LIMA — When Lima First Assembly of God members realized they were outgrowing their building which they had been in for 56 years, they began to look around for a new site.
“Where we were, on East High Street, we were landlocked,” said the Rev. Randy Davis, head pastor of Lima First Assembly of God. “We were surrounded by houses and streets. The location there wasn’t the greatest as far as accessibility, either.”
The church found its current property five years ago, but did not make an offer at the time.
“This is the coolest part of the story,” Davis said. “The owners of the property started coming to our church, as God would have it. We had no idea because we went through a real estate agent and they were under a company name. They ended up offering us the property at a reduced rate. We have 19 acres right off the interstate for less than anyplace else. ”
Lima First Assembly of God’s new building, which they purchased in February 2012, is located at 1660 Findlay Road, and features 18,000 square feet and seating for 500 people. Their old building had more square footage at 19,000 square feet, but only seated around 300 people.
“The new building is more family friendly,” explained Davis. “There are more open spaces for fellowship, and we really can utilize every square inch of space.”
The church broke ground at the new location on Palm Sunday in 2013, and had their last service at the previous location the following week on Easter Sunday. They sold the building to In Faith Ministries, using the proceeds from that sale to help fund the new building, which including the land, cost about $2.5 million. They also had a capital campaign, but had to take out a loan with the Union Bank Co. to cover the entire cost.
While the new church was being built, the congregation met at Lima Senior High School’s auditorium. Davis said that being in limbo and in a rented space was one of the biggest challenges of building a new church.
“We really grew up as a church being in limbo,” he said, “but it was neat to see how many people worked together to pull off church every week.”
For Davis, the hardest part of the project was the time involved.
“For me, it was the vast amount of decisions I had to make, sometimes on the fly. We used Midwest Church (Design and Construction) out of Perrysburg, and they were great, but there were a lot of meetings and lots of calls. I was really happy when I heard a lot of comments that the building was nicer than people had dreamed it would be,” he said.
The church had its first service in the new building Nov. 24, and they had the church dedication Dec. 8 — which also coincided with the church’s 81st anniversary of being a congregation.
They had special speaker the Rev. John Wootton, who is the state network pastor for the Assemblies of God denomination. The service was well attended with 582 there that day. The service was followed by an open house from 1 to 3 p.m.
Since moving, Davis said church attendance is up by about 100. “Our new building has generated a lot of excitement within our congregation,” he said.
The entire church was very supportive of moving locations.
“We had three votes, and they were all unanimous,” said Davis. “It’s not that everyone was 100 percent crazy about change, but they would not stand in the way of change.”
Davis said the move is all part of what God has been doing in the congregation over the last few years.
“We recognized we could not stay the same and also reach our community,” he said.
Already, in addition to the increased attendance, Davis has seen the new building being a blessing.
“We had big New Year’s Eve activity,” he said. “That was completely planned by the congregation, and there were over 200 people here.”
Davis hopes that with a new, multipurpose building that is family friendly, they can reach new people.
“Our goal is to build the family,” said Davis. “The family that is defined by the individual. We want to offer things for people to connect. We did that New Year’s Eve activity, and it was awesome. The building is just very multipurpose and every room is equipped for whatever.”
For Davis, though, the most rewarding thing has been seeing his congregation step up to the challenge of the move and catching a new vision.
“It’s really rewarding watching the people pulling together,” he said. “I also loved to see the excitement through the project. Really, seeing the older parishioners’ excitement and enthusiasm is one of the most rewarding parts for me.”
Who: Lima First Assembly of God
Where: 1660 Findlay Road, Lima
Services: 10 a.m. Sundays