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Faith

2 churches are creating new spaces

– one north of Fort Wayne and one on its southwest side – are in the midst of major building projects.

County Line Church of God, 7716 County Line Road, just east of Tonkel Road outside Auburn, is building a 31,000-square-foot worship center at a cost of $4 million. Meanwhile, Aldersgate United Methodist Church has a $400,000 renovation project at 2417 Getz Road.

Stuart Kruse, senior pastor of County Line, affiliated with the Church of God-Anderson, says that while the church’s location might seem rural, the congregation has experienced growth that has upped Sunday attendance from 750 in 2009 to 1,200.

“Actually we’re a bit behind the growth,” Kruse says. “The church has been growing steadily for the past 10 years but has really taken off in the last three years. So we really needed to make a decision about what we were going to do about adding facilities that would sustain the growth.”

Kruse says the church, known for outdoor baptisms on a pond on its property, is benefiting from new housing additions and expects more in the next few years as growth along Dupont Road expands north.

“A lot of our growth seems to be from younger families that went to church when they were younger, but then maybe fell away when they went to college and now they’ve come back. They’re starting to have children and are saying, ‘I think our kids need to be in church.’ ”

The church’s existing sanctuary will become an all-purpose gathering space with removable seating and be used for smaller weddings, funerals and other events, Kruse says. The addition includes administrative offices.

Children are the focus of Aldersgate’s building project, which is making a brightly colored gathering and large-group teaching space for children out of its gymnasium.

“We found it really wasn’t being used as a gym,” says the Rev. Derek Weber, church pastor. “A couple of decades ago, churches all over the place were building (gyms), but we’re finding they’re not so much of a draw as in the past.”

The church had hosted a youth basketball program, but it dwindled, he says.

“We found we didn’t have the program to compete with places like the Y, so we decided we wouldn’t try to do that,” he notes.

Pastors of both churches say the new spaces will be in an amphitheater style and be wired for audiovisual programming.

Kruse said County Line’s new space will accommodate the congregation’s contemporary worship services, while Weber says Aldersgate will maintain traditional worship in its existing sanctuary.

Its new space will be used for its day school/preschool program, Wednesday night children’s activities and Friday night movie nights, Weber says. The congregation also offers a free meal on Thursday nights, feeding more than 150 people weekly.

He added the area will be painted with murals to resemble Aldersgate Street in London in the 18th century, when Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, frequented it. The church, which has an active membership of 500 to 600, takes its name from the street. The facility could be finished by the end of the year.

County Line’s projected finish is midsummer of 2013, according to Kruse.

“We’ve been blessed with a generous congregation – they have stepped up and given far beyond what we would have expected them to give,” he says.

“It’s a step of faith – there’s a scary part of it, too – but so far, we think his hand is on it, and things are going in the right direction.”

rsalter@jg.net

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