By Erik Cassano
As we increasingly become a society of screens, even places of worship can’t escape the impact. Many of the services and fellowship opportunities previously housed in bricks-and-mortar churches are now available online, and people don’t need to leave home to worship.
The Rock, a nondenominational church with locations in Ohio, West Virginia, and Brazil, is innovating its experience to attract and retain its target audience, just as any smart business would.
“The culture of America has moved away from church membership, in part because the Internet has given them the resources to stay at home and do church,” says David Chisholm, senior pastor of The Rock church in Parkersburg, West Virginia. “We try encouraging people to come to church by modernizing the experience and the facilities. We try to offer more programs that support families.”
Chisholm also works to be relevant to young people.
“We’ve updated the music and presentation of services, and work to stay up on the trends of how things are being communicated,” he says. “I’m 60, and I’m trying to stay relevant to 15- to 20-year-olds. We are constantly repackaging to stay relevant.”
The efforts of the church’s pastors and staff have paid dividends. From one location in Jackson, Ohio, founded in 1986, the church has expanded to include the Parkersburg location, along with locations in Zanesville, Ohio; the Columbus, Ohio, suburb of Reynoldsburg; and in Bom Despacho, in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. The five locations have nearly 1,300 members.
Looking to the futureA growing church needs facilities that can grow with it, and that has become an increasing problem at a number of The Rock’s locations. The Reynoldsburg location previously belonged to another congregation and was purchased and remodeled. The Zanesville location was founded in a remodeled bar. Both are approaching their capacity, as is the building in Parkersburg.
Moving into bigger buildings with better amenities has become an ongoing focus, particularly over the past 10 years. Physical expansion will continue to be an important component of the future as the church expands programs including day care, preschool, and community outreach ministries.
“We just moved into a new building in Zanesville and are looking to do the same in Columbus,” Chisholm says. “We moved into a new building in Parkersburg a few years ago, and it’s already in need of another expansion.
Finding a mortgage loan for the last Parkersburg expansion proved problematic.
“We were turned down by every bank we approached,” says Chisholm. “We finally hired a loan broker.”
Weeks later, Chisholm got the call he had been waiting for.
“Huntington was the only bank willing to take a look at us,” he says. “We had discussions with their folks in Columbus, and they decided we were worth the risk.”
The Rock proved them right, paying off a 20-year mortgage in eight years. The church is now working with Huntington on a loan to expand the church from 34,000 to 44,000 square feet, adding offices and increasing space for day care and preschool programs.
“Huntington has been very good to work with,” Chisholm says. “They have treated us like gold. Other banks courted us for the expansion loan, but we stuck with Huntington because Huntington stuck with us.”
For more information, visit therock.life.