Growing Forward in Grace

July 8, 2020 | By Amanda Jensen

Grace was established last July when three United Methodist congregations in Ottumwa came together to form a new church. They decided that it would be best to find a new building to make their own, as Grace Ottumwa, instead of using one of the three original churches. This new place of worship would offer a new beginning, as one church, to fulfill their ministry.

Grace had been meeting in the cafeteria of Ottumwa High School and in the chapel of one of the funeral homes in town as they continued to look for a building. A building became available that fit their needs so they decided to purchase it. Pastor Chris Childs of Grace said, “One of the things that was important from the beginning was that we wanted to be a church that would reach new people and reach kids and families. When we heard that this property was available, we saw it as an opportunity to be one of the first places people see when they come into town.”

The purchased building is around 10,000 square feet on 13.7 acres of land. It is located just off Highway IA-149 in an open area so it is very visible to people entering town.

The church holds funds with the Foundation, that were set aside for instances such as the purchasing of this building, but when the market fell in late March; they decided to explore other options. Treasurer for Grace, Eldon Hunsicker, said, “As opposed to taking out our investments and taking a gigantic hit, we came to the Foundation to see about borrowing to purchase the building. And it seems that the Foundation probably has, without question, a better understanding of what churches need and are looking for and are able to service and accommodate those needs.”

Childs agreed with this sentiment and shared, “We chose the Foundation because we trust the Foundation. We trust the Foundation to work ethically; we trust that the Foundation is looking out for what is best for the churches and we are on the same team and we have the same goals.”

They are taking a private business structure and turning it into a house of worship, which could mean having to make significant changes, but Childs does not see this being a challenge. They closed on the building at the end of May and are now looking into making updates. “Our next step is to raise the funds for the renovations for the inside of the building. This summer we are conducting a capital campaign to raise money for the first phase of our remodel project and then we will be in construction,” Childs said.

They had initially planned to start a capital campaign earlier in the year, but suspended it because of coronavirus. “Now we’re looking to get going on that again and once we have a chance to run the campaign and see where we are on funds, we can make determinations about what parts of the building we can work on,” Hunsicker said with the anticipation that they might be looking at doing different phases for renovations.

Childs explained that they want to put in a kitchen, a multipurpose space for youth activities and fellowship dinners, a reception area, youth classrooms and a nursery and toddler area. “We have gone through so many changes and there is more to come, but they [the congregants] are excited. They are excited to have a spiritual home,” he said.

They will be running a series of tours of the building in July and are even doing virtual tours so everyone can be a part of it. “We see this as more than just a building in the traditional sense. We see this as the centerpiece for our outreach to the community,” Hunsicker said. Follow along online for progress updates and information on Grace’s building project. There is also an option to give to the Growing Forward in Grace capital campaign.

The Iowa United Methodist Church Building Fund Trust provides loans to help local churches finance their missional dreams. Loans can be used for the purposes of construction of new buildings, the renovations or additions to existing facilities, repairs, multimedia/technology updates, the purchasing of land or even for buying a parsonage. The Trust also has refinancing options for high-interest loans. Learn more about the Iowa United Methodist Church Building Fund Trust program.