By Kent E. Fillinger
Ralph Mehrens served as senior minister at Calvary Christian Church in Bellevue, Nebraska, for 25 years. Mehrens wanted to transition well, so he planned a 15-month succession process and laid a strong foundation to help the congregation follow the next minister. Scott Beckenhauer transitioned from an eight-year youth ministry with the church to the lead minister position in 2008.
“I knew the church family and they knew me, so the trust was already built,” said Beckenhauer, who became only the third lead minister in Calvary’s 42-year history.
Attendance declined slightly as Beckenhauer gained his footing the first two years. During that time, church leaders made some key decisions to more intentionally focus the church on loving God and loving others. Leadership also recognized that space constraints were limiting the growth potential of the church. Calvary’s leaders met with a church consultant who guided them through a facility assessment and strategic planning process. Through this effort, leaders decided to move the church’s worship services to its activity center and to repurpose the facility.
Beckenhauer’s heart for reaching the lost led him and his team to create the “One Life Campaign” to raise funds to remodel the activity center and add 100 parking spaces. But the campaign was about more than raising money. It was intended to light an evangelistic fire within the church. “Each of us has one life to live, and we need to use it to reach out to one life as we all engage in God’s mission,” Beckenhauer said. Church leaders regularly ask the congregation to consider, “Who is the one in your life?”
Given the existing debt load, leaders decided to complete the remodeling project on a cash basis. The project was completed by October 2011, and from one Sunday to the next, every aspect of ministry within the church moved to a new location. Worship services moved into the activity center, and attendance immediately jumped by 175 people.
A video venue was added in the church’s remodeled chapel in September 2012. This created another 200 seats for each of the two morning worship services. Calvary has grown 16 and 19 percent the last two years, respectively, to an average worship attendance of 1,034 in 2012. The average attendance so far this year is more than 1,250, and once again the church is growing out of worship space and parking spots.
The church gave 19 percent of its budget to local and global outreach efforts last year. Calvary also started a unique weekly giving challenge in January 2012 called the “$1 for 1” offering, for which the church identifies someone in the community who is unchurched and has a financial need. Beckenhauer or a ministry leader shares their story in the worship service, and then as people leave they are encouraged to place a dollar in a special bucket as an act of worship to bless the one life in need. “It serves as a reminder that there are people in our lives we need to love and pursue,” Beckenhauer said.
Calvary participates in a church planting network with several other churches in the area and last year sent 50 people and one staff member 10 miles south to plant One Life Church. The church has also selected several special giving projects each December for the last several years, and the opportunity to bless people in need has been very contagious for the congregation.
A result of this generosity is the community now recognizes Calvary as the church that helps people.
Beckenhauer and his team continue to pray about and explore options for creating more space to continue growing.