Surrounded by orange fencing, Park View Lutheran Church in Eldridge, Iowa, looks like “a crazy construction zone.”
“Inside is a beautifully renovated preschool continues to share and care for children,” the Rev. Peter Hoft said of the aptly named Share and Care Christian Preschool, a ministry that has served families for 39 years.
Determined to “do immeasurably more” (Eph. 3:20), this former mission congregation is moving forward with improvements that were long on the back burner–a total transformation of the preschool followed by a major renovation of the church. Members are completing both with the help of a Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) congregation loan and an LCEF capital campaign, which has exceeded expectations.
While some congregations simply talk about mission and ministry, Park View Lutheran “is actually taking it to heart,” said Capital Funding Services’ Rev. Dr. John Sproul, who is guiding the congregation through their “Imagine: Immeasurably More” campaign. “They are living their heart for mission and ministry and actually achieving it.”
Facility to Match Welcoming Personality
Soon after members from area LCMS congregations and the Iowa District East teamed up to start a mission congregation in the new Park View community near Eldridge, plans were in the works for a preschool.
Today, Park View Lutheran’s Share and Care is “like an institution” in this area–“the only Christian preschool in North Scott County,” Hoft said.
“I meet people my age who tell me they were in the first classes at Share and Care,” said the pastor, 41. “The preschool has been a blessing to so many people–not just our members, but our whole community. It’s really outreach.”
Although popular, the preschool was never convenient. For decades, it operated in the church basement, next to the kitchen. “Whenever we had dinners–for Advent, Lent or for funerals–we were constantly tearing down the preschool to prepare for dinners,” Hoft said. Members also saw that their aging facility did not reflect the congregation’s warm and welcoming personality.
Getting downstairs for those fellowship dinners was difficult for older adults. Parents were changing babies’ diapers on the floor in the pastor’s office. “Our building was falling apart,” Hoft said. “That’s not very welcoming.”
Holy Spirit at Work
When members decided to “start making things happen,” Hoft says the congregation interviewed other companies and banks before partnering with LCEF. Some had concerns about their relatively small congregation taking on a $1.3 million project. At a voter’s meeting, Shirley Mirfield–a Park View Lutheran charter member–expressed her opinion.
“I said, I bet that 99% of our congregation didn’t pay cash for their homes. Everyone has a mortgage,” she said. “And I asked them to remember that the interest we pay LCEF is going to help other congregations build their churches. This is Christians helping Christians!”
Likewise, there was some initial reluctance to seek “outside” help with a capital campaign.
But meeting “Pastor Sproul really opened my eyes to what someone from the outside could do for us. We never could have done on our own what he helped us do,” Mirfield said of her congregation, which surpassed its campaign commitment goal even before the congregation’s first commitment event.
Calling her fellow congregants “very generous and willing to serve,” Mirfield talks about their outreach, including a quilt ministry with nursing homes, Habitat for Humanity projects and their “cookie and Scripture” ministry to area correctional facilities. But she also credits the success of their capital campaign to “Pastor Sproul’s message and the Holy Spirit working in everyone’s hearts.”
New Year, New Ministry Opportunities
The congregation broke ground on Sunday, July 26, 2015 to begin major improvements. With the preschool operating in its own dedicated and larger space, work is under way on renovations for the church–including a new central entrance, offices, expanded fellowship hall and kitchen on the main level, “cry room” for little ones and improved Sunday school space.
In the meantime, the congregation is worshipping in nearby rental space. Although all the work will not yet be complete, Park View Lutheran members expect to be worshiping in their newly enhanced church home by Christmas–and looking forward to a new year with new ministry opportunities.
“We pray this project will be a blessing to many different people, many different age groups, and to our members and non-members alike,” the pastor said. “We want this to be a place where Christ is proclaimed to future generations.”