FORT MILL — At Forest Hill, church leaders take the biblical edict “Love thy neighbor” to heart.
As pastor Andy Guthe gives a tour through the new Fort Mill campus of Charlotte-based Forest Hill Church, he talks about the church services and the children’s programs. He shows excitement over the 900-seat sanctuary and the rooms for the dozens of events that have already been scheduled on the calendar.
But when he talks about the plans for the church to contribute to the community, his eyes really light up.
“God has planted us here in the community,” Guthe said. We need to work for the betterment and blessing of the community.”
Those plans include a partnership with Riverview Elementary School. Guthe and church officials hope to help out at the school in any way needed. Tentative plans include a walking path around the school, though they are quick to point out that they want to fill the school’s needs.
“We’ve got the hands and feet. You tell us what we can do to help you,” Stacey Martin, Communications Director for Forest Hill said.
The church is also partnering with Fort Mill-based South American Mission.
Though the church is new to Fort Mill, it has been meeting in Rock Hill at Manchester Cinemas since 2005. They’ve worked with agencies in the York County area including the Children’s Attention Home and will continue that work, Guthe said, even while they begin to work with community groups specifically based in Fort Mill.
When church leaders realized they were outgrowing the space at Manchester Cinemas, they decided they needed a permanent church home that would be located centrally to where their congregants lived. They settled on a building behind Lowe’s Home Improvement that formerly housed a glass manufacturing plant and have renovated it for the church.
For Guthe, it comes back to the concept of loving thy neighbors and community.
“We hope to make the faith community more accessible to people already going to our church but we also want to reach their neighbors,” Guthe said.
“It’s hard to go with your neighbor to church when it’s a 45-minute drive away,” Martin added.
Because the Fort Mill campus of Forest Hill is a campus of the main church, it will have a somewhat different format. Forest Hill Pastor David Chadwick preaches the majority of the Sunday services – around 30 each year – from the main church in the Southpark area of Charlotte. He’ll be broadcast onto the stage on the Fort Mill campus (as well as a Ballantyne campus), where the church’s high tech equipment “makes it look like he is on stage,” said Martin.
The congregation doesn’t miss having the traditional experience of a pastor in front of a podium, said Martin. The campus pastor is onsite and provides the “personal touch,” she added.
The church has Sunday School programs for all ages, called Life Groups, as well as children’s programs that are available while adults participate in the Sunday worship service. Elementary school children go to the Exploratorium where they explore God’s word and “uncover truth,” by decoding messages and searching for clues as part of Bible story adventures. Preschool children will visit The Art Studio, where art, singing and Bible verses combine with the week’s Bible story to make the story come alive.
“The vision is to incite wonder in the gospel,” Martin said. “It’s innovation, it’s creative, it’s messy. It’s wonderful.”
A teen program, Advance, is also available on Sunday nights. Previously Advance was held at Leroy Springs Recreation Complex (now called the Complex on the Greenway), but will be held at the new campus when it opens next week.
Sunday services feature live music from a variety of genres and a modern message that “takes the message of Jesus and puts it into words people can understand. We contextualize it for our culture,” Guthe said.
The atmosphere is casual, Martin added.
“Come as you are, grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable,”
Forest Hill’s Fort Mill campus, 2099 Carolina Place Drive, behind Lowe’s, will held its first service Dec. 16 and begins offering two services on Sundays after a Jan. 6 grand opening. those services will be held at 9:30 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.
About the pastors