Pastor Scott Baugh (left) of Journey Church and Elwood Holley of Grace Community in front of the Boynton Beach building that is changing hands. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Tim Pallesen
One church is a rapidly growing congregation of young people. The other is a dying congregation of older members.
In a display of Christian faith, the 80 members of Grace Community Church have given their $2.5 million sanctuary in downtown Boynton Beach to the 1,500 members of the Journey Church.
“We wanted to see a happy growing church instead of one that was shrinking,” explained Elwood Holley, an elder in the Grace Community congregation.
“Their church is hopping,” Holley said. “It’s up and coming and they minister to youth. That’s what we wanted at our church.”
Scott Baugh, the Journey Church’s senior pastor, announced the gift to his congregation on April 15.
“Grace Community could have sold this property for millions of dollars and put the money in their pocket,” he said. “But they were more concerned about touching people’s lives.”
Baugh asked his congregation to contribute $2 million to assume a $600,000 mortgage and pay for renovations at Grace Community’s church building at 715 S. Federal Highway.
“It’s going to take a miracle because we don’t have $2 million,” Baugh said. “But this is a test that God gives us.”
Journey Church now worships at 9:30 and 11:15 a.m. Sunday at Park Vista High School, where attendance has doubled in the past year.
More than 2,800 attended three Easter services last month.
Plans are to continue the Park Vista services and add a 10:15 a.m. service at the east campus, Baugh said. Attendance at Grace Community has been dropping this past year after a longtime pastor retired.
“We visited six other churches, not telling them what our situation was,” Holley said. The congregation decided to offer their building to either Christ Fellowship, a mega-church that has three other campuses, or to Baugh’s lesser-known congregation.
They chose the Journey Church, he said, because it reminded them of their beginning 18 years ago when they bought a former A&P Grocery store and spent $750,000 to renovate it.
The property includes 6,000 square feet of retail now occupied by a Thai restaurant, a laundromat and a beauty salon in addition to the 20,000-square-foot sanctuary.
Grace Community attempted a youth ministry in a fourth storefront, but the older congregation’s effort was unsuccessful.
“We saw the youth at Journey and got excited,” Holley said.
About 200 adults volunteer each month to make the Journey Church appealing to children. A bounce house and bubble machines create an atmosphere “where kids drag their parents to church,” Baugh said.
“We want children to associate church with having a blast,” he said. “We call it organized chaos.”
The Journey Church began eight years ago as a Bible study group for 17 people in Baugh’s home.
Baugh formed his own nondenominational congregation after he became frustrated trying to find a traditional church where his friends felt comfortable.
“Traditional churches are a culture shock to people who have never been to church,” he said. “I wanted to build a church that was relevant where they could be everything that God created them to be.”
Sunday worship services were held at the Lake Worth Christian School until 18 months ago, when the congregation moved to the larger gymnasium at Park Vista High School.
“We don’t have a lot of traditional church people,” Baugh said. “It’s what I always dreamed church would be like.”
To live their faith, church members volunteer time and contribute money for ambitious outreach efforts both locally and overseas.
The congregation gives $7,000 each month to provide food, clothing and education for 200 children in Haiti.
More than 100 church members will travel to Mexico in July to build an orphanage and school at a cost of $150,000.
The members of Grace Community have joined forces to feed the homeless in Boynton Beach.
The new east campus also will serve recovering alcoholics and drug addicts through a 12-step program called Celebrate Recovery. “We’re bringing the church into the heart of the recovery community,” Baugh said.
The Journey Church will seek approval from Boynton Beach for its renovation plans this month. The congregation hopes renovation work will be completed by October.