Forest Hill Church opened the doors to its Ballantyne extension on Sept. 18 at the Morrison YMCA off Community House Road - and already attendance jumped.
The large nondenominational church off Park Road, led for 30 years by Senior Pastor David Chadwick, created temporary expansion sites in Rock Hill movie theaters six years ago and in Ballantyne five years ago.
According to Max Baumgartner, chief operating officer of Forest Hill, the temporary sites are not ideal because people feel uncomfortable without a permanent church home. Set-up and tear-down for services also is difficult and often rushed.
The solution for Ballantyne came in the form of a partnership with the Morrison YMCA.
The Morrison YMCA, one of the largest facilities in the country with more than 20,000 members, was looking to expand but would not have the funds for another five to eight years. Forest Hill needed a permanent home in the Ballantyne area to accommodate growth in their temporary Ballantyne Village Theater site.
The "So That" campaign at all Forest Hill locations fully funded the $4.5 million expansion to the YMCA, which now offers two additional basketball courts, an indoor track and exercise rooms. The church will use the facility for Sunday worship and during off-peak hours. The first weekend, the location had about 600 attendees, a couple of hundred more than the average at the Village Theater.
Tom Kakadelis, associate pastor, said it took a year and half to put together a solution but the marriage of the two organizations has fulfilled the goals of both.
"We're still in the honeymoon phase," Kakadelis said. "But I think it'll continue to go well with our purposes being similar. They focus on the body and we focus on the spirit."
About 1,800 Forest Hill families live in the Ballantyne area.
Jason Smith, pastor at Forest Hill's Ballantyne location, also serves on the board of the Morrison YMCA. He is pleased that every part of the new space is being used every day.
Michael Masula, 70, has volunteered at Forest Hill off Park Road since moving to the Ballantyne area of Charlotte last year. He is transferring to the new location, and his wife, Carole, 66, has also started volunteering.
"We are so blessed to have Forest Hill expand here in Ballantyne," Carole Masula said.