From new buildings and programs to new initiatives and even a conviction to reach those outside of the community, four East County churches are bucking the trend of the struggling economy.
Both Lakewood Christian Church and Peace Presbyterian Church are expanding their ministries thanks to new meeting places (Lakewood at The Polo Grill and Peace at the Manatee Association of Realtors building).
Cornerstone Church of Lakewood Ranch, one of the area’s original churches, is nearing completion of the first phase of its expansion.
Finally, Bayside Community Church, which just opened its East County home in March, now is searching for a location in west Bradenton through which to expand its ministry.
Lakewood Christian Church
After more than three years of steadily planting roots, Lakewood Christian Church, formerly Church on the Ranch, is prepping to roll out a massive community campaign beginning with its Celebration Sunday at 10 a.m., Sept. 19.
The church, which had met first at the home of Pastor Jeff Weaver and later at Willis Elementary School, now meets in the Fête Ballroom at The Polo Grill on Lakewood Ranch Main Street.
“We like to say, ‘Come meet the King at the ballroom,'” Weaver said. “Our hearts wanted to be more in the center of where everything is happening at Lakewood Ranch. It’s God’s blessing that we’re right in the heart of it all.”
With a steady congregation and a growing ministry, Weaver said his church is ready to turn its attention on the East County community. Already, Lakewood Christian Church has participated in several community events, including the recent Lakewood Ranch Community Activities Splash Bash, the Easter Eggstravaganza and the community’s Christmas celebration on Main.
Weaver said the church is working on organizing a large flag football tournament for the week before the Super Bowl.
“We want to connect to the community,” Weaver said. “We want our families to be a part of presenting the witness we have for Christ in a real, relevant way.”
The church meets at 10 a.m., Sundays, at The Polo Grill, 10670 Boardwalk Loop. For more, visit www.churchontheranch.com or call 357-7055.
Cornerstone Church of Lakewood Ranch
After months of construction, Cornerstone Church of Lakewood Ranch is nearing completion on its new $3.5 million expansion.
The project includes about 70 more seats in its worship auditorium, 12 classrooms spaces, a playground for children and large café and gathering areas.
“The most effort went into the children’s area,” Pastor Dave Sturkey said.
Of the 12 classrooms being constructed, about 10 are designated for children and infants.
Cornerstone will have special dedication services for its new building Oct. 23-24. A special community bash celebration will be held Nov. 5-7.
The full children’s program, including Wednesday night activities called Pioneer Club, will start around Oct. 6.
Sturkey said he is eager to have additional space available not only for members of Cornerstone but also for members of the community.
Sturkey said Cornerstone already has knocked down one wall in its auditorium and plans to expand the other half of the facility before Christmas. A full expansion of the worship auditorium, which will bring seating up to about 700, has been postponed because of the economy.
Peace Presbyterian Church
After more than a year of searching for a new location, Peace Presbyterian Church Pastor Elizabeth Deibert finally has found the perfect space in which her congregation can grow.
Peace began meeting in the new wing of the Manatee Association of Realtors’ building, 10910 Technology Terrace, Sept. 4 after meeting in at the State College of Florida’s Lakewood Ranch campus since 2006.
The new location offers nine rooms the congregation can use during the week for Bible study, support groups or other activities, as well as the event and conference center for Sunday morning services.
“We’re just beginning to imagine all the new things we can do to build peace in this community and to serve the needs of others,” Deibert said.
Peace Presbyterian will continue to hold services at 9:30 a.m., Sundays. For more, call 753-7778 or visit www.peacepcusa.org.
Bayside Community Church
During services last weekend, leaders of Bayside Community Church announced they would be opening a campus in west Bradenton.
Although leaders still are looking for a meeting location, they have narrowed the search area and are hoping to reach the community around G.T. Bray Park.
A church launch is planned for February 2011, with the first Sunday service held Feb. 13, said Mark Childers, pastor of the west Bradenton campus.
“It's been in the makings for several months,” Childers said. “We’re working on getting a team together (now).”
Bayside Pastor Randy Bezet will provide teaching via video, and the church will offer most of the ministries it has at its existing campus, including live praise and worship at services, a separate service for middle school students, small groups and more.