GREENFIELD — Realife Church has purchased land west of Greenfield and has been raising funds for a new building; meanwhile, church leaders hope two portable classrooms will provide enough space each weekend.
The Rev. Adam Detamore, lead pastor of the church at 971 U.S. 40 West, said the donated structures — each offering 1,000 square feet of open space — will double the space available for children’s ministry. He said the church hopes to refurbish them and have them open in about a month.
The mobile buildings are one of several ways Hancock County churches have responded to surges in growth — adding services, adding square feet and finding other creative ways to make do.
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Some Realife members park with permission at Vail’s Classic Cars and ride a shuttle to the church to make more room in its parking lot. Early this year, the church launched a 6 p.m. Saturday service. In February, it shifted both Sunday morning services to later times, 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., to avoid an early service with lower attendance and a maxed-out later service.
Matt Wickham, associate pastor of Brandywine Community Church in Greenfield, identifies with those types of challenges. Before the church moved into a new building at 1551 E. New Road in 2006, it met for 10 years in a storefront at 1260 N. State St., next door to the Marsh supermarket. He remembers how the church added a second service in 1999 to make room for more people, later adding a third service before it eventually moved.
Adding services relieves square footage and parking issues, he said, but it also introduces a new set of needs.
“This requires more volunteers for worship, tech, children, greeting, etc., and staff time for the service and through-the-week ministry,” he said, adding that for an increase of 100 people, additional staff are usually needed.
Andy Ebbert of Greenfield Church of Christ said program needs prompted the church at 1380 S. State St. to add on to the north side about four years ago. He said the existing facility had classroom space for the congregation of about 150, but it lacked a fellowship area for dinners, meetings and physical exercise.
He said church leaders considered the decision carefully but quips that they had more faith than the bank did; they were pleased to be able to pay off the structure ahead of schedule and felt that was a blessing from God.
Ebbert said it’s important amid such projects to not lose sight of the spiritual work the church is called to.
“Focusing on God’s work for the church family is essential in all our plans,” he said. “When we are so focused on raising funds, it can be easy to lose sight of the other works we are called to do.”
Greg Ruble of Living Streams Community Church in McCordsville knows about the tension between focusing on ministry and navigating a building project. Between the church’s start in 2008 and 2011, the church tackled two building expansions.
“Building projects are expensive and exhausting, so the decisions to do so was bathed in prayer,” Ruble said.
There was an added step of faith in doing so because the church didn’t own the building at the time, he added. “We had to walk by faith that God would use the money we were using to expand the church. Today, those prayers have been answered as we purchased the building from Meijer.”
The plan for future growth would be to add a service, Ruble said, but he notes as Wickham did that requires additional volunteers for children’s ministry. There are more bulletins to print, Ruble said, and announcements have to be communicated effectively to both services. “Without some work at connecting the people who attend different services, you can end up with essentially two churches that don’t know each other.”
Ruble notes there are other options, such as a multisite church or moving to a different site, which bring their own challenges. If Living Streams grows beyond two services, “We will be praying about all of the above,” he said.
Realife, though working to make room at its current site, is eyeing a move. In August 2016, the church bought 17 acres at the northeast corner of U.S. 40 and North County Road 525 West. In late January the church launched a two-year giving campaign, hoping to raise $3 million to build a building at the new site.
Though there are logistical issues to solve when there’s a rise in attendance, churches are happy to see more people growing spiritually and prayerfully weigh how to proceed.
Patrick Smith, a staff member at Realife, said members have been painting the portable classrooms and will take bids for electrical work. In the structures, Smith sees a divine answer for Realife’s situation.
“We were praying for a solution with a growing kids ministry,” he said. “Something that could hold us over.”