Candlewood: A History

20 years ago, Gary Osborn and Rory Whitney along with their families moved to Omaha in the fall of 1995 with the prayer, faith, and hope of establishing a Great Commission Church that would eventually become known as Candlewood Church.

This is the history of Candlewood, thus far, for more is being written…

In the fall of 1995, the Osborns and Whitneys met in their homes until August of 1996 when they started meeting in the cafeteria of Elkhorn Middle School. They were joined by two more families in 1996, and the small church launched the “Phones for You Campaign” in the spring of 1997 and made a strong push for that Easter.

In the fall of 1997, the church moved to Prairie Wind Elementary School. This also marked the beginnings of the youth group and the LifeGroups (now known as Small Groups) that remain a significant part of the church today.

In 2003, a few students in the church started meeting at UNO’s Student Center where they read over the book of Acts and prayed together for God to make an impact on the campus. The Rock became a small group of individuals and officially became an organization on campus in 2008. The Rock continues to meet weekly as a student organization.

Candlewood launched a new church at Millard West High School in the fall of 2006 with 31 people. Later, the church switched their meeting location to the Westside Community Conference Center and changed the meeting time to Saturday night.

As God continued to lead the Candlewood Church family, the next strategic move in reaching the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ was to send a team to Lincoln, Nebraska and join one of our associate churches, Harvest Community Church, merging as one church as Candlewood in Omaha and Lincoln and adding Jim Wiebelhaus and Ben Lennander to the team of pastors in the fall of 2012.

Mike Whitney was recognized as a pastor in April 2013. Since that time, Mike, his family, and 36 others have moved from the Omaha congregation to Lincoln to re-plant the church in Lincoln.

In the spring of 2014, the Omaha church moved to Westside High School and consolidated its Saturday and Sunday congregations into one. In August 2014, the Lincoln church moved to its new location, occupying Grace Methodist Church on 27th & R streets.

The fall of 2015 brought two significant changes – LifeGroups became Small Groups (groups of people from a similar phase of life), and Candlewood introduced a Home Group structure, medium-sized inter-generational groups made up of people from all phases of life.

As Candlewood moves into its 20th year and beyond, the church, with God’s leading, hopes to establish permanent building locations in both Omaha and Lincoln to expand its territory for a greater impact, continuing to be a church of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment:

Matthew 28:19-20 –  “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”


Matthew 22:36-40 – “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

Jesus replied, “’You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

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