Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Life in Christ expanding worship area

Life in Christ Church broke ground recently on a 14,000-square-foot expansion that will more than triple its current footprint. A new sanctuary, two classrooms and a youth area will be housed in the new addition, while existing space will be dedicated to children’s ministries.

“We are excited,” said Associate Pastor Sue McDonald, who along with her husband and pastor, Chris McDonald, have served at Life in Christ since 2008. “This has been bathed in prayer for a lot of years. We went to two services on Sundays, but we’re at a point where we need a new building and it will also allow children’s church and the nursery to grow, because it’s busting at the seams.”

Sunday morning attendance averaged 294 in 2015 and grew to an average of 351 in 2016. That is quite a change from the 50-person average attendance that the McDonalds inherited when they returned to their Crittenden County roots in 2008.

The current sanctuary seats 220. The new sanctuary will seat 400 and will include 1,400-square-feet of floor space designated for youth, plus a loft area, cafe and bookstore in the foyer of a new main entrance.

The McDonalds know weather will be a factor, but they plan for construction to be completed in time to host the church’s 2017 Christmas Tea in the new sanctuary in early December. Work is being done by Jeff Graves Construction from Tennessee.

“It is incredible to see God’s hand in this and believe it is the right thing. We’ve been praying for it for a long time, and one of the most exciting things is for the children’s area – for them to have their own sanctuary and church, it’s great for them to worship on their own level and to watch it all transform is amazing,” Sue said.

Chris McDonald says much of the growth since 2008 is new believers, and they credit a great deal of that to their Growth Track program, which is a three-week class led by the Chris Penn and Heather Penn. It helps new members assess their gifts and talents and in turn use them to become further involved in the church.

“It really breaks down what we do and why and who we are as a church and gives a personality profile to the individuals,” Pastor Chris McDonald explains. “It helps people realize what they are passionate about.”

Some of the talents revealed in the three-week program help people decide how they will serve, whether it is in praise and worship, children’s church, on the welcoming team or in a variety of other ways.

“We tell everyone that you’re welcome here. The deal is for you to accept us, not us to accept you,” Sue said. “God has put giftings and talents inside people to be used for the Kingdom so when they learn what God created in them, they can use that.”

Life in Christ does not offer traditional Sunday School, but has 12 small groups open to the community that meet outside of church and are based around various interests such as marriage, culinary, outdoors and others.

“We let people know that we think it is awesome you are here, but we want you to be sure this is where God wants you to be,” Chris said. “There are a lot of good churches in this community, and if this is your home, great, but if your home is down the road, that is great, too.

“We tell them we’re are part of the body, something bigger than you, and wherever you’re called then that’s where you need to be.”

In addition to small groups and teams, Life in Christ offers a number of conferences each year, including a women’s conference, men’s conference and marriage conference – all of which Sue says have helped grow Sunday worship.

PICTURED: Church leaders broke ground this week on an expansion project at Life in Christ Church on U.S. 641 South.  Pictured are (from left) Kent Martin, an elder on the project; Associate Pastor Sue McDonald, Pastor Chris McDonald, and church member Paul Belt Sr., who represents those who started the church here 45 years ago.