While certain other Charlotte-area United Methodist churches and activities have been in the news recently, this piece on our Zoar Road Campus was in today’s Charlotte Observer:
Church expansion lands in housing boom
In 2014, leaders at Good Shepherd Church in Steele Creek were trying to figure out how to solve issues with space and parking at its Moss Road campus.
The solution, they figured out, was just down the road.
Church leaders then realized the Zoar Road campus, as they called it, “was in the epicenter of a housing explosion on both sides of the state line,” said Good Shepherd Senior Pastor Talbot Davis.
They saw it as a good candidate for the church’s first expansion to another site. Good Shepherd can draw more than 1,800 people to its Sunday Services.
On Easter Sunday, Good Shepherd launched its Zoar Road campus to a standing room only crowd, as more than 400 people attended its two morning services.
“It exceeded expectations,” Davis said.
Davis describes the past three years as bringing the Zoar Road campus back to life. The church invested $800,000 in renovations in the Zoar Road buildings. They transformed the family life center into a sanctuary that looks much like the one on Moss Road.
“We wanted the vibe, the atmosphere and the look to be the same,” Davis said.
Davis said Zoar Road’s original sanctuary seated about 100 people and had no bathrooms. The renovated family life center can seat 200. The church also installed a new parking lot and renovated another building into a children’s programming area.
Three Good Shepherd staff members, including Campus Pastor Chris Thayer, now work at the Zoar Road campus. Thayer has attended Good Shepherd since 2005 and had been on staff overseeing the church’s life groups since 2010.
Thayer said the Zoar Road staff there is not creating a new church.
“We really wanted to replicate the DNA of who we are as Good Shepherd at Zoar Road,” Thayer said.
That means everyone who attends Good Shepherd, regardless of which building they sit in, will hear the same sermon. A live worship band plays at Zoar Road on Sundays, and when it’s time for the sermon a large screen drops to show a life-size Davis preaching at Moss Road.
Thayer said the technology is so good that congregants quickly forget they are watching a video. They laugh when Davis tells a joke and respond with “Amen” when he calls for it.
While Thayer will preach at Good Shepherd Church several times during the year, not having to prepare each week frees him to provide pastoral care and counseling to his new congregation, he said.
Davis said about half of the Zoar Road congregation came from Moss Road, and the other half are new people from the community. The church estimates that about 2,500 houses are being built within a three-mile radius of the Zoar Road campus.
Before Easter, the church sent out direct mailings about the new campus and put door hangers on several thousand houses. They also held a community barbecue with kids’ activities to let people know they were moving in.
“The church community is starting to develop, and people are starting to get to know one another,” Thayer said.
He said many visitors came because someone from the church invited them.
“I’ve been really pleased to see that happen,” he said.
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Good Shepherd Zoar Road campus meets 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Sundays at 13611 Zoar Road, Steele Creek, Charlotte. Children’s programming is provided at both services.