The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020

Lifehouse has 1st service in new building

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Approximately 9½ years ago, Matt and Tina Braun and 100 of their spiritual friends decided to start a new church.

Just a portion of Lifehouse Church's new adult meeting area, with state-of-the-art sound and lighting and large TV screens. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent
Just a portion of Lifehouse Church’s new adult meeting area, with state-of-the-art sound and lighting and large TV screens. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

The result, Lifehouse Church, quickly grew to the point that the Brauns and their congregation needed to find more space to worship. That process ended a year ago when church members purchased the former Pick ‘N’ Save building. Starting in January, the former supermarket was transformed into a 15,000-square-foot worship facility with an adult worship area that can seat approximately 850 people, with state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, and several activity areas for the church’s young people.

The new facility also has a much larger parking area and a huge lobby to accommodate the hundreds of worshipers who attend each Sunday.

The Brauns, who came to Van Wert when Matt took a position with Trinity United Methodist Church, spent nearly four years at that church before Matt became pastor of Ohio City Church of God. While that church was successful and growing, the Brauns had a vision of a new kind of church that would attract “unchurched” area residents.

“We kind of had a vision about creating a church that people that weren’t attending church wanted to attend, and creating a place that was engaging,” Braun noted.

The church began meeting in the Clay Center at the YMCA’s Camp Clay, remodeling that facility into a place of worship, and the church began to grow. And grow. And grow.

From its original congregation of approximately 100 people, Lifehouse has grown to the point that, by last spring, the church was averaging 950 people combined at two Sunday services.

Braun, the church’s lead pastor, said Lifehouse began feeling the space pinch 4-5 years ago, with a need for more children’s space a particularly pressing problem.

“This is the finish line,” Matt said of the new facility, “but four years ago we said ‘we need a permanent home, we need space, a lobby’ … our children’s areas were deficient.”

This photo shows the building just prior to the start of construction for the new church facility. (photo submitted)
This photo shows the building just prior to the start of construction for the new church facility. (photo submitted)

In fact, more of the new Lifehouse Church area is reserved for children than adults. In addition to the adult worship space, Lifehouse includes a large group area and eight smaller areas for preschool children called Waumba Land, while elementary age children have their own area called UpStreet, and middle school and high schoolers congregate in the Attic. Those areas include large and small group areas, an area where kids can shoot hoops or play video games when they’re not engaged in a plethora of activities.

Braun said more than half the facility is used by children, with more space still available that will be converted as resources become available into an additional area for teenagers.

“This place is all about children and family,” Braun said. “We wanted to create such a great environment for children that they’re begging their parents to go to church. That’s what we really work hard to do.”

He noted that the children’s areas are also secure, with a stringent security system set up in those areas to ensure the kids’ safety.

Moreover, while Lifehouse Church has gone from two staff members — Braun and his wife, Tina, who is church administrator — to 10 staff members, the real core of the church, Braun noted, is its more than 400 volunteers.

This large-group room in Waumba Land includes nice carpet and bright artwork. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent
This large-group room in Waumba Land includes nice carpet and bright artwork. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

“We have an army of people,” Braun said, adding that volunteers are involved in all areas of the church, from child care, facility preparation for Sunday and weekday activities, to assisting members with parking and distributing bulletins during services and pointing out a restroom (the new facility has 37 of them, compared to six at the Clay Center).

Braun said he is humbled every day by the level of commitment Lifehouse volunteers have to the church’s mission.

“There is more dedication here than I’ve ever been a part of,” he said, noting that six volunteers put in 600-700 hours alone building the church’s new stage area. “They serve like crazy.”

Tina Braun, who supervises six groups who provide “guest services” for the hundreds who attend church each Sunday, said volunteers put in lots of hours weekly to meet Lifehouse’s mission of making those who attend as comfortable — and welcome — as possible.

“We just want to make this place as welcoming as possible, that’s our goal,” Braun said, adding, “and then to tell them that God actually loves them … to foster a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Many of those volunteers have been working this week to complete the many little details remaining before this Sunday’s opening services.

Braun said he’s excited about the first service in the new facility, adding that he has no idea how many people will attend. If it’s anything like this past Easter, 1,600 people could show up for the two Sunday services combined. That many people could really show off the capabilities of the new facility, which is rated for 2,800 people, although Braun doesn’t expect anything like that, at least in the near future.

“If we ever get 2,800 people in here, it will be a wild day,” Braun said with a smile.

POSTED: 09/10/16 at 8:37 am. FILED UNDER: News