When New Walk Church began offering services in 2006, it was located at the YMCA building in Zephyrhills, and had about 120 regular attenders.
Now, the church has three locations, totaling roughly 2,000 members, and it is planning to host the grand opening for its new Zephyrhills home at an evening service on Aug. 29 and two morning services on Aug. 30.
The new Zephyrhills location is at 35008 State Road 54.
The church also has satellites in Dade City and Holiday.
New Walk aims to reach people who are looking for a spiritual home, according to Lead Pastor Gary Baldus.
“I think there’s a lot of people who have been involved in things in their life, and they’re like, ‘There’s no way God loves me now after what I’ve done,’ ” Baldus said.
New Walk tries to help those people understand that God does love them, he said.
“It’s like ‘Who left the relationship? You or God?’ ”
New Walk wants to “reach people who are far from God, but would like to get close and discover that relationship.
“From the time they get to the parking lot and through our service, we want them to know that God still loves them and wants that relationship with them,” Baldus said.
“We have a vision statement which is ‘Unleashing new purpose in every life through Jesus Christ,’ ” he added.
It’s a place designed to be inviting, for members and visitors, alike.
The church has attracted many families with children, and also many single adults, but there are also some older members, Baldus said.
Its services feature contemporary music, with highly skilled musicians, the pastor said.
“It’s very lively. It’s all Jesus-based. It’s pretty much what you would hear on Christian radio,” he said.
Much of the new building is designed with children in mind.
The area has been themed out, by Wacky World, a company the church hired to do the décor.
There’s a check-in area, where parents can leave their children while they attend the worship service. That room has a seaside theme, with a model of a giant wave, complete with a surfboard.
“When this is fully running, we have a scent machine,” Baldus said, noting it smells like the coconut oil often used in suntan lotion.
Different rooms within the children’s area are designed to cater to different age groups. There’s a nursery area, a room for toddlers and other spaces for older kids.
The idea is to make church a place where kids want to come, to have fun and to learn about Jesus, Baldus said.
There’s also a Hospitality Café, where worshippers can enjoy free doughnuts and coffee, or splurge on cappuccinos or slushies. It’s a place where worshippers can relax and spend time with each other, Baldus said.
The main worship hall can accommodate 850 people, which Baldus expects to be full at the services during the grand opening weekend.
The project cost $3.8 million for construction, not including taxes, fees or furnishings.
The new 39,000-square-foot church building sits on 6.5 acres. The site includes a large retention pond in the back and 300 parking spaces around the building, the pastor said.
Even with 300 spaces, parking could become an issue as the church grows, Baldus said.
“One of the challenges on that is that we reach a lot of single people, which is wonderful, but they don’t bring two or three people,” he said.
The church is affiliated with the General Baptist denomination, but its members come from various backgrounds, and there’s no denominational bent, Baldus said.
When people arrive at New Walk, the primary goal is to make them feel welcome.
“Let’s take the barriers away, so they want to come in and hear what God would want for them in their life. And then we can let God do the changing,” Baldus said.
The message he seeks to deliver is: “God loves you and wants you to come back.”
He thinks that invitation for spiritual reconnection has resonated with many people, leading to New Walk’s growth.
“I think the biggest draw has been that this is a place that people could come into and hear the love of Jesus,” Baldus said.
Published August 26, 2015