By PENNY FLETCHER
A place people once shopped for clothing and household items has been renovated and now houses a church that focuses on young families, children and teens. Even in its temporary location, Lennard High School’s gymnasium, The Crossing Church South Shore has had nearly 1,200 people attend a service.
It is the third Crossing Church planted by Pastors Greg Dumas and Joey Adkins, with one on Causeway Boulevard in Tampa and another near Orlando.
The 40,000-square foot building that used to house Bealls Department Store, 3058 College Ave. (in Sun Point shopping plaza on State Road 674) in Ruskin, has been totally renovated inside, including all new interior walls, high tech sound equipment, a café, nursery, children’s and teen rooms, and a large sanctuary.
The interdenominational Christian church has grown by leaps and bounds.
Lead Pastor Greg Dumas laughed as he showed off one of the rooms that will soon be filled with elementary-school age children. “This room is the size of the church I was pastor of not too long ago,” Dumas said. Now between 5,000 and 9,000 people in three locations call The Crossing their home church.
“I was pastor of The Pointe Church in Riverview when the Crosstown Community Church in Tampa asked me to come be its new pastor,” said Dumas. “It was an honor to be asked, but I didn’t want to leave my congregation, and suggested instead that we merge.”
They did merge, forming The Crossing Church on Causeway Boulevard, which eventually drew so many people from South County they decided to plant another church in Ruskin.
Services will be at 9 and 11 a.m. on Sundays, with services in Spanish being broadcast from the Tampa location on large screens at 1:30, led by Pastor Dave Murphy.
“Pastor Murphy’s from Ireland and you can hear it in his speech. But he is fluent in Spanish,” Dumas said. “We’re pleased to be able to bring The Crossing to so many people in so many ways.”
The South County church was proposed less than a year ago, and in July 2012 began building a congregation at Lennard High School.
In late fall, a deal with the Bealls in Sun Point Plaza was reached and work began under The Crossing’s facilities manager, Steve Ready.
“Our staff did most of the work,” Dumas said.
Interior walls were installed to make a large sanctuary; a secured children’s space for elementary-age kids — kindergarten through fifth grade — four pre-K rooms divided by age group from babies through kindergarten; a crying baby’s room; and a nursing mother’s privacy room. All are equipped with television and sound so no one misses any part of the service, and rooms for children have one-way glass so parents can see their children whenever they want, as well as Dutch doors where the top opens for easy viewing from the hallway but the bottom stays closed to keep young children inside.
“The sanctuary will seat 750 when the two side wings are opened,” said Pastor Joey Adkins, who worked with Dumas on Causeway and will be in charge at the South County location. “There’s less than a 60-second time-delay, so if Pastor Dumas is preaching in Tampa, everyone is still worshipping together.”
Much was donated by members of the congregation. “The Cliftons who own Chick-fil-A franchises in Tampa donated the tables and chairs in the café. Bill Tracey, who runs Center Plate — a food and beverage supplier of the Tampa Bay Rays, the University of South Florida and other large well-known local organizations — supplied many kitchen devices including cappuccino machines. Many monetary and physical donations large and small helped make everything come together quickly,” Dumas said.
In an age when media reports say that church attendance is down and many local houses of worship are trying to attract younger people, The Crossing leaders say they thrive because they focus on things young families and children need to feel at home.
State-of-the-art technology allows for visual images and sound in every room, including the entrance hallway so no one misses anything if they get up and walk around, or take a crying baby outside the sanctuary to keep from disturbing others.
Most of the congregation is from Generation Y-those born between 1980 and 2000 — and Generation X — those born between 1965 and 1979, although there are some from older (more church-going) generations as well.
“We want to be a place where the young are comfortable,” Adkins said.
The Grand Opening services will be on Mother’s Day, May 12, at both the 9 and 11 a.m. services.
To find out more about The Crossing Church and its South County location, visit www.crossingonline.org/southshore. All services are archived and may be viewed from home on the website.