Harvester United Methodist Church in Land O’ Lakes recently had two celebrations to mark the beginning of a new era there.
The first was an open house. The second: A consecration service to bless the church’s expanded space.
Harvester has come a long way since it began 18 years ago in temporary quarters at Denham Oaks Elementary School. Within six years, the church found a permanent home at 2432 Collier Parkway, and is now made up of about 225 families, with members coming primarily from Lutz, Land O’ Lakes, Odessa and Wesley Chapel.
It has two Sunday morning services, with a traditional service at 9 and a contemporary service at 11.
A couple weeks ago, Harvester unveiled two new wings, doubling the facility’s size and substantially enhancing its ability to serve young children, teenagers and community outreach programs.
The initial structure was 5,000 square feet. Now, with the completed expansion, it has doubled its size to 10,000 square feet, said Gary Evans, a lay leader at the church.
The west wing, which extends toward Collier Parkway, houses a large space for the church’s youth group, some classroom space for adult Bible studies and other uses, and some additional restrooms. The children’s wing, on the east side of the building going toward the rear of the church property, has substantially increased the space available for children’s programming.
There’s room for toddlers and preschoolers, as well as separate rooms for kindergarten and first-grade children, second- and third-grade children, and fourth- and fifth-grade children.
The new arrangement will allow the church to deliver its lessons more effectively, said Candice Wolff, director of children’s ministry.
“Our children need to be separated out by age groups, so we can teach them the Bible at their age level,” Wolff said.
Lessons can be tailored to children as young as 2, said Wolff, a former middle school teacher for Pasco County Schools.
“They’re capable, even from a young age, of learning the memory verses,” she said. “They walk out knowing the Bible stories.”
She’s thrilled about being able to reach children at their own level and engaging them in their faith journey.
It took several months to obtain the necessary permits from Pasco County for the $850,000 project, Evans said. Construction began in May, and work wrapped up last month.
Besides helping the children at the church, Evans said, the larger space enables Harvester to do more community outreach work.
“A goal of mine is to utilize this space for whatever mission work we can do,” Evans said. “We have Boy Scouts. We have Girl Scouts. Hospice meets here. We’ve had Alcoholics Anonymous groups meet here.
“If it’s a good community activity, we will allow our space to be used to support the community.”
The church also expects to be able to double its popular vacation Bible school, he said.
“We like to reach out to the community and we get a lot of kids,” office administrator Sheila Fitzgerald said.
In the past it has involved about 100 kids, plus 30 volunteers.
“But we’ve been limited by how many kids we could do for VBS by the size of our facilities,” Evans said. “So, next summer we think we might be able to do 150 to 200 kids.”
Harvester also is considering the potential for housing a Christian day school a couple of days a week, or opening a preschool, Evans said. The church has the necessary permits to have a school on its grounds.
However, there are no firm plans at the moment.
“When the right situation comes along, we will definitely be doing that,” Evans said. When that is, we don’t know.”
WHAT: Christmas Camp, “The Miracle of Jesus.”
WHY: Children have a chance to experience the Christmas story as they travel through a recreation of Bethlehem.
WHEN: Dec. 13 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
WHERE: Harvester United Methodist Church, 2432 Collier Parkway, Land O’ Lakes
COST: $10 per child, includes a pizza lunch
Published December 3, 2014
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