Saturday, December 03, 2005

Eagle Brook Church opens new facility in Lino Lakes, MN

This is the opening weekend for Eagle Brook Church's new facility in Lino Lakes, MN. Lino Lakes is a small outer ring suburb of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro area. The follow is my experience tonight at the 6:00pm service. Eagle Brook is my home away from home church. I am on staff at another Baptist General Conference Church in Spring Lake Park, MN, but from time to time I am able to attend Eagle Brook because they offer Saturday Evening services. I should also preface this with the fact that for two years I was Sr. Pastor Bob Merritt's teaching assistant at Bethel Seminary, so I'm a bit more influenced than just a casual observer. Now onto the good stuff!

I took 50+ photos tonight, and you can view some of those HERE. I have sized these down to managable size, but if you are really interested in the full files leave me a comment and we can work something out. Obviously, this is not all of my photos, but the key/interesting ones.

Tonight I took Interstate 35W North to Eagle Brook. This is a very indirect route, and somewhat confusing in the dark if it is your first time heading to this church, but is apparently the best option coming from the South West. Exit #36, turn left (West) and go 2-3 miles to the blinking red light at the 4 way stop. Turn right (North) onto Main street. You will take Main for quite a distance, almost all the way to the church. You can see a MAP HERE for how to get there. It appears much easier to get there if you are coming from the East on 35E. About a mile from the church I hit traffic. There were police controlling intersections, but I sat at a stop sign for 15ish minutes waiting to make the final 2 miles to the chruch. This traffic was all from people going to Eagle Brook, and leaving the earlier service. Every road leading to the new campus is a single lane road, running through residential area. Lino Lakes has likely NEVER seen traffic jams of this sort. Eagle Brook ended up delaying the service to allow everyone to arrive before they started. The parking lot was well staffed with volunteers directing traffic so cars could find parking spots in an orderly fashion. I ended up parking at the point almost the furthest away from the church, and the walk wasn't that bad considering it was freezing cold and snowing. Bravo to the layout of the parking lots, keeping traffic flowing, and making the walk bearable from all points.

The building does not look like it is very big (relatively speaking). Perhaps that's just the function of the architexture, but I was surprized that it wasn't bigger looking. My guess is that it's footprint is smaller than the old facility in White Bear Lake, but that's the result of multiple expansions at the old site and less the optimum floor planning because of facility limitations with the old building.

Because I was running a bit late because of traffic, I hustled into the sanctuary to find a seat. I fortunately found one right in the front row, almost like it was being saved for me. I learned that this seat is immediately adjacent to where some (all?) of the subwoofers are housed (under the stage) which made for a worship experience that verified whether I had any loose fillings. I like bass (ride in my truck with me some time!) so I really didn't mind, but the initial barrage of bass caught me a bit off guard because the intro to the service was a THX effect which roared! Incredible sound system on all levels. Seating was comfortable, soft padded stadium theater style seats. I saw quite a few handicap seats and seating areas as well, which is wonderful planning on the part of Eaglebrook. Everything I saw appeared to be handicap accessable. There was an elevator that appeared to be out of service (or more likely not yet IN service), but other than that it was well laid out with plenty of room for a wheel chair or motorized chair to move through. I did not notice if there were handicap doors (the automatic pushbutton type) but I suspect there are, as the old facility had these.

Worship was excellent as is the standard at Eagle Brook. Tonight there were 11 people on the worship team, 3 guitars, 1 base, 2 keyboards, 1 drum set, and 4 vocalists. A man (David Olson) and his wife (Sara) who used to help with my church's Youth Ministry (his dad is our church president) were two of the back up singers tonight. It was good to see them again, as it's been nearly a year since I saw either of them, and it was following some really rough times in our church. I caught a few times where the sound needed a bit of tweaking during the worship, though that could be the effect of where I was sitting. Small things though, a vocalist a bit too hot, or an instrument needing a bit less boost. Nothing major, and my guess is 99.5% of the people didn't even notice. I was looking for these types of things. Eagle Brook Church excels at using lighting to set the mood during their services, and tonight was no different. There are quite a few more lights in the new facility, giving them even more control with how to set the mood.

Following the worship songs, there was a skit that I first saw performed this past year at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. The actors (one of who is the new speaking pastor for Eagle Brook - Jason Anderson) did a very good job, and the crowd quickly caught onto the meaning of the behind the skit. Very appropriate for the evening.

This was followed by a short segment of video of Bob Merritt recorded at the site prior to construction. Bob tied this into his sermon later when he discussed the church's history and development (more on this in just a bit). Bob's actual message started with a bit of self depreciating humor on Bob's part. Bob emphasized how the new facility, as well as everything that goes on at EBC is God's work, not man's work. Bob played up how he's mortal and destined to screw things up, so that only God could be at the base of EBC's successes. Bob talked a bit about 2 Chronicles 12:9 and how God doesn't rely on the particularly gifted, but he wants the committeed. Bob's message was worked around the idea of "Indescribable", which is the word used for God's working in this congregation.

Bob detailed how over 50 years ago, 19 people followed God leading and formed this chuch (it wasn't called Eagle Brook back then!) In 1993 they were bursting at the seams, and added on a $1.3 million children's wing to the old church to add classroom space for their children's ministry. The new facility has a $2.5 million children's wing. In 1994 EBC expanded their upper worship (the original sanctuary) to allow more space during worship services. This didn't last long, because in 1998 they spent $4 million to build a new worship center (lower worship center) that served them well until this weekend. Bob thanked everyone for pryaing, giving, and stepping up to the plate and swining for a home run.

This was followed by a young woman giving her faith story. She was saved at EBC last January, after a long period of drug, alcohol, and physical abuse. She was promiscuious, and had gone from stealing sips of wine and cigs to pot, to cocaine, to crystal meth. She (and her mother) were baptised this past Summer, and she kept repeating how awesome God truely is. She said she's been clean since January 23, and that God is sufficient in her times of need.

Bob transitioned from that into talking about Moses and the "Rod of God". Where when Moses held his staff, it was a wooden instrument of a shepard. When he put it down, it became a snake. While I'm greatly condensing Bob's work, he used this as an illustration about how sometimes there are things in our lives we need to lay down so God can use them, or show them to us. He talked about how the rod represented Moses' identiy, income and influence as a watcher of sheep. Bob asked "What do we have to lay down?" He then mentioned how North American is now the 3rd largest missions field in the Western world (or perhaps the whole world, I cannot remember his exact phrasing). The service concluded with some worship songs.

Following the service, I toured around the building's first floor a bit. You can see a number of those photos at my Image Cabin site. I took a number of pictures of the children's wing, and saw a lot of good things going on there. The planning was well thought out for this area. First, the area is immediately as you enter the building. Easy to find where to bring your children. Second, the colors were very inviting, bold and bright and exciting for children. There is a single enterence into the young children's area, and another enterence to the elementary children's area, and both doors sit roughly beside each other. Easy to control security this way. Inside each section are seperate rooms for the different ages/stages of children. I didn't see much of the elementary area though. In the birth-K area there were some things that caught my eye. Each room was tailored for the needs of both the staff and the children. The infant room had some very comfortable looking rocking chairs, and lots of toys. Another room had a really cool looking piece of play ground equipment with a slide. Outside the young children's area classrooms was a pair of dish washers, presumably to clean toys and tools used in this area, another excellent idea. The church uses a paging system that displays on the worship center screen an ID# to alert parents if they are needed for something with their child while worship is going on.

Other things of note: they have a book store just outside the sanctuary. This is nice, as the old book store was split in the middle by a stair well. I see some potential issues though, as the store looked too small. Perhaps it's because it is opening weekend, but I chose not to go into the store and look around because there wasn't room to move in there. I assume they have researched this and know what size other church's have used, but it looked small, and because of it's location it appears that it can't be expanded. There is a new coffee shop/cafe area next to the book store, and on the other side of the book store is the box office, where you can get tickets for upcoming events. Across from these three areas is a nice Information booth, and next to that is the children's wing. I didn't get a chance to go up to the second level, where I'm guessing Jr. and Sr. High areas, as well as classrooms are located.

Data: The new sanctuary seats 2100 people. The facility cost $27 million dollars. They are expecting 10,000+ people this coming Easter.

Positives: Sound and lighting were fantastic. Not a bad seat in the whole sanctuary. The new video screens (3) are larger and more visible than the old ones. The new seats are far more comfortable than the old ones. The children's area is lights out incredible, it makes me want to have kids just so I can bring them there. Traffic control (once on campus) was excellent. Staff and all volunteers were welcoming and helpful. The space in the enterence area far exceeded the old facility and allows for the gathering of people. The location of the Children's wing is perfect.

On the negatives, I will say in EBC's defense they are still working on some things, so I don't know what of the following is still in the works.
Negatives: No facility map(s) that I saw to tell people where to find things. Finding bathrooms was difficult because there weren't any signs for them except on the doors themselves leading into the bathroom. There were no signs directing traffic to EBC out on the roads other than the one immediately in front of the church (or at least not on the route I took). The roads leading to EBC are all single lane country roads, which is going to make for some real traffic head aches for the near future.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought this was very good.