22 Apr A Visit to New Life Church
Pat Jones, Director of Healthy Church Ministries
This past Sunday, Pam and I had the privilege of visiting with Michael Longfellow, pastor of New Life Church in Chanute, Kansas, and cluster leader for that area. The New Life Church (formerly Highland Avenue United Brethren) had been stymied in growth by a very limited building. An opportunity came up last year for the congregation to purchase the Alcott Elementary School that was relocating to a new school complex.
The whole story of the purchase, renovation and first Sunday is a magnificent account of the grace of God. First, the school was purchased for $25,000. It is a two-story non-combustible building. The school left a centralized fire alarm system, a centralized communication system to every room, a number of tables and chairs, plus some other supplies and materials.
Through six weeks of hard work in renovation/construction, all done by the congregation, the place was transformed into a wonderful house of worship and fellowship. Funds were suddenly offered for special carpet in the former gym (now the worship center). Skilled professionals (electricians and plumbers) had just recently started attending and provided their skills and labor. Even a few eighty-somethings gave of themselves cleaning up both inside and out.
Michael (right) estimates that with some extra, unplanned projects that were done based on donations, that the total renovation costs amounted to around $21,000. That means they got the property and renovated for under $50,000. And the joyous thing: they are in their new facility debt-free.
This congregation that averaged 105 two years ago had an Easter attendance of 267. Previously, Easter attendances were enlarged by visiting family members. Not this year. Not this year. While some visitors were family, a good portion of them were from their neighborhood and other parts of the community.
Michael says that their desire is for the church to become the focus of the community once again. They have the beginning stages of an exercise room that will be available to the community. They plan to use the hallways and stairs as a walk/climb track.
With economic challenges hitting this community of 9400 very hard, Michael and the congregation see increasing opportunities for sharing the Gospel. This newly renovated facility will provide them the space to reach many people for Christ.