Bob Shaw, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Published March 02 2013
Megachurch adds 5th location with $25M visionST. PAUL – The largest megachurch in Minnesota will put down permanent roots in Woodbury.
Eagle Brook Church is building a $25 million, 1,500-seat building, with groundbreaking scheduled for April.
The Woodbury branch will be its fifth location, receiving televised sermons from the mother church in Lino Lakes.
The new building should put Eagle Brook’s total weekly attendance at more than 20,000 – making it the eighth-largest church in the country.
“We have been very blessed,” said Gari Pisca, Eagle Brook’s campus launch director.
The new church will be in Woodbury’s northeast corner at Cottage Grove Drive and Brookview Road. It’s expected to open by Christmas 2014.
Founded as a Baptist church in White Bear Lake, Eagle Brook underwent its growth spurt in the 1990s. In 2006, a 2,100-seat sanctuary was opened in Lino Lakes. At that time, 8,000 people attended services every week.
But even with two Saturday services and three on Sundays, the church couldn’t keep up with its growing congregation. Satellite facilities opened in Spring Lake Park in 2007 and Blaine in 2010. Services at East Ridge High School in Woodbury began in 2011.
The success of the church, say its leaders, is based on its approach: to be a church home for those turned off by traditional churches.
The new direction was signaled with a name change. The church removed “Baptist” from its name in the 1990s and adopted the more user-friendly “Eagle Brook.”
It continued with the architecture.
Eagle Brook facilities today look like modern high schools or convention centers. Stained-glass windows are gone.
The un-churchiness continues right into the sanctuaries. Gone are the Bibles and hymnals – worshippers sing by following verses projected on a screen.
“It feels very nondenominational,” Pisca said.
Pews have been replaced by padded movie-theater seating. In the new Woodbury building, they will be placed on a sloped floor, similar to stadium seating.
Pisca said cup holders – the ultimate movie-theater amenity – are being considered in Woodbury, too. “That is still an open question,” she said.
Like the other satellite facilities, the Woodbury branch will provide its own music and programming. But the sermons will be broadcast onto screens from the Lino Lakes facility.
Pisca said the 40-acre Woodbury site would give the church room for an addition, “although we do not see that happening immediately.”
Pisca said attendance at Eagle Brook facilities was 20,000 last week and is expected to grow when the Woodbury branch opens.
According to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, that would make Eagle Brook the nation’s eighth-largest church. And Eagle Brook’s size is all the more remarkable because it’s in a northern state – almost all of the largest megachurches are in the South and California.
Eagle Brook will continue to grow, Pisca said, but it has not yet picked a city for its next satellite church. Most likely, she said, it will be in the west metro.
“We are here to accomplish God’s mission,” she said, “and reach out to as many people as possible.”
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