It has all the trimmings of a rock concert: the stage, the lights, the sounds. But it’s a Sunday morning worship service in the Spring Lake Park High School Fine Arts Center.
Substance Church opened a campus at the high school two-and-a-half years ago. Since that time, it has grown, attracting a huge amount of young people, many who did not regularly attend church before Substance.
The Spring Lake Park campus is one of three that the multi-site, nondenominational Christian church operates. The other two are in Roseville. A campus in Fridley closed shortly after the Spring Lake Park site opened.
“Even though our methods and worship styles may be progressive, our doctrines are as traditional as they come,” Substance’s website states, citing Bible verses that support the church’s stance on everything from the virgin birth to the afterlife.
The Word of God that Substance shares is the same other area churches preach, but the way Substance presents it is nontraditional, a goal Peter and Carolyn Haas had when they founded the church in 2004.
Jim Bass and his wife were drawn in when they walked into worship at Substance for the first time. After hunting for a church home for nearly two years, “we both just looked at each other and said, ‘this is our new church,’” Bass recalled.
The contemporary, modern music is one plus for the Bass family, who live in Blaine. The messages, or sermons, are a good blend of the Bible and its application in today’s 21st century world, Bass said.
Also important to Bass, “It’s not just about what you do on Sunday; it’s about what you do the rest of the week.”
One of Substance’s core goals is to create community that extends beyond Sunday worship, Executive Pastor Bart Scharrer said. The weekend services are “just the tip of the iceberg.”
In addition to learning about God and growing one’s relationship with Him, Substance hopes its attendees find four to seven new friends and get involved in the church’s ministries in some way, he said.
Subgroups allow people to connect with others who share similar interests during the week. There are subgroups for marathon runners, movie enthusiasts, biblical scholars, photographers, you name it.
Anna Long, who lives just north of Blaine, discovered Substance through involvement in one of these subgroups. A friend invited her to a group for new mothers after Long had her first son. Skeptical, she went and ended up falling in love with the authenticity and genuine hearts of the members, she said.
“When you love Jesus and your relationship with him is real, it shows,” Long said.
Long, 30, now a mother to three little boys, attends Substance regularly. Her boys are among the 250 kids that participate in the children’s ministry programs every Sunday at the Spring Lake Park Campus.
Between 60 and 65 percent of Substance attendees are under 30, according to Scharrer. “We’re trying to reach that part of the culture,” Scharrer said.
“There’s something about doing life with people that are in your same life stage,” Long said.
Additionally, approximately 41 percent of people who attend Substance were not actively involved in any church two years ago, according to Scharrer.
The Spring Lake Park campus offers two services each Sunday, one at 9 a.m. and one at 11 a.m. Sometimes the message is live, and other times it’s recorded and projected. On a typical Sunday, 1,000 people attend.
Scharrer is the campus pastor in Spring Lake Park. He was called to serve at Substance several months before the Spring Lake Park campus opened.
With many regular attendees traveling to services in Roseville and Fridley from more northern and western suburbs, Spring Lake Park seemed like an obvious choice for a new campus, Scharrer said.
Long, who helped launch the new campus, appreciates the shorter commute. “Saving time in the morning is pretty huge” with three little ones, she said.
As the months and years have gone by, Substance has made an effort to not only forge connections between members, but also build relationships in the community.
This year, Substance pulled a trailer in the Tower Days parade and dropped in on the Spring Lake Park Lions Club’s pancake breakfast.
“The longer we’ve been there, the more we’ve been intentionally investing into the community,” Scharrer said.
For more information about Substance, visit www.substancechurch.com.
Olivia Koester is at firstname.lastname@example.org