Ministry is key to church location - Word&Way

Ministry is key to church location

Congregations must consider several aspects when trying to decide whether to relocate their facilities — their understanding of God's mission for them, finances, cultural changes and member needs, among a host of others.

Members of First Baptist Church in Jefferson City minister locally through ShareFest, serving the community in practical ways, such as the cleaning and beautification projects these volunteers are doing at South Elementary School. (Photo by Ken Satterfield)

Members of First Baptist Church in Jefferson City considered a move in 1985 before constructing a new sanctuary. Then in the early 2000s, parking issues and the current facility's confusing structure sparked renewed discussion.

The church sits on a rise in the hilly capital city, with some parking located on steep inclines. The current facility is difficult for people, especially newcomers, to navigate. During discussions, members focused on the cost of land, a new building and the logistics of moving.

In the late 1980s, Swope Park (now Grace Point) Baptist Church looked at the possibility of moving. Located on I-435 in Kansas City, the church was locked into its location, with poor parking and no room to expand. At the time, the church was considered one of the most integrated congregations in the city, according to former pastor Wade Paris.

"We just weren't reaching people because of space," he said. "We had made a determined effort to stay where we were, but we were just not making much progress."

Members first considered purchasing property around the church and bought a few lots as they went on the market. But the congregation soon determined it could move more economically than to stay. Members studied options for two years and then purchased 140 acres at their present location.

The desire to continue to impact their neighborhood was among reasons members kept looking for options. After determining to move, they wanted to do so in a way that would minister in the new area. They planned to develop a community, which would have included single-family and multi-family housing, a nursing home and other services. But development costs hindered progress.

While theological considerations may not have played into the discussion at First Baptist Church originally, members have seen how God has used them to minister in Jefferson City's heart.

"We believe that we are downtown for very providential reasons," noted Pastor Doyle Sager. "God placed us here to be a presence and a witness."

The church is located in the heart of downtown, just three blocks from the state Capitol and near the east side, currently undergoing renovation.

"Our model for ministry is incarnational, being the presence of Christ to our neighbors, seeking to make a difference in the life of the city," Sager said. The church also is strategically located to advocate for social justice and holiness.

"Because our facilities can be available to various civic and state organizations, we have the opportunity to build relationships and connections," he added.

Parkade Baptist Church in Columbia currently is enlarging its current facility, after discussing possible relocation. "But it was decided that we have a presence in this community and that we should not move," Pastor Chris Cook said.