Case Studies

Pavement, chairs first steps for church’s growth on 10-acre property  

For decades, attendees at New Life Evangelical Free Church (EFC) turned off the Great River Road near the Mississippi River onto a long gravel driveway and lot, making their way into the dome building to worship and fellowship.

“The dome, it adds character and it’s fun telling people you go to church in an igloo,” said ministry assistant Kiya Anderson, who has attended New Life since childhood. Conversations can be heard all the way across the room as sound travels easily.

But the second most visible aspect of the 10-acre property in Hastings, Minn. changed recently with the addition of a gleaming new blacktop for the drive and white-striped parking areas for those who visit.

Pouring rain rolled off the new impervious surface on a late fall weekday, as excited staff unpacked and set new chairs inside the church sanctuary. Both improvements were part of a foundation phase financed by Christian Investors Financial.

After ministering in the San Francisco Bay area for five years, Lead Pastor Brent Kompelien and his family came to New Life in 2018. The church wanted revitalization.

Family environment, post-COVID growth

Pastor Brent’s church planting background opened the doors for something better at New Life. “We knew we needed a relational kind of a safe place for me to minister and where people would care about my family, my kids.” The pastor found the church to be warm and inviting.

Trust was built over the first few years and as COVID came along and the church reopened, new guests came every Sunday. Children’s ministry here has blossomed, from five to 10 kids to as many as 65, with fourfold growth for the church overall.

Talking to CIF early made sense

New Life reached out to CIF early on and wanted to have a long-term vision and plan put together. Pastor Brent said they knew that project phases would involve multiple capital investments in the facility and property, and more than one loan.

“It would be a lot harder to have that conversation with a bank, knowing the ministry needs that we have,” the lead pastor said. “So, that was really helpful.”

“They did a great job of understanding the needs that we have and seeing the vision we have,” he said. “Being a small church, we didn’t have a lot of savings and we had gone through some lean years.” The challenge was to meet the needs of current growth and invest for the future.

“Lord willing, we are going to build an addition onto our building. But if we don’t, we’ve invested in this facility and we’re going to get the most out of it that we can,” said Pastor Brent.

CIF saw the phased process as part of the bigger picture. “It would be a lot harder to have that conversation with a bank, knowing the ministry needs that we have,” the lead pastor said. “So, that was really helpful.”

‘In with the new’

Aging turquoise colored 1980s style chairs were on the way out – stacked in the entryway for pickup. These and the tracked-in dirt and gravel are remnants of the past as the church looks to the future. New Life is preparing for a 50 percent increase in seating capacity, to about 300, said Paul Arneberg, director of the church’s Disciple-by-Doing ministry.

Improvements in the foundational phase are intended to deepen roots and grow branches, he explains.

The church is dreaming big, with a capital campaign underway. Multi-use spaces, additional children’s classrooms and a more welcoming entryway are part of the plans.

Paul Arneberg, director of Disciple-by-Doing

New Life’s primary mission is to make disciples, said Pastor Brent. He initially wondered if the capital campaign would distract from ongoing ministry, but then came to embrace it.

“This process is a part of our discipleship because learning how to be generous and Kingdom-minded is, of course, an important investment in the discipleship culture of our church,” Kompelien said. “It’s going to stretch us to think about concepts biblically in a way that helps us to grow and be more Christlike in how we view our resources.”

About 60,000 people live in the general vicinity of the church, which is 18 miles southeast of the Minnesota capital city of St. Paul.

Temporary building plan turned permanent

A sizable trailer converted to office, children’s ministry and meeting spaces adjoins the dome structure, and was part of the church’s 10-year plan in the 1990s. The lead pastor said the congregation has been investing as much as possible in the current facility to maximize it with interior upgrades and renovations.

Plans include moving the welcome booth and knocking out a rear wall in the sanctuary to accommodate more people for services.

Outreach is increasing at New Life as well, with a podcast featuring Pastor Brent produced by Arneberg. The church does special events and has plans to widen these efforts.

“We’re preaching the gospel every week while also doing life together,” said Arneberg, who exuberantly shared a quote from missionary Abraham Kuyper, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign overall, does not cry- mine!”

Disciple-making is relational, Pastor Brent said, and the church uses hands-on experiences to do its work. One such effort involved three garden plots it created along with Bible-based curriculum about soils, watering, weeds, fruitfulness and harvest.  

“The Scriptures can come alive as you put them on display, and then open hearts to the gospel as you do hands-on learning.”

The lead pastor said the campaign process will stretch his church, and not just financially.

“The building stuff is really an extension of a deeper kind of calling … how God’s leading us with our disciple making vision,” he said.

New Life Evangelical Free view from Highway 61
Space to do ministry

There’s plenty of room to grow. The back half of the property has not been utilized, aside from a few activities.

Church attendees also reach out from their own homes to their neighborhoods and coworkers, Pastor Brent said.

With 40 years under its belt, this congregation in Hastings is looking to the next 40 with eager anticipation.

The phased project path chosen by New Life EFC is one taken by dozens of churches with expert assistance from CIF, which welcomes such inquiries. Contact a specialist today.

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