It doesn’t look like your typical church, but a former fitness club is the new home for Encounter Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The building, about three miles from the church’s original location, features locker rooms, a pool, two saunas, a steam room, a juice bar, a weight room, two exercise bike rooms, and several racquetball courts.
“Looking at the amount of space and the uniqueness of it, there’s so much potential for us to play with,” said Jackie DeVries, a member of the church plant’s leadership team.
Pastor Dirk VanEyk said that the church plans to use the space for outreach events and youth ministry.
“We have one of very few racquetball courts in West Michigan, and we’re looking for a way to make that outreach oriented,” said VanEyk. “If they come in the building to play racquetball, that’s awesome.”
The church is also transforming a juice bar into a youth room, and it plans to offer its locker rooms and showers for groups who are doing retreats or mission trips. It also hopes to transform some extra space into a laser tag area.
VanEyk said that the church originally was going to lease half of the building, but the price of the building kept dropping.
“Because of the downturn, the bank wanted to unload it and stop losing money on it, so they sold it to us for well below market value,” he said.
He said the lower price comes as a huge help to the church, which has a small budget because of the large number of college students who attend.
Encounter had previously operated under six different roofs, renting different spaces for worship, offices, storage, a youth room, large group gatherings, and band practices.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that our dreams just aren’t big enough,” said DeVries. “Whatever we dream about, God’s going to do something bigger. We got smacked with that over and over and over again through this process.”
The church plans to hold a grand opening for the building on Sept. 15.