SPRING HILL — Starting a new church can be difficult, but not without its blessings, says Tracy Moore.
"It's not an easy roller coaster to ride," she said about the inception of Starting Pointe Church. "It's full of proverbial ups and downs. But knowing you are right where God wants and needs you is a peaceful feeling."
Her husband, the Rev. Jeff Moore, officially launched the church, an affiliate of the Church of God, in October 2009 at the Touchstar Cinemas Spring Hill 8 on U.S. 19. A year later, it moved to the Hernando County Family YMCA on Mariner Boulevard.
"Over a two-year time period, I felt that God was beginning to change my role as a support staff member (at a previous church) to a lead pastor," Moore said. "After talking with some of my friends who were pastors and mentors, we did some fasting and praying. We felt that God confirmed this direction through the conversations that we had with those closest to us."
Moore, originally from Montana, said his roots had a lot to do with his going into the ministry.
"My great-grandmother was a pastor, and her prayers have led many family members to serve God in different capacities," he said. "I grew up in a Christian home and always had godly influences in my life."
After beginning a personal relationship with Christ at age 8, Moore said, he felt drawn to the ministry 10 years later at an international Christian summer camp in North Carolina.
"During an evening service, God used the speaker to touch my heart," he said. "I felt a strong tug toward serving in a role as a pastor."
Moore began volunteering in youth ministry and taught in area churches.
"During those years, my confidence in what God wanted me to do grew," he said. "My path to a Bible college became clear."
Moore graduated from Tomlinson College in Cleveland, Tenn., in 1990. While there, he met Tracy.
"I met a Florida girl in college and have been here ever since," Moore said. "Not hard to convince me with all of the sunshine and lack of snow."
The Moores began their ministry as a couple at a small church in Winter Garden, Southside Christian Fellowship, where Moore served as youth and associate pastor. Mrs. Moore served as the children's pastor.
After five years in pastoral ministry, Moore left to become the head golf pro at Forest Lake Golf Club near Orlando. The couple began a family: Katherine, now 12, and Grayson, 7.
"But I felt that God was moving me back into full-time ministry in 2006," he said. "I became a full-time family care pastor at Celebration of Praise in Clermont, a church that I had volunteered in for eight years."
During his time there, that church grew to more than 1,000 members.
"I'm quite sure that in those years of volunteering and just doing whatever it took to help, God was preparing us for this great walk of being a church planter and lead pastor," said Moore, 48.
Tracy Moore, 39, says her husband is a "down-to-earth, approachable, godly man who is easy to love."
"But even though he's an easygoing guy, he has big dreams and huge ideas about touching people with God's love," she said.
Tracy Moore helps in several areas, including behind-the-scenes administrative tasks.
"Jeff has always been the big idea person, and I am the implementation person," she said. "It's a great fit. Since we launched Starting Pointe, I have served as greeter, worship leader, set-up/tear-down crew and everything in between. Currently, I lead the Sunday morning Kids Pointe services and coordinate nursery volunteers."
Jacob VandeMark serves as the worship/media leader for the church, which has about 40 members.
Along with Sunday morning services, the church has weekly group meetings in members' homes.
The ministry is active in community service and has given out bottles of water and coffee to shoppers at local stores, donated baskets of goodies to two local fire stations and makes cash and food donations to local food pantries.
"The (YMCA) has worked with us on the canned food drive to support the food banks we partner with," Moore said. "Together with the Y, we were able to help fill 144 food baskets for Thanksgiving meals for needy families. The Y was eager to help, and it was a great success."
Moore said because the church is still small and unable to help the community financially at this time, it chooses projects and opportunities as they arise.
"We also attend new resident expos and other community events to bless others with free candy, water, doggie treats and other little things that simply say, 'God loves you,' " Moore said. "I would love to see a church full of volunteers who serve this area with all the support we can find. I want to be part of a church that takes care of the community."
Mrs. Moore has a similar hope.
"My desire is for this ministry to touch people with the love of Christ in real and practical ways," she said, "to be God's hands and feet."