most services during the traditional school year.

For the 50th anniversary celebration, Good Shepherd has invited the founding Pastor , Reverend Milford Brelje, to be the preacher at a special afternoon service on September 23rd at 4pm. After worship we will gather for a tri-tip barbeque to celebrate God's blessing of this congregation and its ministry in Gilroy. Renovation and redecoration of both the interior and exterior of the property is currently in progress to show the church's commitment to continue its ministry to the community.

Long Range Outline Plan for Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
and the Vineyard Christian Preschool

Until a few years ago, Good Shepherd seemed to be avoiding the downturn that many congregations were feeling in attendance, financial support, and parish activities.  After 2005, when several families relocated due to work, we began to feel what was common in many churches:  lower attendance, tighter budgets, and a general decrease in non-Sunday activities.  Most experts in the sociology of churches pointed to a need for churches to reach out into the communities they serve.  Certainly, the younger generation was not coming to church as their parents had.  In many quarters, in fact, church affiliation was a negative attribute.  The experts counseled that instead of expecting people to come to the church, the church had to go out to the people.  Just how to do that was very much related to the church’s context. 

At Good Shepherd, we are located on the edge of Gilroy.  We don’t have a “neighborhood” with particular needs that we can address in outreach.  While Gilroy isn’t a large city, the location of the church campus means that we really have to reach out a long ways in order to serve our community.  However, we do have two important connections to the community that come to our campus for ministries we offer.  First is the Narcotics Anonymous group that meets in our Social Hall ten times a week.  The NA group has its own agenda and business and purpose that does not relate in a direct manner with what we perceive we are as a church community.  For them, while they appreciate the reasonable rent and uncomplicated use of our facilities, there seems to be little more than that in relationship to the church.  In fact, as a matter of policy, the NA meetings are to be focused only on the purpose of the group:  to work a 12 step program.  Any other business is only conducted outside the actual meeting.  Church services are not announced in the meetings, for instance. For the church, the NA group is easy to deal with and causes no trouble.  In addition, their rent contributions add to our cash flow in a regular and consistent manner.  Whatever benefit might come to the church in a traditional sense of attracting any new members has not panned out. 

Second is the Vineyard Christian Preschool.  Over 80 families bring their children to our campus two or three, or even 5 times per week.  Only one family currently is in any way connected to the congregation.  While many families are involved with other churches in Gilroy, many are not affiliated anywhere.  Here, then, is an amazing opportunity for our congregation to reach out in ministry that is good for the Vineyard families, and good for our congregation.  People from the community are coming onto our campus for what we offer in a program of Christian education.  It is a good idea to maximize our connections to the Vineyard Preschool and its programs and families.  And so we ask, what can we do to increase our ministry efforts to the Vineyard Preschool and its families? 

It is a good thing to be in ministry that calls us out of our tendency to turn inward and maintain for as long as possible the “good feelings” that come from worship and fellowship as God’s people in this place.  Church is supposed to be at least as outward -directed as we are inward directed.  It is as important to be the Body of Christ reaching out, as it is to be the Body of Christ directed toward inward nurture and “spiritual growth.”  If, by connecting to the Vineyard families, we extend the good will and love of God in our actions, we are doing a good thing.  If making those kinds of connections may cause a family to consider making Good Shepherd their church home, that is also a good thing.  How might we maximize opportunity for ministry to and with the Vineyard families?

First, we need to work with our Vineyard staff in a supportive way.  We need to provide a good workplace and atmosphere for them to do quality teaching.  That is the main reason people come to our campus.  To paraphrase Martin Luther, We don’t just put a cross on our Vineyard Education, and that makes it better.  We do a better job of educating our students, and that makes it a Christian education. 

Second, we need to reach out, actually, reach in to these families who are already coming onto our campus.  We have started a few small programs along those lines. 
•    Pastor and Zita are leading the Vineyard Preschool choir, which rehearses every Wednesday afternoon after school.  We have made some good friends this way.  A few even attended the Vineyard Ministry Recognition Sunday in October to sing for worship. 
•    We are inviting these children and the entire Vineyard family to our Summer Music Camp to continue this in reach. 
•    Our GSLW group has hosted some coffee break days for the parents after they have dropped off their children.  Many parents stay and chat with each other after the children have gone into the classroom, so they now have a place to sit and  a cup of coffee and cookies to share as they enjoy good conversation. 
•    The GSLW group has hosted the Christmas program reception for the Vineyard families, as well as the post-graduation reception in the Social Hall.  Many parents have appreciated these events so much, and the Vineyard staff is also relieved of some of the hosting mechanics so that they can visit with the families. 

These small and yet gracious efforts have created much good will from church to school staff and vice versa.  They have also given some church folks the scope of the Vineyard Preschool operation.  “I didn’t know that so many children attended our preschool.”  “I had no idea so many from the community have been touched by the Vineyard.”  Put simply, we can do much more to make good connections between church and school families that will benefit both the congregation and the school and its families. 

Other ideas:  A Bible study luncheon for “seekers” around the noon time pick-up and drop off routines.  Hosting an “open church” time of meditation and quiet at the beginning and just before the ending of the school day for parents and grandparents to have some God time in their very busy lives.  Inviting Vineyard parents and families to special services at Christmas and other important times like Vineyard Ministry Recognition Sunday. 

In order for this to happen effectively, it is vital that the Vineyard Preschool Director and entire staff have a very positive and supportive attitude toward Good Shepherd.  Church and school need to be supportive of one another.  We have set up the structure for this kind of mutual and supportive work by combining the former Church Council and the former Vineyard Preschool Board (16 members between them) into one Board of Directors with eight members.  We are in the process of uniting separate accounting and budgeting practices into one unified budget and accounting system.  This gives the Board the ability to direct our unified resources where they are most needed in order to keep our facilities and personnel and programs at their best without duplication and splitting red tape.  Much more of the Board of Directors’ work needs to be focused on the administration of the Preschool than in the past.  The Vineyard Preschool Director needs to be part of this process and give valuable input to the Board.  As we become more accustomed to the process, we will become more efficient (we hope). 

These actions and proposals are designed to keep both the church and preschool operations as healthy as possible in the current financial recession.  They are also aimed at extending the long-term outlook for good organizational health as we focus on reaching out to continue to grow.  With a healthy congregation and a healthy school operation, we look to a future that continually calls us into ministry as the Body of Christ, serving the community, as God lead us in this place.