the year of Iran Contra, the year you paid 22 cents for a postage stamp, and the year women used lots of mousse and men embraced the mullet. We watched Platoon
and Fatal Attraction
on the movie screen and listened to Michael Jackson and Jefferson Airplane on the radio. 1987 was also the year that a small group of people in Columbia, Missouri had a vision. They desired to create a church that was helpful, exciting and relevant to people, with messages that would apply directly to their lives.
Woodcrest began as the dream of a small group of individuals who desired to be part of a different kind of church. The church started out in the home of the founding pastor, but quickly outgrew the house and he transferred their location to the Holiday Inn Executive Center.
"I remember when we used to show up three hours before the service to set up the chairs and stick the night before’s beer bottles behind the curtain," remembers one attendee.
Maris Herndon, who now serves on-staff at Woodcrest, came for the first time during those early days. "I feel as though we were warmly welcomed," Maris remembers. "Woodcrest has always been a body of people who really cared for others."
Two years later, Woodcrest attendance grew to more than 100 people each week. The group decided to purchase land on the south side of Columbia at the intersection of Nifong and Sinclair. Over the next year, volunteers from the congregation completed a multi-purpose worship and ministry area on the site and celebrated their first service in April, 1990.
"Most Sundays you are greeted by a guy to whom this church owes a debt of gratitude," says Rod Casey, Associate Pastor at Woodcrest. "When this building was a blue metal, muffler shop-looking thing, Barry Cameron worked longer and harder than he should have, often alone, in order to get the facility ready to open by that first Sunday."
Beth Bramstedt, Associate Pastor, remembers coming to Woodcrest for the first time, in June of the same year.
"I remember the new facility; the mauve carpet and the white walls, and the chairs spaced out to fill the whole room. The atmosphere was relaxed, the music was great, but what amazed me most was the energy and excitement of the people."
In the years that followed, Woodcrest added a second service and grew to more than 500. In 1994, Pieter Van Waarde came on staff as senior pastor.
"What drew me to Woodcrest was the church’s desire to reach those outside the faith — and their willingness to take risks in order to get that job done," Pieter says. "Evangelism is one of those theological ideas that most churches buy into philosophically, but Woodcrest unashamedly made it a priority in practice."
Shortly after Pieter came, the need for a larger facility and more staff became evident. At this point the church had grown to more than 1,300 in attendance each Sunday. A new stage house in the auditorium, and a new children’s wing were added to the church. The staff grew from four people to over 20 individuals. There were 35 small groups meeting throughout the week and Sunday services began to incorporate the latest music and technology to communicate Biblical truth.
"Woodcrest is a place for people who don’t want the traditional style of preaching and sitting in stiff pews," says long-time attenderattendee, Cindy Parshall. "Woodcrest teaches everyday life challenges. I am always able to take home something from the message each week regardless of what the topic is."
Since 2000, Woodcrest has added a Saturday night service, large lobby, expanded bookstore and café area, a video café, The Underground space for youth, Kidcrest, and a classroom area for adults. Staff offices now utilize the west area of the building.
A major accomplishment was also the addition of the Jefferson City campus of Woodcrest. The campus now meets in the Capital Mall and utilizes video messages from the Columbia campus. The hope is that Woodcrest can continue to grow in this way to other locations.
"I would like to see Woodcrest continue to grow and to expand into the other communities as we did in Jefferson City with the video," Cindy says.
"The church started with a vision of reaching 10% of the unchurched in Boone County," says Pieter. "Recently, we’ve had the sense that this vision needs to be expanded to reaching 10% of ’our world’ — through video campuses in central Missouri, church revitalization in Europe, and strategic partnerships with churches and ministries reaching people (around the world) we could never reach on our own. This expanded vision will call us to new levels of commitment and new places of faith."
"The hope I have for Woodcrest in the future is that more people who feel that church is old-fashioned and doesn’t meet their needs would investigate what Woodcrest has to offer," says Maris.
In 2007, the 20-year anniversary of the church marked a huge milestone in the history of Woodcrest. Many members including Maris saw it as a chance to reflect and give thanks. "I think it’s a benchmark for anyone who has ever been a part of this church; for the labor of love they have given so others can find Christ."
The 25th anniversary of the church in 2012 gives many members a chance to reflect and give thanks. Maris captures a common sentiment around the church when she says, “I think it’s a significant benchmark for everyone who has ever been a part of this church; to re-commit ourselves to the labor of love that gives others the opportunity to discover what we have come to appreciate about God and his grace.
On the agenda these days…
The Jefferson City campus has added a second service and enlarged their space. A new 13,000 square-foot youth and recreation building also opened in January 2011. A fourth (more interactive) service was added on Sunday nights on the Columbia campus and an internet congregation was launched via Woodcrest Worldwide
. A second video connected campus is in the planning stages with hopes of launching by 2014. Finally, an accredited seminary degree program (led by Dr. Rod Casey) will be brought to Woodcrest by in 2013.
Beth adds, “We are a long way from being done here at Woodcrest. As long as there are people to reach, teach and send—we have plenty to keep us busy—and we love doing it together!”