Editor's Note: This story has been updated with a new construction amount.
It’s apparent why Columbia Community Church has outgrown its space when listening to the lead pastor rattle off statistics about the non-denominational church’s recent growth.
When Mark Barker arrived at the church in 2009, about 350 people belonged to the Richland church.
Today, there are 2,400.
“In that time, we’ve expanded as much as we can,” he said.
But another expansion is needed.
A $3.2 million renovation is underway at the church at the corner of Gage Boulevard and Bellerive Drive to add 7,000 square feet of space.
The church, known as C3, raised about a third of the amount needed for the work through tithes and offerings with the rest coming from a Bank of West loan. Barker said the church expects to pay the loan off “within five years at the most.”
The project is expected to take nine months with a January completion date.
Two years ago, the church added 7,000 square feet for offices and an addition to its kids’ wing to its 11-acre campus.
“The new lobby expansion we are currently doing will also add another 7,000 square feet."
“However, our lobby will be bigger than that because we are also using two former rooms we already had and making them part of the new lobby as well ... but technically that portion isn’t adding square feet, it’s only repurposing it,” Barker said.
The existing lobby is about 2,400 square feet and the new one will be more than 7,500 square feet.
“The lobby was fine with 350 people, but with what we have now, it’s not. I like it crowded but first-time guests don’t. People are bumping into each other and it gets pretty crowded,” Barker said.
As the church has grown, it’s had to get creative in the way it serves people.
It’s taken over the gym and holds three Sunday services, and there’s a possibility of adding a fourth.
The primary sanctuary features more contemporary music and a live message while the other café venue features live singing at a lower volume, table seating and a big-screen projecting the service in the next room over.
When the current expansion is completed, C3 will alternate speaking from each venue and send the signal to the other venue.
The remodel will include infrastructure to someday add a second floor with balconies. That timeline depends on future growth, Barker said.
The lobby expansion and the restrooms — three stalls aren’t enough to accommodate more than 2,000 people, Barker said — are the main focus for the current remodel.
Also included in the project are the addition of new signs, a new kitchen café area, a new drop-off area in the parking lot, enlarging the church’s existing media booth and adding a new media booth in the café venue.
The gym also will be renovated so it “doesn’t feel like a gym” and will include a permanent stage, Barker said.
The general contractor is Spokane-based Vandervert Construction. Terence L. Thornhill Architect of Kennewick is the architect.
The church has been at its current location since 1980 but had its beginnings in a Richland home 70 years ago. It is affiliated with the Indiana-based Church of God.
Today, there are six pastors overseeing a preschool/children’s ministry and youth ministry as well as small groups and various outreach ministries.
The church offers some unique services, including a recording studio for musicians.
“For us it’s an outreach to reach some of these guys,” Barker said.
Musicians can use it for free to record and edit, if they agree to come to church, otherwise they pay an hourly fee. Most choose to go to church, he said.
The church also has a counseling ministry for those struggling and needing assistance.
And there’s C3 Resources, a program to assist with clients’ spiritual, social and economic needs. “It’s not a hand out, but hand up. We’ll walk alongside them,” Barker said.
Barker describes the church as multi-generational and multi-ethnic with “people from every demographic. You’ll have a former prostitute sitting next to a city mayor,” he said.
Barker said the music and an applicable Sunday message are key reasons people return to C3.
“I’ve been in churches and it’s like a graduate theologian class and the person is speaking way over your head. We try to explain things and put the cookies on the bottom shelf,” he said.
He said C3 pastors work hard to “get rid of insider terms” and often Sunday messages come from the congregation itself.
Those who attend a Sunday service are asked to submit comments and prayer requests, which can also be sent via the church’s app.
All comments are typed up and shared for review at a Tuesday morning staff meeting.
When different themes emerge, the pastors try to incorporate them into the Sunday message.
After Mother’s Day weekend, the church will see a decline in Sunday attendance as people travel for vacations, Barker said. Fall attendance is the church’s busiest time, which is when construction might be a challenge with the loss of some parking areas and usual entrances, he said.
Updates on the construction progress will be provided during Sunday services and posted on C3’s website at c3tricities.com/c3room4more.
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