New facility to be used extensively for congregation's youth ministry and community events
By Myra Holmes
A new student center on the campus of Reedley (Calif.) MB Church (RMBC) fulfills a long-term facility plan and aims to meet the growing needs of the congregation’s youth and the community.
The two-story, 16,000-square-foot facility (pictured left) includes a 300-seat auditorium, game room and café, plus a junior high center to accommodate 150 students and nine “break-out rooms” of various sizes.
“We are excited to see what God will do through this new facility,” says Jason Hofer, RMBC youth pastor. “The design was intended to meet a variety of ministry needs while continuing to stay functional. We trust that these goals were accomplished and the work God has called us to do will thrive because of it.”
RMBC dedicated the center Sept. 8 during a combined service, followed by a BBQ dinner for approximately 800 people. Tours of the facility and free sodas and specialty drinks in the center’s café were also offered.
While the entire congregation will have access to the building, much of the planning and design centered on the needs of student ministries. “Never before have our students had a space to truly call their own,” Hofer says “The student center will offer our students a place that is welcoming and inviting, a place where they will want to invite their friends to come and a place where the gospel will be boldly shared.” RMBC serves some 90-140 junior and senior high students.
The expansion is part of a master plan that has been in place for some 20 years, according to Dennis Fast, RMBC senior pastor. The original plan included a “family life center” with a full gymnasium, says Fast. But when the public school system built two new gyms in the community, the need for such a facility in the area was lessened. That, plus increasing building costs, prompted RMBC to re-envision the plan to include the student center and an outdoor sport court. Fast points out that the climate in California’s Central Valley allows for use of such an outdoor court most of the year.
The master plan required use of two streets that cut through the campus, so over 15 years ago, RMBC requested a conditional use permit. “From the beginning the city council and planning commission have been favorable to the idea,” says Fast. “This year that became a reality as we have remodeled our parking lots and constructed a two-story student ministry center.In an unprecedented move the city deeded two blocks of streets to the church for the development of the campus.”
While the RMBC campus seems spacious—it already included a building with a sanctuary, fellowship hall and offices and a children’s center that houses a certified preschool—Fast says it was used to capacity on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings by this congregation of over 800. Nearly every classroom and meeting space was used, and some adult groups made concessions in order to accommodate the needs of youth. Fast says, “We loved the idea that the facilities were being so fully utilized, but also have a vision for growth in ministry.”
RMBC plans to use the new student center extensively, both for student ministries and for community events. Junior and senior high youth use it on Sundays and Wednesdays. The fifth and sixth grade Sunday school class meets there, and the college-aged group will gather in the café on Sunday evenings. Weekend and special events are planned, as well as worship nights, outreach opportunities and “hangout times,” as Hofer says. In addition, a large women’s Bible study uses the building on Tuesday mornings.
“When scheduled student ministries are not in session the options for other ministries and community groups is endless,”Fast says.
Hofer points out that Reedley is a rural community without access to many conveniences of a city, which will play a role in how the student center is used. “We hope to use this facility to meet our community and provide a space for students to interact with one another in a safe, friendly environment,” he says. “It is our desire to see students come to connect with each other, connect with the church and connect with God.”
The student center was funded by extra funding from the 2002 capital campaign for the children’s center, additional capital campaigns in 2008 and 2011 and a loan from MB Foundation, the Mennonite Brethren stewardship agency. Fast notes that this is the church’s first loan in its 108-year history.
Bruce Jost, director of lending and community for MBF, says MBF helped by processing gifts to the project and by offering the loan. He notes that, like other MBF loans, this loan was funded by certificate investments made with the Foundation by others in the USMB family.
“As our greater Mennonite Brethren family invests with us, we use those funds to finance projects that expand ministry in our MB family,” Jost says. “If someone has invested with us, they helped make financing available for the Reedley student center project. That is an example of the greater family helping out a family member.”