The spacious area seemed more like the scene of an underground rock concert than Easter worship service.
Steel beams and ductwork hang exposed above the uncovered concrete floors. Walls painted in shades of gray and black were unadorned with decorations or even crosses.
That’s exactly what leaders at Friendship Church were aiming for.
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“The place is very raw, and that’s very intentional,” said Dave Crandall, lead pastor. “The architect warned us, ‘You’re going to see cracks in the floor.’ We like that. That’s what we are. Nobody is perfect.”
The utilitarian industrial space is symbolic of a new chapter in the church’s story. What was once a struggling Baptist church in a remote corner of Greenwood is now poised to take advantage of an explosion of growth coming to Worthsville Road.
Just as the new exit off of Interstate 69 has primed the area for residential and business growth, Friendship Church is opening its newly expanded building to for the first time this weekend.
“It’s challenged my faith. We’re going on 10 years here, and have been talking about the future of Friendship since we got here. You go that long without anything and think maybe we’re not doing something right,” said Dustin Pead, creative arts pastor. “Then you see all of this internal momentum stirring, and think it has to go somewhere. It doesn’t seem like it’s real that we can touch it.”
The new worship area seats 450 people, with a wide stage where Friendship’s services will be centered. A full band will be able to perform Christian music that is closer to modern rock than traditional hymns. Crandall will be able to deliver his active and energetic sermons with the congregation all feeling close to the action.
Outside is a foyer where the congregation could gather before and after services for coffee and fellowship. New offices would give the church staff a place to work throughout the week, and a staging area would help musicians prepare before church on Sunday.
Bold shades of orange greet those who walk into the new structure, before entering the more muted worship area. The space is notable for what it does not have — stained glass windows, a steeple and a baptistry.
“We want a space where, when people walk into Friendship, they can relate to who we are,” said Sarah Pead, arts and communications director for the church. “We’ve made this as much as who we are as we can. We have a lot of young families who come here, and we wanted to have a space that spoke to them when they came here.”
The central tenet of Friendship Church is openness, with anybody welcome to attend as they are. Volunteers are always out front welcoming people with a handshake and a conversation. But the church seems to attract a certain kind of people, Dustin Pead said.
“We reach a lot of people who either grew up in church, hated it and when they got old enough decided they didn’t want to go anymore. Or, we get people who have flat out never been to church,” he said. “So we wanted a place that didn’t feel like church. We didn’t want them walking into a stuffy space, where a lot of things were happening that they didn’t understand.”
When Crandall and his wife, Traci, came to Friendship Church in 2004, it was a struggling congregation. During their first worship service, only 47 people sat in the pews. At the time, it was known as Friendship Baptist.
“It was really a replanting or reclamation of a church that had basically died,” Crandall said. “We spent five or six years of restructuring that, going through the process of putting the pieces together.”
With a fresh canvas of a congregation, he and other congregation leaders could shape the church in a way that better fit their vision. They wanted a worship service that challenged what people traditionally thought of as church. Powerful, modern music, a laid-back attitude and flexibility with the structure was all important.
The process was slow, Crandall said. Only about four years ago did the shift in atmosphere really gain traction and take off. Membership jumped to 180 people, then to 340 people on Easter 2012 and more than 400 a year later. The church added a second worship service to meet the congregation demands.
Their vision for Friendship Church had aligned. Now, church elders needed a worship space that fit into it.
“We weren’t sure if we could pull off a building project at that time. We really felt like we needed to do two services, and see how that worked. But since that’s happened, it’s continued to roll,” Crandall said. “That’s when the obvious shift in momentum has taken place.”
Their building had been constructed in the early 2000s, and while nice, was not ideal for their mission.
“We wanted a space that reflects who we are. They were fairly traditional; their idea of something radical on a Sunday morning was CD music. We have a full band, and this space was never made for that style of ministry,” Crandall said.
Their Momentum building campaign launched in November 2013, with the congregation pledging more than $622,000 for construction. Work started a year later to remodel the existing building, then crews started on the new worship space and offices.
Because many of Friendship’s congregation is young families, the existing worship space will be used to expand its children’s and teen-centric offerings.
“Kids make up 25 to 30 percent of our weekly attendance, so that’s a big piece of our congregation,” Dustin Pead said.
Everything will open this weekend. Church officials are anticipating more than 750 people attend the two Easter services unveiling the new space, Crandall said.
“We want people to be relaxed when they come here,” said Traci Crandall, executive assistant for the church. “They can take a deep breath, come as they are and not be in a rush or a hurry to meet an expectation. They can just come in the door and be a part of things immediately.”
For two-plus years, the project has been a challenge, not just with the church’s own plans but with the simultaneous construction of the Worthsville Road exit.
Long stretches of time passed when much of Worthsville Road was closed, leaving one way in and one way out. Closures changed week to week.
“We would sometimes in the middle of the week have to send out Facebook posts or emails saying the route has changed and to tell everyone you knew,” Crandall said. “You had to want to be here to get here.”
But now that construction on both the highway exit and the new worship space is finished, Friendship is poised for even more growth. Already, new subdivisions and neighborhoods are surrounding it.
More are expected now that Greenwood officials estimate traffic along Worthsville to increase 400 percent.
Friendship leaders believe that puts them in an excellent position in the future, though they’re unsure what exactly it will mean.
“I’m not sure if we know what it will be like,” Crandall said. “It could be huge. Already, we have people who recognize our name because they drive by us. But we know what it can be.”
2004: Senior pastor Dave Crandall and his family move to lead Friendship Baptist Church.
2005: Crandall assembled what he called the “Dream Team,” to begin the process of defining the vision and mission of Friendship.
2008: Leaders change the name to Friendship Church, reflecting a change in the culture of the congregation.
2010: Friendship Church sets a new attendance record, with more than 250 people attending Christmas services.
2012: A new attendance record of 340 people is set on Easter, influencing the decision to start to offer two services each Sunday.
November 2013: The Momentum Project launched, with over $622,000 committed to providing a new space.
October 2014: The construction crews arrived to begin the remodeling of the exterior of the current building.
2015: For the first time ever, the church offers three services on Easter to fit all 624 people who attended, another record.
September 2015: Ground breaks for construction on the new 450-seat auditorium, parking lot and Friendship Park.
March 27, 2016: Easter services are planned for the new Friendship Church building
- New auditorium for worship, foyer greeting area and office space for staff.
- Remodeled exterior
- New parking lot and Friendship Park, an outdoor recreation space.
Current worship space seating: 220
New seating: 450
Raised so far: $543,720
Where: 963 E. Worthsville Road, Greenwood
Services: 9:30 and 11 a.m. Sundays