The men and women of Payson's Shepherd of the Pines Lutheran Church have been very successful in "growing" their church since they started meeting in member homes in 1985.
Now, needing room to continue to grow and a desire to keep worship and fellowship separate, the congregation of the church has committed to a $700,000 expansion project.
Church members dedicated their new sanctuary with a special service this weekend.
The congregation held a dedication ceremony at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 27, marking another new chapter in the young church's history.
"Shepherd of the Pines formed in 1985, meeting in homes. Then it met at the Womans Club," said the Rev. Todd Arnold, the church's minister since 1996.
Church members purchased property on Wade Lane across from the school district office in 1987 and dedicated its former sanctuary in August 1988. That facility will now serve the congregation as its fellowship hall, Arnold said.
In its early years, between 1988 and 1996, the church had an average attendance of about 40 worshippers.
When the early congregation decided to call for a permanent pastor, its district leadership recommended they get someone right out of the seminary. That is where they found Arnold.
He was a chemist and a laboratory manager before going into the seminary. A native of Casa Grande, Arnold finished seminary in 1996 and was ordained in June of that year. He was installed as the pastor of the church.
"We have had steady growth since then," he said. "We are up to 100 in attendance Sundays and 20 on Saturday evenings."
Arnold said the primary reason the congregation wanted a new sanctuary was to keep its worship center separate from the fellowship facility.
"For growth in both (worship and fellowship) we needed to have separated facilities," Arnold said.
The congregation has been working on the new sanctuary since 1999. A long-range planning committee was put together and building expansion was the top priority, the pastor said. The planning group became the building committee in 2000 and the congregation approved seeking a loan for the project to 2001.
Arnold said the church made an agreement with Amon Builders and architect Bernie Lieder on a design and build contract in 2002. The groundbreaking was in November 2002, he said.
The church has four acres at the Wade Lane site and the new sanctuary facility added 4,000 square feet to the church's existing 3,500 square feet, Arnold said.
The project cost $700,000 to build. The church had $200,000 in its building fund, so it borrowed $500,000 from the church extension fund.
The church is part of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.