Established in 1923, Sunshine has been at four locations in Northeast Grand Rapids.
Its most visible was its 72-acre campus at 3300 E. Beltline Ave. NE. It included a 2,300-seat worship center built in 1989, as well as a separate classroom building and administrative building, an activity room and a commercial kitchen. It was sold earlier this year to Illinois-based property developer Franklin Partners, which will retrofit the buildings for residential use.
"We spent a bunch of time figuring out what our ministry model was moving forward and decided that building was really designed for an attractional model, where everyone will come to us," said Sunshine lead pastor Josh Blunt. "And while there are churches that are doing pretty well with that model in our area, we weren't.
The Christian Reformed Church in North America affiliated church is making key adjustments to where it's located and with its mission in part due to dwindling attendance and membership, buildings in need of costly upkeep and answering a broader question of what type of faith community the congregation wanted to become in the days ahead.
As a result, Sunshine Church temporarily moved its Sunday worship services to Cornerstone University's Christ Chapel in February 2017 and has purchased a 42,182-square-foot former medical facility at 3019 Coit Ave. NE in the Creston neighborhood that will serve as Sunshine's main campus. Sunshine staff is projected to move to the office section of the Coit location later this year and hold its first worship center next spring.
More nimble space
The new location will offer space that will be more nimble in use than its Beltine Avenue locale.
"One thing we learned from the previous location is it was a single purpose building with a lot of single purpose rooms," said Blunt.
"So our new building is going to have a lot of multi purpose space so the worship center will have moveable seating so it can be used for other purposes, where we can interact with the community during the week. We'll have a ministry reception type center where we can have Sunday school, funeral and wedding receptions and a kitchen. Also there are several portions under development we'll save for future expansion."
Known in the past for its special events, Blunt said he's excited to see Sunshine embrace community outreach once it moves to Creston.
Connecting with young millennials
"What we like about the Creston neighborhood is that it's actually growing rapidly in terms of unchurched millennials," said Blunt. "We didn't want to grow by taking people from other churches. We want to grow by new conversions and the most unchurched generation is the millennial generation. There are a lot of young families here but not a lot of long-term enrichment ... the things that keep families invested in community. Those are the things we believe we can be a part of in a meaningful way."
Although the church is moving, it will keep its current moniker: Sunshine Community Church. It is moving as a unified congregation, said Blunt.
"We're very excited for this chance to change our paradigm and focus on new conversions," said Blunt. "I think that's the most important thing. We've been known for our facility but I've always felt, at least during the times I've been around, the church was increasingly working for our facility and we'd like to get to a point where the facility works for the mission, and that that mission is a blessing to the community."