When The Refuge in Concord broke ground for its new campus, Lead Pastor Jay Stewart had church members form a human chain around the outline of the future sanctuary.
The picture taken of the historic moment will hang in the new building when it opens next year, a reminder that the structure is not the church.
“We’ve never been about a building,” Stewart said. “We are a community of people touching a community.”
Stewart founded The Refuge, a nondenominational church, in April 2004. Forty people attended the first meeting, which was in a basement, and in nine months the church had grown to 400. Steward says he can’t take credit for the rapid growth.
“The simple answer is that the Lord just breathed on what we were doing,” he said. “We worked hard, and we did some things we felt like would appeal to people.
“We’ve tried to create a culture of authenticity, and I think people have responded to that.”
The church spent four weeks meeting in the basement before moving to Cannon School and then to a rented warehouse on Central Drive in Concord. In 2008, it bought two warehouses, and now the church holds four services there each weekend – two on Saturday and two on Sunday.
In 2011, The Refuge began an extension church in Salisbury. Almost 1,400 people attend the two churches weekly.
“The Refuge has continued to grow, and our biggest challenge has been our facilities,” Stewart said. “We’re so excited about breaking ground on our new campus and knowing we will have a lot more space to reach a lot more people.”
The new 40,000-square-foot campus, which is at the corner of Kannapolis Parkway and Kellswater Bridge, will have an auditorium that will seat 1,000. The church now meets in a room that seats 300. The new building will accommodate the church’s contemporary, energetic music and style, with comfortable seating and an inviting atmosphere.
Two office complexes will house the church staff, which now has 26 employees, and a concourse will have a bookstore and coffee shop. The campus also will have state-of-the-art children’s ministry areas, including a nursery.
The campus should open in 2014, just before the church’s 10th anniversary.
The Refuge has worked hard to impact the community, and the church works weekly with area schools, where volunteers read to children, oversee drama clubs and run mentoring programs.
The church also has participated in international mission work, including founding a church in Brazil.
The church plans to offer more opportunities for families and more classes on topics such as marriage and financial planning.
“We’re limited on how many people can take advantage of those things right now,” he said.
In preparation for growth, the church has added staff, including a chief financial officer, and restructured its employee positions.
“We have no doubt that we will make a much bigger impact on the city, and we are poised and in position to do so,” Stewart said.
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer for South Charlotte News. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her at email@example.com.
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