By B.C. Manion
It’s no accident that Bridgeway Church is rising on a site across from an elementary, middle and high school in Wesley Chapel.
“We have a deep calling to serve young people. We really strongly feel that’s why the Lord put us here, across from three schools,” said Joel Eason, pastor of the church being built on Wells Road.
“We just feel God put us here, strategically. We want to be a blessing to the schools, their faculty. If there’s a way we can be of service, we want to help,” said Eason, whose congregation now meets at the New Tampa YMCA.
Bridgeway Church recently celebrated its 11th anniversary and is preparing to move to its permanent home this summer. It has more than 400 members who come from Wesley Chapel, New Tampa, Lutz, Land O’ Lakes, Dade City and Brandon, and Eason expects the congregation to grow as it moves to its 21-acre site.
Construction crews are busy at the site, digging holes, putting up drywall, installing air conditioners and handling scores of other tasks.
The goal is to have the first service in the 29,000-square-foot building on Father’s Day. After everything is working smoothly, the church will hold a grand opening in August to coincide with the beginning of a new school year.
The new building will give the church more opportunities to serve the community, Eason said. “The game will change for us, immediately.
“Our mission statement is bringing people into life-changing relationships with Jesus Christ and each other. At the heart of who we are and at the heart of what we are doing, we want people connected with Christ and we want people connected with one another,” Eason said.
The church plans to allow organizations to use space for meetings. It also plans to be a hub to help organize emergency response during floods, hurricanes and other times of need.
The new facility features a 500-seat auditorium for services, rooms designed for children of various ages, and office space. The idea is to meet the needs of all ages, Eason said.
When talking to adults about their church experience, Eason said many have said: “I hated it. It was boring.”
Bridgeway intends to be a place where people want to go, Eason said.
“I don’t think church should be boring.
“We want this to be the most fun hour of the kids’ week, and our team works really hard on that,” he said.
The same goes for teenagers, he said.
“We want the youth service on Wednesday night to be the coolest, most relevant, most helpful hour that they have all week,” Eason said.
“I don’t think church services should be boring. I don’t think preaching should be hard to understand,” Eason said. “I don’t think that kids should not want to come to church. I don’t think that church is just a Sunday organization.”
In addition to its youth ministry, the church will have an area where kids can hang out to play pool, ping-pong and other games. There are two cafés in the new building, one on each floor to accommodate various groups.
Eason said he’s looking forward to seeing what develops in the new space.
“We feel that we’re supposed to help special needs’ families.
“What is it we’re going to do? We don’t know. We know we’re supposed to get involved with that, but how? We don’t know.
“There are probably organizations, let’s say it’s a special needs family support organization – they don’t have a place to meet. Well, we’ll unlock the door,” Eason said.
“Our mission statement is bringing people into life-changing relationships with Jesus Christ and each other. At the heart of who we are and at the heart of what we are doing, we want people connected with Christ and we want people connected with one another,” the pastor said.
For more information about Bridgeway, visit http://bridgeway.tv.