Union Hill, our first the christ, decided to take the slower but more affordable approach of constructing their new building with as much of their own volunteer labor as possible. During the construction period the church met in a rented warehouse which was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. They crowded together in classes and managed somehow with only one restroom! Such sacrifices engendered a spirit of unity and purpose among this group and they grew rapidly.
By the time the new building was ready for occupancy the congregation had grown so much that they had to go immediately to two services. They have continued to grow over these past seven years and are now averaging around 400 on Sunday mornings.
On the Sunday that Union Hill left Sunset we had a large banner hung across the front of the auditorium emblazoned with a passage that has become our maxim: “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only god, who makes things grow” (1 Corinthians 3:7) We give God the glory for all that He has done.
On June the 29th, 2008, Union Hill will be breaking ground on a new auditorium that will be better able to accommodate their swelling numbers. Our first church planting was a resounding success.
Let’s Have Another Baby!
As soon as Union Hill was a reality we began to prayerfully plan for a second church plant. We hired a youth minister who would transition in a few years into a preaching minister as we sent a group out for a second time. Tony and Johnna Gentry were ideally suited for this challenge and did a great job leading our youth as we began more demographic studies and began to put together a second church planting team. The timeline would parallel that of the first plant, requiring around five years from conception to birth.
We owed a huge debt of gratitude to Union Hill for the successful model they provided for any future church planters. Because of what God had done through those willing pioneers many more were emboldened to go with the second plant. Through our demographic studies we determined that an area just west of Springfield in Brookline held great promise for future growth. As the time grew near we became concerned that too many might want to go! We had almost 800 members and when we asked for volunteers to go, 150 stepped forward.
The successful model of the Union Hill church planting also gave several members the confidence to give sacrificially toward the Brookline plant. Sunset was again able to provide a gift of acreage and we were able to see the construction of a building on this property which the newly planted church was able to move into from the beginning.
On the first Sunday of 2006 the Brookline planters left amid tears and prayers for God’s blessings. Again, the joy and celebration was mixed with a sense of loss at seeing such a large segment of our church family making this move.
As I write this, a year and a half has transpired since Brookline’s beginning. We continue to rebuild at Sunset as Brookline prospers. In the first year they have had to add on an education wing and they are averaging 250 on Sundays. God has been incredibly good to us.