The Rialto, CA, Grace Brethren Church was started more than 50 years ago by Art Carey, and under Pastor Gerald Polman the current church building at the corner of Cactus and Etiwanda in the community near San Bernardino was built.
But Mitch Cariaga, who came from the Rialto Church originally and had returned to pastor it for the past six years, became increasingly convinced that the church wasn’t effectively reaching its neighborhood constituency, which had changed significantly in 50 years.
Faced with ministering in a community that was now much younger and more ethnically mixed, Cariaga took the step of re-making the Rialto church in an entirely new image and format. Not even wishing to use terminology like “re-birth,” Cariaga refers to the church as a “totally new entity.”
Now called Mosaic Rialto, the church reflects young-adult trends with a youth-friendly facility and format that includes upbeat music, state-of-the-art sound and video equipment, deep red velvet curtains and smoke machines. The lobby includes a coffee bar, couch, and a high-top table and chairs.
Acknowledging that the change of image and format is very difficult for some of the older, more traditional parishioners, Cariaga says, “I really felt like we had to make a change or die.”
Driving north on Cactus in Rialto, it’s hard to miss the building. Cariaga also is involved with a business in China, and so the building and property are festooned with silk flags and banners that wave in the wind and attract attention to the church and its attached daycare facility.
“Three million people turn 21 every year in this country,” Cariaga points out, adding that the median age in the United States is 33 but that in Rialto it is 26. “This is a young city, and very culturally mixed,” he says. “This church is designed for a young 20’s crowd.”
Cariaga attended Grace College and Seminary in the 1980s and served a number of years in the youth ministry of Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church, so he knows traditional church ministry quite well.
Even some of the Rialto church’s younger members were amazed at the church’s recent metamorphosis.
“At first, it was like, ‘Wow! What’s going on?'” said Daniela Avina, a sophomore at Cal State San Bernardino who grew up in Rialto. “But I like it. It’s the things young people like.”
In addition to including a lot of video and electronic elements into the church services, Cariaga also is using the Internet and e-mail to reach out and market the church’s services effectively. “Please be my guest!” is the header on a recent mass e-mail that announces sermon topics for the next two months, which include topics such as, “Uncertainty . . . Know You Don’t Know,” “Risk . . . Live Before You Die, and Vice Versa” and “Advance . . . Go Unless You Get a No.”
For more information, log onto the church’s website at www.mosaicrialto.com.