Monday, November 29, 2010
Change for the better at Colony Christian
By ANNE KAZMIERCZAK
COLONY — “I feel like a used pew salesman,” said the self-effacing pastor of Colony Christian Church.
Indeed, in a way, he is.
Pastor Mark McCoy said the church is offering its collection of pews — all 20-some — to any and all takers who pony up 50 bucks apiece for the hard, wooden 10-foot-long benches. About 10 have been spoken for so far, McCoy said.
Although the pews’ seats appear padded, they don’t feel it. The harvest-gold upholstery hides nary an ounce of softness. One sits down with a thud.
“They’d be great as a hall bench,” McCoy suggests.
Colony Christian is replacing the pews with more “functional” seating: interlocking — and padded — chairs.
“There are several people with back problems” who will benefit from the change, McCoy said. In addition, “we’re trying to accommodate young families in the back.”
Seven pews converge at an acute angle in the back of the church, where families with small children like to sit, he said.
“It’s near the restrooms; it’s near the doors if they have to get up.”
Also, the space is set aside from the rest of the sanctuary, making a perfect room-within-a-room where kids could run and babies crawl — providing there was floor space to do so.
Only about a foot separates row ends. Set aslant, even that feels cramped.
Once all the pews are sold, McCoy said, the money will go toward purchasing the supportive chairs that can stand in rows, clusters, circles or “whatever configuration is needed at the time,” McCoy said.
That will also allow a center aisle in the church “should we ever want to have a wedding or funeral,” McCoy noted.
At present, three banks of pews mean walkways are right and left of the altar.
The change is part of an ongoing effort to bring the church into the present, McCoy said.
Also planned is updating the 70s-style wood paneling to “something more modern,” he said, unsure of what that would be.
McCoy isn’t being intentionally vague — the church really doesn’t have a grand master plan, but instead has been making improvements as finances allow.
“We just got central heat and air,” he said of the most recent change to the 116-year-old building. That was but a few months ago.
“We had resonant heaters before that,” he said, akin to gas space heaters in the wall. The new system “is nice,” and should evenly heat the sanctuary.
Additional changes made over the almost six years McCoy has been on board include an updated sound system with computer to present sermons and Scripture on a drop down screen.
“The screen was here when I came,” he said, but wasn’t very usable without support equipment.
Improvements in the church basement, used as nursery and kitchen, include freshly painted cabinets — “even though they look old,” he said. Upstairs, “We used to have ugly old yellow curtains,” where now are cream-colored venetian blinds.
MCCOY DOESN’T mind that the transformation is coming about slowly. That it is happening at all is positive, he said.
Colony Christian Church, with a weekly attendance that ranges from 40 to 90, has been flourishing since McCoy arrived.
The young pastor — he’s 29 — was fresh out of Ozark Christian College when he accepted the job pastoring a church that was down to 12 members.
“In another week it would have been down to seven,” he added. Previous differences between church leadership and body led to the decline, he said.
McCoy has worked hard at bringing the congregation together.
The church has instituted small group meetings each Sunday night reviewing material presented on Sunday morning.
“A lot of people forget what was preached on Sunday morning by Sunday afternoon,” he said. He admits he has been one of them — even when he did the preaching.
So he started “Infusion,” a study group for leaders who then share the materials with congregants throughout the week.
“We believe leadership is shepherding. We really steer away from leaders being decision makers,” he said, instead allowing decisions to be weighed by the whole congregation.
“In so many churches,” McCoy said, “the leaders will make a decision, but they’re not connected to the people.” Those outcomes, he said, cause division. But, McCoy said, “Church isn’t a business, it’s a family.”
And so, “I try not to micromanage,” he said, but instead encourage involvement of all church members.
“We’re trying to get back to the New Testament,” he said. “We try to focus on the people. We start out by listening. We focus on truth in a relational context.”
Church, he said, is not about a building, but developing relationships and changing one’s own heart.
Still, he noted, “We live in a culture where impressions matter.” Thus the physical improvements.
The idea to modernize the church actually came from the congregation, he said.
“I had a lady say, ‘We update our houses, but we never update our church.’” So through savings and donations, the process began.
“We’ve got some really generous people,” McCoy said of the congregation, which draws people from all ages and directions.
“If you look in any direction for 15 to 16 miles, we have people coming from there,” he said.
Members come from “Humboldt, Garnett, Moran, Kincaid, Iola, Westphalia and” — even — “Colony. We want to be as far-reaching as we can be,” McCoy said.
To that end, the Infusion group is working. “We have some people who are not members here who come to the small groups, so we’re having an impact on their churches, too.”
Overall, McCoy said, “It’s a community effort, it’s not just a Colony church.”
THOSE interested in securing a pew can call McCoy at 620-852-3200.