The Moose Jaw Church of God (MJCoG) wants to expand its buildings to include more space for youth and community programs, better offices and a much larger chapel.
The Moose Jaw Church of God (MJCoG) is not only resisting the growing trend of shrinking congregations, but its flock is growing — and their buildings must grow too.
More space for youth and community programs, better offices and a much larger chapel are part of this goal, which will expand the site by 55%.
The Church of God has just completed a major expansion of its in-house dance program, moving to a large basement at 52 High Street West and becoming an arts academy in its own right. The Born to Be Arts Academy encompasses a wider selection of arts, offering everything from dance and taekwondo to voice lessons and videography.
“Traditionally, our programs had to do with our faith and encouraging kids to study the Bible and that kind of stuff,” said Larry Hasmatali, senior pastor of the Church of God of Moose Jaw and administrative bishop of the district of Moose Jaw. Western Canada of the denomination.
“We got to a place where we thought, ‘Let’s build a bridge to connect and to build relationships’…And that opens the door to any discussion, if they want, about faith.”
The dance program started with 25 children – Born to Be now has nearly 500 registered students.
The MJCoG congregation experienced similar growth. Before the pandemic, about 800 people attended services each weekend. That dropped about 20% during COVID, but those numbers are steadily recovering, Hasmatali said.
“Our facilities are just too small, they are too small for us as a church let alone any other program.”
The fundraising campaign that the MJCoG launched in June aims to raise $1.2 million of the estimated $4 million that the proposed expansion will need. So far they have raised around $300,000.
It may take years to raise that amount, but they are willing to wait. Nor are they willing to sacrifice charitable donations or member assistance programs in order to raise money faster.
Hasmatali attributes his church’s growth to an attitude of acceptance and an emphasis on community before doctrinal commitment.
“The fundraising campaign gives us the chance to (grow) again for our community. We dreamed and thought, you know, what does this community need and how can it connect people? We want to provide them with a place where they can feel accepted, where we can help families and newcomers to our community.
As an immigrant himself, Hasmatali says he knows immigrants need a place to call home. Some people come with faith and as Christians, and some don’t – they still need a place to belong.
John Mohan is the chair of the MJCoG fundraising campaign committee. He said the church has made itself a place that helps people with their earthly needs as well as their spiritual needs.
“People need safe support groups,” Mohan explained. “Bereavement, divorce care, Alzheimer’s support – just a lot of things that we feel fit the very culture and the reason we exist, which is to be this place where people can come and have support and recovery when they need it.”
For example, the church brings in psychologists and psychiatrists for counseling and to lead workshops, and provides a low-stimulation room for parents of children with autism spectrum disorders.
“We see that the needs are immense and we have many resources to help, but we don’t have the space. Hence the need for a big expansion,” Mohan said.
Hasmatali and his wife Connie have attended MJCoG since 1983. They have run it together since their marriage in 1996. It has seen many changes during this time, including the reinvention of the former International Bible College campus overlooking the valley from Wakamow. This campus is also being renovated and is accepting new tenants.
Mohan said the Hasmatalis have set the tone for their congregation – and that tone is acceptance.
“The church is open to everyone,” Hasmatali said firmly. “Our mandate is that people should not hear of God’s love from us—they should experience it from us. This unconditional love has always been our goal. It was never about building a big building or having a mega-church.
“God loves people more than anything else. We just want them to experience it.
The church is hosting a campaign celebration banquet on October 14 at the Heritage Inn. Tickets are $30 per person or $200 for a table and can be purchased from bit.ly/3CTYNnS.
To learn more about the Church of God in Moose Jaw, visit http://www.mjcog.com/.