The Modesto Free Methodist Church took a leap of faith in this bad economy, beginning construction of a $1.4 million multipurpose building on its property at Briggsmore and Rose avenues.
"God's timing is always interesting," said the Rev. Brock Hoyer in a message to his congregation. "Right in the middle of the recession, when everyone is cutting back, we are expanding. This could only be a miracle from God."
The 10,000-square-foot structure will include a gym, commercial kitchen, three large classrooms and handicap-accessible bathrooms.
The latter "is a big deal for us," Hoyer said. "Even though we have a handicap ministry here at the church, we don't have any handicap restrooms."
Church members have been raising funds for the structure for 12 years. With $950,000 on hand, "we only had to borrow about $500,000" from their denomination, Hoyer said. They've also hired a pastor for youth and young adults; Luke Jones additionally will oversee new programs in the building.
"We're stepping out in faith," said Hoyer, who arrived in Modesto six years ago to take over the 100-year-old church. When he arrived, Sunday attendance was about 120. Now, it averages 170. The additional members have helped the church's income to remain steady despite the economic downturn.
Although the church sanctuary seats about 200, its fellowship hall holds only 100. And special classes, such as a 911 Marriage Ministry and Financial Peace University, draw people from outside the church.
"We don't have enough space for everyone, and those are programs we want to grow," Hoyer said. "We fill every nook and cranny on Wednesday nights. We really didn't have space for wedding receptions. And we're also adding parking, from about 88 to 105 spaces."
Besides meeting its own needs, the church plans to open the multipurpose building to others.
"We want to work with other groups who are doing things for youth and children," Hoyer said. "We'd like to run recreation programs and open it up for basketball, volleyball and other sports. It could be used for seniors to walk during the day. We might start some after-school programs for children, to offer music, recreation, tutoring. We hope to have some open nights for the community to use it, as well. That's kind of our big vision for the building."
The church hopes to finish the building in the spring. Because congregation members will do much of the inside work themselves, Hoyer said, the completion date is uncertain.
Hoyer was the church planting director for his denomination for 12 years before moving to Modesto. "This is the first church I've had that already had a building when I arrived," he said. "Usually, I move in and start a church from scratch with two other families."
After years in the Midwest, Hoyer said he's been struck by "how friendly people in California are, in stores and checkout lines. It's a very friendly place, especially Modesto."
He especially enjoys the area's diversity. The church has a Latino congregation led by a Spanish-speaking pastor that meets at a different time Sundays, but once a month, the congregations hold a joint service. They also conduct joint programs.
"A lot of other churches have Spanish congregations, but they don't mix much," he said. "About four years ago, we decided to become one congregation. We also have a good group of Filipinos here."
Modesto Free Methodist Church is at 1520 Rose Ave. Sunday services are at 9:30 a.m. (English) and noon (Spanish), with Sunday school at 11 a.m. For more, call (209) 522-3583.
Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2012.