The Heart Part 3
So in January 2003 we moved out of the Union 8th grade center and began renting what is now our current facility. Paul Bartel who was an intern with the church at the time was tasked with finding a facility for the church as the rental agreement with the school was very expensive. At first the search was focused on a office facility and not necessarily a meeting facility. But after searching for a month or so and coming across a couple of connections he was put in contact with a local businessman who had a nice facility that had already been used once by a church. That church had decided to close its doors and that freed up the facility to be used by The Heart. Under the initial agreement we would be renting about 70% of the actual space. While the rest was to be maintained by the company (Villa One) we had been given permission to make some changes to increase the size of the sanctuary area.
The initial remodel was quite drastic as we removed one wall in the “warehouse area”, removed a wall in one of the “classroom areas” and constructed 2 stage areas. We had a very gifted construction foreman in our congregation at the time, Wayman Penner who led much of the actual remodel process. We also had some people with really good taste in decor and such, Janis Hisey and Amanda Bartel and there were others as well. We also installed a new sound system put together by Charles Hofer. Through several hours of volunteer labor we managed to get the facility ready for our first sunday which I think was January 5th, 2003.
The new facility was nice. 1. It provided what would become more of an identity for our church. While we met in the school I don’t think we really had a good grasp of who we were. The new building, partly because of the architecture and decor and partly because of location helped us to begin to see exactly what God was calling us to. 2. It provided some much needed releif from the routine of set up/tear down. Anyone who has ever done the “portable” church thing knows exactly what I’m talking about and how old that gets. We had done it for about a year and a half. I know there are a lot of churches out there that have done it much longer and much better than we did. I stand in solidarity with you! 3. The building brought us new opportunities for ministry. Because of the architecture many thought we were some kind of club, and this can be really handy when you are trying to reach a certain demographic. So we started a new Saturday night event called “Live @ Villa One”. It featured live music from local muscians, we put out a variety of art supplies for people to paint or draw or model, and we had games and coffee. In hindsight the event worked fairly well, but didn’t effectively reach who we wanted to reach. This would have required actually serving alcohol…which we weren’t going to do.
There were some downsides to the building. 1. The sense of urgency went down. We now had a “home”. Having a home helped to make “us” feel more like a “family”. So our intentionality with relationships began to slip. 2. The remodel was a distraction. While we worked hard to remodel the facility with excellence and did a great job, it took our focus and energy away from reaching our community. It takes a very disciplined person to lead this process as the church must remained focused on continuing to reach out to the community. In hindsight, we should have spent as much time and effort in building relationships with the surrounding neighborhood as we did with the remodel. 3. Things began to feel comfortable. I know that this is related to no. 1, but it can’t be overstated.
So despite all the downfalls our church began to experience growth. In the fall of 2003 we did an Outreach postcard mailer that connected us with some families and households. We went through a period of baptizing a bunch of folks. A lot of them had come from church backgrounds, but had walked away from God and religion in general as they became adults. Things were going pretty good. And then we got a double whammy. Because we had attracted a lot of younger people and couples, we saw several of them leave due mostly to career choices. We had about 5 or 6 key leadership couples leave in the span of about 1 year. Two elders, 3 children’s ministry leaders, youth leaders, community group leaders…solid, faithful leaders who we needs to disciple this group of new believers. Needless to say it was tough. It is still hard to think back to that time and all the good things that were in motio at the time. A lot of things are still in flux because of a lack of leadership.
As we came out of this exodus we had an opportunity to actually purchase the building. We sensed that God was leading us in this direction. 1. There was already money in the bank for this left from the sale of the Parkside Church. 2. The cost of our mortgage would be substantially less than our current rent. 3. We would have full control of the entire building. We needed it desperately for our children and youth. So we bought it.