CONCORD >> The parade marched down Bethel Road, and included the Garnet Valley High School Band, the Concordville Fire Co., Bethel VFW and over 800 men, women and children. Neighbors came out and clapped and drivers, passing by, beeped their horns. The mood was joyous on Sunday, Nov. 26, when the congregation of ValleyPoint Church held their final service in the auditorium of Garnet Valley Middle School, where they had met as a temporary home for the past 12 years. Once the service was over, attendees marched down the street to view their newly built church, many seeing it for the very first time.
Once at the brand new ValleyPoint Church at 209 Bethel Road, people cheered as the official ribbon cutting took place, followed by some words by Pastor Eric Koehler about the new state-of-the-art church building and gathering space that has been a work in progress for the past three years. People then dispersed indoors to the open house, oohing and aahing at the brand new $4.7 million “real home” for the non-denominational Christian church.
The “Real Home” project was the name given to ValleyPoint’s three-year capital campaign, which took on gusto after 2014, making dreams of a new church inch closer to reality. According to Koehler, the project was completely funded by church attendees, without utilizing outside funding sources. Ground was broken for the new church in October 2016. Horst Construction in Lancaster began the project in January 2017 and construction moved along quickly to reach the fall opening target date, less than a year later.
“In a ‘real home,’ there is a sense of belonging and acceptance. You are cared for and loved. This sense of being a part of something greater has been, and will continue to be, a vital part of who and what ValleyPoint Church is,” explained Koehler.
Housed in another church building next door to the new church since 1974, ValleyPoint’s faith community outgrew the space and soon discovered the need for a larger gathering place. At the time, there were about 150 people wishing to attend services in the church which only sat about 75-100, max. When the services moved over to Garnet Valley Middle School in 2005 to accommodate the growing number of worshipers, the former church began being used for church offices and a youth gathering spot.
At the recent open house, attendees were able to wander through the two-story, 16,000 square-foot building, with a “welcoming lobby,” complete with a “Just For You” area and a large coffee serving station, near the entrance. The largest room is the “family room” space, where the main gatherings and services will take place.
“The main auditorium of ValleyPoint is where we can hear, see and respond to the message of God’s love,” explained communications pastor Ben Jones. “We have state-of-the-art visual and audio equipment throughout the church so no matter where one is, he or she can listen to our service in the auditorium.”
The first floor of the church is devoted to the younger set. Baby and toddler rooms and those for older children are filled with age-appropriate toys and educational learning equipment. The 8,000 square feet of space is equipped with a secure sign-in, sign-out feature. Colorful rugs and furniture, a Lego station, play equipment and video game stations are just some of the featured items on the kids’ floor.
“We love our younger attendees. We want our children’s area to be safe, clean and inviting, so that they enjoy coming to church,” explained Jones. “Parents can attend the services upstairs while their children have fun and learn here. We want our church to be a true family experience.”
“We have a high-quality children’s program,” Koehler added, with a smile. “We often hear that kids beg their parents to come to church.”
ValleyPoint Church held its first services at its usual times, 9:15 and 11 a.m., on Sunday, Dec. 3, in the new church building. Over 1,000 attended, over and above the average 600-700 Sunday attendance numbers.
“We love people,” exclaimed Koehler. “We open our doors to everyone and look forward to serving all attendees.”
The church will hold its grand opening for the community on Sunday, Jan. 7. Until then, the church will settle in with its Sunday services at the usual times, only now they will be held in the congregation’s brand new home.
“When we have the grand opening, we’ll invite Dr. Marc Bertrando, the superintendent of the Garnet Valley School District, and others in the district. They were really good to us, all those years that we rented the space at the Middle School. Dr. Bertrando and several others were part of our closing ceremony and we want to continue our strong relationship with them. We are all about the community,” Koehler explained.
“We consider our church a community-focused space so we do not hold back in sharing what we have with other,” Jones added. “God gave these gifts to us and we want to use them to help others. We have a huge parking lot for about 190 cars, so we let the Garnet Valley High School students and others park here. We value our relationships in the community. We want to be a joyous and vibrant presence here.”
Koehler and Jones said that ValleyPoint is planning to give elementary schools in the Garnet Valley and Brandywine School Districts a value-based school assembly in March “as a gift to the community.” The Tim Hannig’s Pro-Kids Show will feature magic, comedy and music while reinforcing respect and other positive values.
Forming a good relationship with the community is one of the basic principles of ValleyPoint Church. The mission of the church is “pointing people to real relationships and real significance.” Koehler said church members accomplish the mission through worship and growing their relationship with God, by connecting and growing their relationships with others, and by going outside the walls of the church building to serve generously and do significant things.
ValleyPoint holds “Love Days” every month, alternating months for collecting items like clothes, food and toiletries for those in need, and then going out to serve every other month. Church members have held Love Days all over the Wilmington and Delaware County area, including Cityteam in Chester, Siloam United Methodist Church food pantry in Bethel Township, Pathways PA in Ridley Township, the Boys and Girls Club of Chester, Urban Promise in Wilmington, the Delaware County Pregnancy Center in Chester, Loaves and Fishes in Prospect Park and the Unity Center in Chester. Church groups also serve globally. About 16 church members recently traveled to Puerto Rico to help with hurricane relief efforts there. In the recent past, members have also taken “compassion trips” to Russia and the Dominican Republic, where they served orphans, helped with building projects, and participated in medical relief efforts.
“We go love and serve and expect nothing in return,” Jones said.
For 46 years, the church has been intentional in its efforts to serve the local community, as well as perform global service, he said.
“We deliberately create programs where relationships can thrive,” explained Koehler. “One of our values is generosity. We intentionally use our time and resources to meet needs in the community and around the world. We love the communities around us and we seek to be a joyous presence.”
According to Jones, members of ValleyPoint Church come from all over the area. However, the majority reside in the Garnet Valley and Glen Mills areas, West Chester, North Wilmington, Chadds Ford and Claymont, Delaware.
“We offer people a lot of hope in what they can do for God and what God will do for them. We are not interested in peoples’ past,” Jones said. “We are all about the ‘now’ and the joy and happiness that a relationship with God can bring to the present.”
In addition to Koehler and Jones, other full-time church staff includes Dan McInnes, family minister pastor, Tyler Gardner, director of worship and Gus Sareyka, executive pastor. There are several other part-time staff members, nine church elders and many active members and volunteers. Lead Pastor Koehler, who previously ministered in the Chicago area, has been at the helm of ValleyPoint since 2010. According to Koehler, the church is pastor led, staff directed and elder protected.
Koehler said that services at the church are contemporary, “with relevant topics, practical and helpful teaching, Bible-based truths, contemporary music and encouraging words to remember and live by.”
“There’s a great energy at ValleyPoint Church,” Koehler stated reflectively. “It is an exciting place. We invite everyone to come check out our faith community and meet the growing number of people who are calling ValleyPoint home.”