By Chris Moon
With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, many churches that offered only taped or livestreamed Easter services last year are excited to be planning in-person gatherings this year.
But two churches will be celebrating Easter in an even bigger and different way in 2021. They are planning to greet the holiday in newly opened buildings.
CRESTVIEW CHRISTIAN CHURCH
“I am pumped,” said Devin Wendt, lead pastor of Crestview Christian Church.
Crestview has relocated from its longtime home on the north side of Manhattan, which is a small metro area in northeast Kansas. The church’s new 22,000-square-foot building is about eight miles away in a quickly growing part of the community.
“I am so excited,” Wendt said. “I think not just for me. I have so enjoyed watching everyone walk in [for the first time]. That is my favorite part—to stand in the lobby and watch people walk in and tell me about who they have invited.”
The journey hasn’t been an easy one. Construction on the new building had already started when COVID-19 arrived last spring. The church’s financing partner, Christian Financial Resources, put work on pause for three months during that season of uncertainty.
But Wendt said church members continued to contribute financially to the project—enough to get the project rebooted and completed. Carpet was laid in the church offices this week.
Wendt said he likely was more discouraged during the slowdown than members of his congregation. He regularly got supportive notes and phone calls from church members.
“I was the one who was encouraged by them more than anything,” he said. “They knew the vision was strong.”
Crestview already has seen attendance jump with the new building. The congregation had been averaging about 250 per Sunday in the old building in the early months of this year. On the two Sundays the new building has been opened, average attendance is 475. Wendt attributes that to people being more comfortable in the church’s larger sanctuary.
“We haven’t even advertised to our neighborhood yet,” Wendt said.
Wendt’s message for Sunday will have a theme of the “new normal.” The COVID-19 pandemic won’t be far from view, but neither will the new life a person can have with Jesus.
“That’s really what we’re all about,” he said.
DISCOVERY CHRISTIAN CHURCH
Meanwhile, in Mars, Pa.—just north of Pittsburgh—Discovery Christian Church has moved into a building that formerly operated as a family fun center, complete with a mini-golf course, indoor playground, and laser tag area.
The laser tag space was removed to make room for the church’s 450-seat auditorium. But Discovery has kept the mini-golf and indoor playground for use by the community.
It also is opening its building for people who need space to work from home. Most uses of the building come without any rental fees.
“We want the building to be a gift for the community,” said Janie Mehaffey, wife of lead pastor Matt Mehaffey.
The church had a soft opening for its congregation on March 21, followed by a grand opening for the community this past weekend.
Janie Mehaffey said the church was pleased to see so many people without a church home in attendance. One woman walked into the sanctuary and asked why the church had a hot tub there. She was referring to the baptistery, of course.
“I am eager—very, very eager,” said Mehaffey, who also serves as vice president of culture and team development with Stadia Church Planting.
Discovery Christian Church started 18 years ago, but it has rented space nearly all of that time. The church finally purchased its building in the fall of 2019, just before the arrival of COVID-19.
Fortunately, the church had planned on remodeling the building during much of 2020 anyway, so the pandemic didn’t disrupt the plan too much, Mehaffey said. The church even met for a time in the unfinished building as work continued.
The Solomon Foundation financed the project.
Now that Easter is here and the pandemic seems to be waning—and the church has fully opened the doors of its new building—Mehaffey said the project doesn’t simply feel “finished.” It’s more like a good start.
“It truly felt like the very beginning last week,” she said. “Matt and I both sensed God’s presence.”
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.