Faith: Yellow Box Church expansion doubles space

Community Christian Church in Naperville, often referred to as the Yellow Box Church, is preparing for the grand opening of its new addition in mid-September.

Pastor Shawn Williams says the $1.8 million project includes an expanded parking lot, a retention pond, a café and space for training volunteers. The new space accommodates up to 1,200 people. The old building only seated 600.

Despite the much larger space, Williams says the design makes it appear more intimate than the previous location. He says it is also much more aesthetically pleasing, surrounded by long windows, allowing for natural light to permeate the space.

“We’re a place that’s very relationally wired, and so for us, it’s not about coming to a big spectacle or show,” he says. “But, rather, how do we create experiences about how people relate to each other and to God?”

The new building will help CCC achieve that goal with better technology for audio and visual needs at church services.

The new building also increases the opportunities for people to connect in different ways, he says.

One way members are staying relevant is by participating in a joint effort with Indian Prairie School District 204 to collect and deliver backpacks filled with school supplies to children who would otherwise go without. He stresses the importance of being “a church that exists for our community.”

Big box or mega churches, as they are often called, first became popular in the early 1980s as an offshoot of the teen-based faith program called Young Life, according to Mark Krakowski, director of ministry at Benedictine University in Lisle.

He says people became passionate about their faith and were willing to share their experiences with each other. Eventually, Krakowski explains, a wave of faithful left churches they had grown up in to join churches like CCC or Willow Creek in Barrington, where they found church, and in particular, the sermon more relevant to their daily lives.

A significant number of those initial members stayed for about two or three years, according to Krakowski, and then returned to their home church.

A Loyola University study confirms a steady, but not necessarily gigantic growth in membership over a six-month or once-a-year time period at some of the big box churches. In conclusion, it reports that the most frequently given answer to why those members eventually returned to their church or religion of origin is a nostalgia for the sacramental part of church, according to Krakowski.

Marko Komarynsky, of Naperville, who was raised Catholic, says he falls into that group.

“I definitely felt that,” he says. “And it did cause some spiritual confusion. … I saw how important it was to my family and the relationship they had with God through CCC. That’s what kept me coming back.”

Krakowski probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear that.

“Catholics are excellent at inculcating and informing their children on a subconscious or a covert level to really have a deep need of the sacramental part of their lives, even if they do have a bad religious education system,” Krakowski says. “It’s complicated. But, the growth of CCC is good news, because it means people are seeking spirituality, a connection with God.”

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