Church remodeling project creates opportunity to host ministry teams
by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – When members of Canfield (Ohio) Presbyterian Church began raising funds for a remodeling project and addition in 2008 they made sure 10 percent of the capital raised was reserved for mission activities. Several years later, and another remodel of existing facilities, the church opened its mission housing space to those engaged with area service organizations.
Located just 15 minutes southwest of Youngstown, the 550 member congregation completed its remodeling project in 2011 and the $100,000 mission housing component in 2012. The project involved converting vacant church space—a former office, bathrooms and education rooms—into two accessible bathrooms along with men’s and women’s sleeping quarters that can accommodate 30 guests. The church’s commercial kitchen was also renovated and made available for those using the mission housing.
In 2010—in the middle of its remodeling project—the church sat down together for a vision and planning retreat, and addressed possible uses for the vacated section of the church. One of the ideas floated was mission housing. Members of the church who were accustomed to going on short-term mission and staying at other churches championed the cause, and the concept was adopted with enthusiasm.
“It was actually pretty easy,” says Canfield’s pastor, the Rev. Larry Bowald. “It had been in people’s minds—especially those who had gone on mission trips. Whenever you go on a mission trip and you’re staying in a church you look around and say, ‘Hey, we could do this.’”
Last month the church hired Lisa Velker, its former Christian education director, to fill the position of Mission Housing Coordinator. Although the facility has seen some limited use since it opened, she’s hopeful the mission housing will be at capacity during summers and weekends. The space is occupied on weekdays by a preschool throughout the school year.
“I’m for having it available for local groups, even other churches who want to do mission,” she said. “It’s always more fun and fellowship if you’re staying together and then going out. If schools and sporting teams who are here for mission want to use it that would be great too. Whatever is to God’s glory—that’s what we want to see out the use of this facility.”
“We’ve also talked about having it used as emergency housing in our community,” added Velker. “But hopefully we’ll never have to do that.”
The church has existing mission partnerships with several area organizations including Goodness Grows, Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation, Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley, Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley, The Needle’s Eye Christian Counseling Center, Habitat for Humanity of the Mahoning Valley and Habitat for Humanity of Northern Columbiana County. All of the partner organizations have expressed an eagerness to work with the church in hosting mission teams.
Along with the mission housing component, the remodel and addition has afforded Canfield Presbyterian Church other opportunities. Velker said making the church and mission housing accessible for all was an important aspect of both projects. Mission partner organization Goodness Grows can even host volunteers with accessibility needs.
“As far as handicap accessibility, we had two young men in the congregation with Duchenne muscular dystrophy,” she said. “We were having to lift them so they could get to worship and the congregation said we need to have a full-blown, functional elevator to take people to all levels of the church. Additionally, the showers are wide enough to fit a wheelchair. So that was in the back of our minds—that we wanted to be accessible to all people.”
Velker believes availability and accessibility are strategic to the long-term vision for the church’s mission housing ministry, as is providing opportunities for church members to serve and interface with visiting mission teams.
“I’m really hoping and praying that when we have groups come in, the congregation will get to interact with them,” said Velker. “We have a very loving and giving congregation and this is a way to involve them whether they want to come in and cook or provide cookies. Maybe even some of the older members of the church who don’t feel like they have a lot to give any more, this is a way they can be part of it.”
“This is the beginning of a process,” said Bowald. “When we’ve gone to these other places—the Pittsburgh Project or Appalachia Project—they started out of a church basement. I can perceive this being big. This is the ground floor. We’re just starting out.”
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