From Renter to Landowner – Big Transition for Church

SARNIA, ONTARIO (June 10, 2010) – Transitioning from a congregation that met for nearly a decade in rented space to being a church that now has its own building is an ongoing process as the congregation considers new ways of fulfilling its vision to “Love, Live, Serve,” says Glenn Peterson, pastor of Lighthouse Community Church.

“Lighthouse has been highly decentralized,” Peterson explains. “Church equals people in their homes, at their workplaces, with their neighbors, at school. God providing us with a particular space out of which to minister creates the challenge of continuing to live the really healthy perspective of being the church we’ve had, while being open to the particular place we now call home.”

The congregation formed in 2000 and purchased 50 acres of land just three years following its adoption into the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada. Cost for constructing a new building proved prohibitive, however, and the church continued to meet Saturday nights while renting from another local church.

Last year, however, the congregation agreed to purchase an 80-year-old building owned by a United Church of Canada congregation that was disbanding. The facility is located in the downtown core of the city.

“We had been looking for a non-rental space for offices and 24/7 ministry,” Peterson says. The church is assessing the best renovation strategy as they consider how to meet the needs of a community that already is going through its own transition, Peterson says.

Many of congregation’s neighbors are unchurched families with children. As the congregation considers how to renovate the church, a major consideration is how to make the building comfortable for these families.

“Lighthouse was started as a church for people who don’t do church,” Peterson says. “I think there is a lot of excitement in having our own space to be present in the neighborhood, to grow as a missional presence, to embrace the people we live next to.”

Having their own building will free the congregation from spending so much time “being portable” and will enable them to directly serve the neighborhood with a variety of ministries, Peterson says.

To pay for the building and renovations, the church has launched its “Unbound” campaign to raise $400,000, with 10 percent of the funds being returned to the Canada conference for church planting. “Our vision is to ‘Love, Live, Serve,” Peterson says. “The campaign has a very clear tie into that – Free to Live, Free to Love, Free to Serve.”

The church has no current plans to sell the land it purchased (for which payments continue). Still, Peterson says, the congregation hopes to be debt-free in three years. “In fact, one of the pushes for Unbound and paying off the remaining amount we owe on the land is to free us to make a decision on that property.”

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