Editor's note: This article was updated on Friday, Dec. 21.
On April 28, shortly after Valley View United Methodist Church celebrates its 60th anniversary, the Overland Park, Kansas, church will close.
But it will re-emerge about four months later, as the new Overland Park campus of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.
Valley View’s congregation voted 160-1 on Dec. 2 to approve becoming a campus of Resurrection. The Leawood-based church, the largest United Methodist congregation in the denomination, voted 280-1 on Dec. 15 to approve the addition.
Church of the Resurrection will adopt the assets, as well as the $1.6 million debt, of Valley View, said Dan Entwistle, senior executive director of Resurrection.
In a frequently-asked questions page given to those voting at Resurrection, church leaders said the move was neither a “merger” nor “rescuing Valley View.”
“This isn’t really Resurrection deciding to expand,” Entwistle said. “It’s Valley View deciding to have the Church of the Resurrection engage with them in this process.”
Valley View member Suzy Ayres was part of a vision team that was formed in January to address continued attendance decline, giving decline and budget shortfall.
“Looking at our finances, we could stay afloat for maybe 24 months,” said Ayres, a church member for 24 years who is on the staff for children’s ministry and community outreach.
Valley View’s attendance peaked about 30 years ago, according to information given to Resurrection members, and currently has 180 to 200 people attending, with an average age of over 70.
The vision team was tasked with bringing a sustainable future to the church, located near the busy intersection of 95th Street and Antioch Road in the Kansas City suburb.
“We literally considered everything, including closing, selling the building, moving to a smaller building, merging with another church,” Ayres said. “The only way we could stay Valley View and stay a Methodist church was to move to a new location. It wouldn’t be the same anyway. Could we even make a go of it at a new location?”
“Surviving,” she said, would be just prolonging the process.
“We kind of switched gears and said, ‘Why do we just want to survive? Is this what God has called us to do?’,” she said. “We needed to do something to thrive and benefit God’s kingdom, not just be able to stay in that big building.
About this time, the Rev. Neil and Bridget Gately, co-pastors of Valley View, were seated at a lunch next to the Rev. Adam Hamilton, who founded Resurrection in 1990 and is its senior pastor. Their discussion led to a proposal for both churches.
Several informational sessions over the summer told the facts to the Valley View community, including that 47 percent of its current budget was going toward building and maintenance, Ayres said. Ministries of the church -- including an Early Learning Center (preschool and parents day out program) and food pantry -- will remain.
“Becoming a campus of a thriving church would be the best option for having a presence at 95th and Antioch, for having an impact on the community,” she said.
The Rev. Dr. Anne Gatobu, Kansas City District superintendent, presided over the final informational meeting, and when Gatobu asked if church members felt informed enough to make a decision, all of them agreed, Ayres said.
Both Valley View’s and Resurrection’s votes were by secret ballot.
The move will give Church of the Resurrection its fifth campus, joining locations in Olathe, downtown Kansas City and Blue Springs, Missouri. The Blue Springs campus joined Resurrection in similar circumstances to Valley View, Entwistle said, as members of the former North Spring UMC voted in 2010 to be a part of the larger church.
The Blue Springs church that had averaged 50-60 members a week currently has between 300 to 350, he said.
Money from restricted fund, established in 2012, for a new campus will be used for the purchase and renovation, Entwistle said, as well as a grant application with the Great Plains Conference. The 67,000-square-foot facilities, built in five phases between 1960 and 2001, will be “modestly updated,” he said.
“The building’s in good shape. There’s not a lot of deferred maintenance,” Entwistle said. “They didn’t wait until the end of their time. It’s a very proactive decision.
“Most churches would hold onto what they have for as long as they possibly could,” he added. “They made the decision long before that was necessary.”
The biggest change that will be noticed when the first weekend of worship is scheduled to begin in August is that services will be moved to the gymnasium. Keeping worship in the hexagonal-shaped sanctuary wouldn’t be prudent for the video feed, and the present sanctuary isn’t as easily accessible as the gym.
“It’s an opportunity to engage more people and have hospitality so you flow right into the (new) sanctuary,” Entwistle said.
The current sanctuary will be available for those who request weddings or funerals there, Ayres said.
The two scheduled services at Resurrection-Overland Park would likely have videos of the Saturday night sermon from the Leawood campus about 40 weeks a year, he added. The other 12 would be from other staff members, including the campus pastor that is scheduled to be hired in January.
The Gatelys, pastors at the church since 2013, will be reassigned.
Entwistle said there have been “a number of opportunities through the years” for Resurrection to “do something similar to this at other locations.”
“We’ve explored those and decided not to for various reasons,” he said. “With this one, we see the potential of what could happen at Overland Park.”
He praised the Valley View vision team and congregation for their faith and foresight in making the decision.
“Their leadership has been extraordinary in helping their members to catch the vision. The Gatelys have done an outstanding job of casting a vision and working with their members to remember why the church exists in their community,” he said. “The process of voting to close usually brings a sense of loss and processing through that loss requires a grander vision on the other side of what would happen.
“What we’ve heard from Valley View members is that they care more about fruitfulness of the ministry than the name,” he added. “They were willing to let go of what was dear to them to make something extraordinary happen again.”
Ayres said she and other Valley View congregation members were optimistic about the future.
“Personally, I’m super-excited about it. I think it’s an answer to our prayers. We’ll be able to be who we’re supposed to be, helping the community,” she said. “People are catching the excitement and the vision and that it will be vibrant again and growing. That’s catching on more and more.”