In the book of Ecclesiastes (3:1) Solomon writes: There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.
Three years ago, New Story was in a season of thriving. Our Sunday morning worship services at our Peters Creek campus were overflowing. Our church was filled with people from all walks of life. We were radically diverse in every way possible. We worshipped in the same place as our homeless shelter and our recovery meetings. People came early for worship and stayed late to have fellowship time. It was wonderful and had a New Story feel to it.
Then, partially because of our space constraints, but mostly because of our desire to minister to at-risk kids, we accepted an invitation to move our Sunday morning worship to The Children’s Home campus, which was being taken over by Crossnore, and start our West End campus. There were practical challenges with doing this: the sanctuary had been neglected for years, and it required hundreds of hours of work and our spending tens of thousands of dollars to make it beautiful again. Since we didn’t own the building, we had to ask permission before making any changes, and we had to share the space with many other groups. The challenges weren’t insurmountable and we were glad to tackle them.
The cultural challenges were much greater. The sanctuary was a formal building that made it harder for everyone to feel welcome, especially those who had previous bad experiences with church. We tried everything we could to make it have a more welcoming feel. We pulled out the pews and put in chairs. We put carpet over the tile. We put up sound panels and placed plants throughout the sanctuary. Despite our best efforts, it still had a formal feel. Since our homeless shelter and recovery meetings still met at our Peters Creek campus, our worship services became less diverse in every way. Over the last two years, countless people have told me that our West End campus just “didn’t feel like New Story”. While I agreed with them, we felt our outreach to the Crossnore kids was too important to stop, even if it was costing us dearly in lost diversity, attendance, and a “New Story” feel.
Three months ago, Crossnore informed us that they were making changes to the way Sunday mornings would look for kids living on campus. They told us how wonderful our ministry had been with their kids and how thankful they were for what we had done (I totally agree with this. Jessica, Josh, and all our volunteers have done some of the most incredible ministry I have ever seen out there).
While Crossnore’s decision caught us by surprise, it allowed us to begin a process of discerning what God might be leading us now. Our question: should we continue to stay at a campus that presented us with significant cultural challenges for our worship service, or go back to our Peters Creek campus for Sunday morning worship? After two months of prayer, discernment, and meetings, we decided God called us to our West End campus for a season and that God is now calling us back to our Peter’s Creek campus for Sunday morning worship.
On Sunday, our leadership team voted unanimously for us to move our Sunday morning worship back to our Peters Creek campus starting Sunday, March 24. We are waiting until next month because our homeless shelter runs through March 15th. Since I preached about the possibility of our moving two weeks ago, the positive response has been nothing less than overwhelming. There is an incredible excitement about our moving back. Even people who have never worshipped at our Peters Creek campus have shared with me how excited they are to “get back to our roots”. People who stopped coming to our West End campus have told me they can’t wait to join us again when we’re back at Peters Creek. I believe all of the excitement is confirmation from God that we have made the right decision.
We are thankful for our season at Crossnore and the time we had to minister to the kids on campus. We have let Crossnore know that we will always be available for the kids in any way that they need. We hope that our transformation of the sanctuary space provides Crossnore with a beautiful space they can use in many ways in the future.
This Wednesday at 6 p.m. we will have an open house at our Peters Creek Campus (1401 Trademart Blvd). This will be a great chance to see the building and give us your input on what the space should look like in our worship area and children’s and youth areas. We’ll answer any questions and have a time of prayer. There will also be snacks! We hope you’ll come and if you have kids, that you’ll bring them. Your input is very important to us as we move forward.
I hope as you read this, you’ll take a moment to thank God for all the blessings he has given us, for our season at Crossnore, and for the great future ahead of us. If you have any questions or thoughts, please feel free to email me at gro.hcruhcyrotswennull@ttocs