By Mel McGowan
In October’s column, I wrote about two churches located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest town of Wenatchee, Washington, population around 34,000. The roots of Sage Hills Church, which I focused on last month, go back to 1908. A hundred years later, in 2008, Grace City Church was planted. The two churches share an outward focus for reaching their hometown for Christ. This month we’ll look at Grace City.
A Gift to the Community
Grace City Church has been meeting in the Numerica Performing Arts Center, a restored building in Wenatchee’s downtown industrial district, which has allowed plenty of room for growth. But senior pastor Josh McPherson dreamed of having a stronger, more visible presence to bless his hometown. The Grace City team started working with an architect on plans to construct a building on land the church owned at a main gateway to the city. But nothing felt right, the project’s timeline fell behind, and McPherson became frustrated and discouraged.
Before an unrelated meeting, McPherson just happened to share his frustrations with pastor Mike Wilson of Sage Hills Church, and Wilson recommended he speak with PlainJoe Studios. McPherson called me and we met to discuss the church’s vision and situation. I understood what he was going through. Many churches find themselves in such a position. I gave him some ideas and laid out a plan of how we could get the church back on track; I also offered for PlainJoe to absorb the costs of the money already spent with the original architect. In a big project like this, there’s nothing worse than to keep going forward when you know it just isn’t right. But you also want to be good stewards of God’s money, so it’s a tough place to be.
McPherson was thrilled. The church agreed to the offer, and PlainJoe walked the Grace City team through our discovery process. One thing immediately stood out to us: Grace City was not interested in a building just to house their growing congregation on Sunday mornings. They envisioned a state-of-the-art campus that would serve and bless their entire community in a variety of ways seven days a week. This is exactly the kind of project we love (which is another reason we agreed to help).
The church website lays out their vision for the building: “It is our dream to build a gift to our community, to be used by our community, to strengthen our community. A space where people, ideas, and resources come together to build the future by enjoying the present.”
A Focus on the Community
Thousands of rural communities across the nation are familiar with the Grange, America’s oldest national agricultural advocacy group, organized in 1867. Washington’s first Grange opened in 1889, the same year it became a state. This nonprofit, nonpartisan organization continues to encourage families to band together to promote the well-being of the community as a whole. In many rural areas, Grange halls still exist as the center of community life. Grace City desires to capture the spirit of the Grange while emulating the biblical model.
Working with Grace City’s vision, PlainJoe designed a mixed-use campus. The 900-seat “Lodge” will accommodate their worship services and will provide flexibility to host community events. The “Intersection Co-Lab” will provide space for the church’s administrative offices as well as offering co-work spaces for freelancers, start-ups, small businesses, etc. The campus will house both for-profit and nonprofit businesses.
A specialty coffee purveyor, Melba Coffee Roasting Company, which already has a presence in the city, is planned as an anchor tenant. McPherson hopes the coffee shop will attract students from Wenatchee Valley College, across the street.
Rather than having a traditional family ministries environment for the children, Grace City plans something different and special. On Sundays, children will learn in the “Packinghouse Kidseum”; this same interactive children’s museum will be open to the community throughout the week.
Plans include space for an academic-based preschool, a day care, café, gym, conference center, and more.
Intentionally Blessing the Community
“We’re really wanting to build something that blesses our community in a unique and intelligent way—economically, culturally, relationally—a place where people want to be,” McPherson says. “When I think about the number of unbelievers who could come through our space every week . . . it really fires me up! Hundreds and thousands of unbelievers in our space, being served in excellent ways. What that says about the kingdom!”
And how can Grace City Church finance their “gift” to the community? A fund-raising consultant concluded that the church should raise about $3 million in cash and pledges to start phase 1 of the project. The church decided to call it “Building Home” and upped the goal to $5 million. On Commitment Sunday, when cash gifts and pledges were counted, the total was $7,144,672! When it comes to building for God, McPherson says, “We never want to be accused of dreaming small.”
The church broke ground in May 2018 and is well under way to building their new home. Learn more about the project at www.gracecitychurch.com/building-home.
Churches often talk sincerely about being a blessing to the communities where they live and worship. But few are as intentional as Grace City in designing and building a facility to intersect daily with their neighbors and the local marketplace. Our hope is that many other churches will see their buildings as more than just houses where believers gather, but as opportunities to bless and serve their neighbors and draw them to Christ.
Mel McGowan is cofounder and chief creative principal of PlainJoe Studios. He is a leading master planner and designer of churches in America.