For more than 40 years, Springbrook Community Church was on four acres of land off Route 59 in Naperville, but church leaders had a vision for the future they couldn’t quite see flourishing there.
So in 2010 the church Board of Directors made a command decision to find property that would suit their purpose.
“We were landlocked and didn’t have any room to expand, and we really had a heart to minister to the community in a more complete way,” said John Apple, creative arts pastor. “Prayerfully the church did some studies about staying and maximizing the potential in our existing facility or whether we should buy property and move someplace else. After this thorough process, the decision was made to sell it.”
The board attempted to buy the property across the street from the church; however after about a year of talks, an agreement couldn’t be reached.
With no place to move, the board decided to put the church’s lot up for sale and buy new property if the sale went through.
The church’s commercial real estate agent, however, wasn’t confident it would sell, noting that several church properties in Naperville had been on the market for several years with no luck. The agent was wrong. And as luck would have it, within 24 hours of posting the property, an offer was made on the church’s site.
Not expecting the quick sale, the church temporarily moved into Fischer Middle School close by and became a “mobile church.” While at the school, they found 22 acres of land in Plainfield and purchased the new property.
“A church that has been in place for over 40 years went mobile within 40 days,” Apple said. “We sold our property and took a huge leap of faith when we didn’t have a new property to move into. We had looked at property but hadn’t made any decisions on purchasing yet.”
The original plan was to stay in the middle school for two years while construction on the new building was completed; however, it took two and half years to build it. Through pure coincidence, the church was ready for its first service on Easter Sunday this year, said Senior Pastor Matt Woodford.
Since the opening of the new church facility in March, the congregation has doubled in size to about 400 people, according to Woodford. Though the new property is almost five times the size of the original lot in Naperville, the church facility is about the same size — with lots of room to grow.
But the space is definitely different from the usual ideas of worship.
“The vision of the building was pretty simple because it’s the DNA of who we are,” Woodford said. “We decided we wanted to be a church for people who really think that church sucks. We thought the best way to position ourselves in a culture that sees church as irrelevant or on the fringe … was to build it for ‘outsiders.’ The expression of this comes out in the way we built the church — how it looks and how it feels.”
One of the improvements is the new children’s section modeled after a small town. Each age-divided classroom has its own theme such as a bank, pet shop, pizza shop and a flower shop complete with a tree-house slide that goes directly into the children’s area. The church also bought the front of a firetruck that is used for display in the area.
“None of us grew up in a space like this,” Apple said. “We came from typical, traditional churches.”
The main section of the sanctuary is also unconventional with a large screen for playing video clips and coffee tables instead of pews in the back of the church for people to use during the service.
“We wanted to build a church where people could come and not feel scared,” Woodford said. “We’re reaching the very of kind people with this ministry that were designed to reach, which are seekers, starters and returners. They’re either not sure what they believe, or they think they believe in Christ and they’re trying to unpack what that means, or they’ve stepped away from their faith experience at some point in their life and (something) brought them back.”