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Family Church of Lawrence finds way from ‘Holy-dome’ to Clinton Parkway

Ron and Vicki Channell are happy to have a new location for Family Church of Lawrence, 5150 Clinton Parkway. The church began meeting more than two years ago.

Ron and Vicki Channell are happy to have a new location for Family Church of Lawrence, 5150 Clinton Parkway. The church began meeting more than two years ago.

September 13, 2008


Family Church of Lawrence, 5150 Clinton Parkway, will celebrate its new location with a service at 11 a.m. Sunday.

Family Church of Lawrence, 5150 Clinton Parkway, will celebrate its new location with a service at 11 a.m. Sunday.

That night, the Lawrence Holidome - pardon, "Holy-dome" - was rockin' with God.

Crammed into a tiny suite because the conference room was double-booked, about 45 members of the Family Church of Lawrence spilled out onto the pool deck, singing, worshipping and praising the Lord.

No matter that they were elbow-to-elbow in the "Holy-dome," as they called it; they'd seen worse. They'd started as an outgrowth of a Johnson County megachurch that then withdrew its support and then had seen nine locations, including schools, churches and bookstores.

But they were still together - a church family - and that's all that mattered.

Now, after 2 1/2 years and all those locations, Family Church of Lawrence is ready to officially let the community know it has settled down. On Sunday, it is planning a special service and activities to celebrate finally finding a permanent home, 5150 Clinton Parkway. The church moved into the building in January but hadn't really begun making the space its own until this summer. Most recently, it added a stage and a large, light-up sign.

"Just over the last three weeks, I think we've had probably 24 to 26 visitors come in and visit, and a large majority of that has come in off just seeing the sign," pastor Ron Channell says. "It's a blessing."

Keeping it together

For this church, just having a sign and a permanent place to be is a blessing after a long nomadic life that made it difficult to keep and build a following.

"We were just kind of bouncing around, and it was hard to build any momentum because no one really knew where we were going to be from week to week. That was the challenge of being without a home," Channell says. "But you know what? God was always faithful, and we had this core group of people that really believed in the ministry and what we were all trying to accomplish together here in Lawrence. We just had a lot of passionate people about the Lord and said, 'You know what, one day it's going to happen,' and one day it did."

Those passionate core members included Melissa Frost and her family. Frost came to the church's very first meeting, up on the Kansas University campus back in August 2005, though it was admittedly a very different church back then. Then, it was related to First Family Church, a megachurch in Overland Park.

"We liked everything about it," Frost says. "That place was filled that night up on campus, and then we just kept following it."

First Family asked Channell and his wife, Vicki, to pray about coming to run the Lawrence branch of the church. Pastor Jerry Johnston, who is known for his television ministry through First Family, told the Journal-World at the time that he hoped the Lawrence congregation would become a 450-member arm of the megachurch, which at the time was drawing 2,200 people each week to worship.

It was January 2006 when the Channells decided running the church was right for them. Within weeks, First Family pulled out, the couple says, leaving the fledgling congregation in their laps.

And that was the best thing that ever happened to them, the Channells say.

"It was a little shocker. But ... it was the best thing that happened to us, because literally, and I tell people this all the time, it gave us only one way to look and that was up," says Channell, who stresses the church is no longer affiliated with First Family. "I believe God used that to launch our ministry here, but in his infinite wisdom, he knew that we had a different ministry than the other church, and really in essence, I'm thankful that door opened to get us to Lawrence, and I'm thankful that the door closed behind us because really the way we look at it, the beauty of God is, if we trust him, he'll work everything out for us in advance, even though we don't know what's around the corner."

Representatives of First Family Church could not be reached for comment this week. Last year, the church was at the center of controversy, with several members and former members claiming the church lacked proper financial oversight, and that hundreds of families had left the church over the concerns.

A leading radio network also dropped Johnston's show because of the concerns.

Building a home

The Channells had a vision for the church, and they quickly went about getting the word out about the congregation, all the while praying for a permanent place to call home.

"That was the thing we really had to trust God with," Channell says, "because ... we just kept saying, 'In your perfect timing, you'll open that door to give us an address.'"

That address ended up being the former Dance City building. It was perfect for the congregation - 60 to 80 worshippers and growing, though Channell has no plans for a megachurch.

"Our concern isn't to look and say we want X amount of people, because we don't just want to count people every week. What we want to do is let the word of God really change people and transform people's lives, so that they are living the word every day," Channell says. "So that they don't just show up once a week and then the rest of the week they're off and doing their own thing.

"We want the word to just saturate everybody that walks in those doors."

That way of thinking has changed the life of church member Bill Alt. After following his wife, Suzy, to the church about six months after she started attending, he soon realized it wasn't the rigid church of his childhood - and he loved it.

"After three or four months of going, it really started to, I guess you could say, transform me," Alt says. "I joined the worship team for singing up in front of the church and everything like that. We started teaching Sunday school."

That sort of participation is common at the church, Alt says. And it's something that really brings home that the church's family-based ideology.

"Everybody just kind of pitches in and does what they can to make it as good as of a church as it can be. Pastor Ron and his wife really set the foundation for that," Alt says. "All the other members are just trying to grow on top of that. It's like a bunch of church families making up Family Church, as I like to put it."


Deja Coffin 9 years, 8 months ago

thank you, me too. I was a person who really needed it.

bearded_gnome 9 years, 8 months ago

Representatives of First Family Church could not be reached for comment this week. Last year, the church was at the center of controversy, with severalmembers and former members claiming the church lacked proper financial oversight, and that hundreds of families had left the church over the concerns.---representatives were not available, huh? it sounds like ljworld talked to the Channell's. personally, I oppose "megachurches" as they're rising in our society. they, like modern "christian music" promote a kind of fastfood christianity. Rick Warren teaches good things generally but his church fails to encourage personal holliness in the lives of congregants. and his "purpose driven" book uses questionable translations to ref. Another reason I oppose megachurches is very simple, I think church is intended to be smaller, and much more personal. this family church starting here has that now, but if they get bigger they will lose that. the article also seems to imply that this church is not part of an organization that will help keep them accountable for proper financial and other decisions.

Deja Coffin 9 years, 8 months ago

When you say 'no one is attending church' do you mean just that church or all churches? Come by our church on a Sunday or even a Wednesday night and you'll see that our parking lot is always full. In this day and age, regardless of what you believe, a church family isn't a bad thing to have.

notajayhawk 9 years, 8 months ago

"(Hey everyone : why let nonodear hijack this blog with their sad hatred?)"Then, when you're thinking you can't get more nauseated, you can go here: listen to notnowdear spit on the troops.

yellowhouse 9 years, 8 months ago

The road to Hell is wide & broad this is the road that many will travel, the pathway that leads to the gate of heaven is narrow and few will find it.-------------------------------------Matthew 7:13,14: "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate, and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."-------------------------------------------

yellowhouse 9 years, 8 months ago

Yes its amazing at how the non-believers are so certain that they just fell to earth and there is no higher power to answer to, and when you die you are just dead.It seams to me if you believe in Heaven and there is no heaven then "oh well"But if you chose to not believe and you die and find there is a heaven then you are really screwed for eternity!

threemonkies 9 years, 8 months ago

I wish the church all the best. Diversity of methods of worship is very important in all communities.(Hey everyone . . . why let nonodear hijack this blog with their sad hatred?)

bearded_gnome 9 years, 8 months ago

if you went by my church on sunday morning, no you wouldn't see so many cars in the parking lot! that's because most of us walk to our little old fashioned church. I don't attend because it gets me saved or I gain something materially. No, I go because I belong there, my soul is fed there, the Bible being taught by a man who treats it with respect pushes the reset-button on my mind each week! obviously there are churches losing membership, and many of those are mainline denominational churches, and their "politics" is support for liberal causes, i.e. a woman's right to kill her own baby. and, remember, Barack Obama attended a church that claims to be christian, but is to the left of even those mainline churches! the theology is more marxist/works. God's grace never enters into it. and they say they will kill a God who doesn't support their struggle, and they say "kill the white oppressor."

Deja Coffin 9 years, 8 months ago

notnowdear, I'd have to ask my pastor. But I'm sure there are articles talking about how to increase attendance. If your life work is sharing the gospel with others, wouldn't you want to reach as many people as possible? I think the reason our church has such a strong family is that we have a pastor that truly cares about his members. I've gone to other churches and I've never felt as welcomed as I do here. Not only by the pastor but the whole church. I think the greatest tool our church uses in getting new members is through word of mouth. Nobody tells me to invite people to my church but if someone is looking for a new church I'd surely tell them why I love my church. Not all religions or churches try to force you to come. If they do, they're missing the message.

yellowhouse 9 years, 8 months ago

Just going to church is not your ticket to salvation.Going to church is a chance to feed the spirit, learn about how to receive forgiveness and salvation through the word.Its now how many people are at the church that counts. It is what is going on within the church that matters in my opinion.

Michael Throop 9 years, 8 months ago

I am amazed and saddened at the amount of actual hatred of those who find fufillment and comfort in a worshipping community.What are you non-believers scared of? You're apparently thrilled that "no one goes to church any more".If it's true that church attendance is declining, then you and other like-minded individuals have succeeded.Or have you?You'd better be ready to take on those young people who DO attend church,and who are proudly "fundamentalist' in their beliefs. They'll lie in wait, attending services as they do now, get active in business and civic affairs,run for office,and , and apply God's law and the rule of law to every day life. You won't know what hit you.

John_Somers 9 years, 8 months ago

The article is quite nice for the FF Church of Lawrence and for the lovely pastors Vicki and Ron. I have to ask, though, what was the need for knocking the initial host church in Overland Park with gratuitous mention of alleged scandal, empty pews and such. "Within weeks, First Family pulled out, the couple says, leaving the fledgling congregation in their laps." Where is the justice? Didn't Overland Park spark this? Hundreds leaving? This Sunday there must have been 2000 people at Overland services. It seems odd not to have proper research done before the callous knocking. Oh well, you can't count on quality journalism anymore.I am glad that Lawrence is doing very well and that it is growing. Congrats, and it is in his service that we praise this wonder. The question is - couldn't this story have been the same piece on the glory of religious growth without the gratuitous dig to another institution? Is that news these days?Silly, kind of perverted journalism these days to think that success can't be a story in of itself.John

openminds_openeyes 9 years, 8 months ago

Out of Evil Comes Good, Out of Darkness Comes Light, and Out of Ingnorance Comes Enlightment. I welcome Family Church to Lawrence and wish you much success. I have gone by your church tonight and did not see a For Sale Sign, so I am not sure what everyone is talking about. I hope your Sunday Service is a great time.

letsgetwise 9 years, 8 months ago

Family Church of Lawrence is in a building that has a for lease/sale sign in front. The church itself does not own, nor is it using the entire building, yet. BUT, it is NOT moving weekly or monthly trying to find a place to meet. They have a lease and are anticipating growing. Ron and Vicki are two of the nicest and most genuine people I have met. Their desire for people to live successful, blessed lives overwhelms me. Their desire for people to come to Christ is not only evident through their teaching but through their lives. Any of you who questions the sincerity and commitment they have need only come Sunday and meet them. Come see what is offered. They have no desire to beat someone down for the life that has been led, but a desire to teach about a God who will meet you where you are. The love they share is genuine. It really doesn't matter if the statistics that are being shared here [on this thread] are current and/or correct. The reality is that Ron and Vicki Chanell are here sharing what they believe the Lord is directing them to. If you truly wanting to find out if what has been said in this article is true and/or on target, then come and check it out. If not, then you simply are complaining about something other than them or this church.

9 years, 8 months ago

Have you had a chance to visit the Family Church website If you get the opportunity please take a moment to look at who we are and what we believe. You will see we are not a mega church and have no plans to be one. We are looking to serve and fellowship with those people in the community who need a place to worship and grow closer to God. To notnowdear- We would love for you to visit us for even one service. To have you to witness who we are and who we serve. We are real people with real issues and a genuine interest in you and your life. All we want to share is the message of salvation to the community and for everyone to know that all people matter to God, whether you are a believer or not. "You are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. (Ephesians 2:19-20) "I am not a religious scholar or someone who can debate you over the Church but I am person who attends Family Church of Lawrence with her family and tries (sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully) to be a faithful servant to my savior Jesus Christ who paid the ultimate price and was crucified on the cross for you and me. I respect your opinion but pray that God will give you an open heart and mind to respect what others believe and how they choose to worship without being as publicly negative toward us as a church and church family. Have a great day and God Bless you!!!"I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (John 8:12

FloridaSunshine 9 years, 8 months ago

notnowdear doth protest too much...perhaps because of childhood issues relating to "religiosity" that none of us will ever know about. notnowdear, I can relate to that, believe me! My heart goes out to you...and as I type this, I know there are other Christian readers praying for you right at this moment. It's a spirit to spirit "thing" we Christians have going on because we're connected to the Living Creator and how sweet it is to curl up on His lap and know that all is well with our souls. We know it's ONLY through Grace that we can say, "it is well with my soul." To say a prayer for you and all you've been through, notnowdear, is a privilege. And yes, notnowdear, there ARE liberals who are Christians!! I detest any kind of label...and yes, I know "Bible Belt" Christians are usually the first to label...I'm a Southerner, I ought to know! ("Bible Belt" Christian is a label, and I don't consider myself to be one! ha! Please read on...) I'd also like you to know, notnowdear, there are those of us out here who are SO different in ALL walks of life and we carry labels put on us by a society which knows NOT the freedom of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Just because a person calls himself or herself a Christian doesn't make them one. If I call myself a giraffe, it doesn't make me one. I'm just a person who thinks of myself as a giraffe!! The only way any person on this earth will stop labeling is to sit at the feet of Jesus in total humility. Usually the only way that happens is when all of what was important in this life is taken away somehow. The death of a child. The death of a spouse. The loss of one's career. The loss of income from that career. A hopeless health issue. This is when we usually get down to brass tacks with God, as my grandpa used to say. When you're busy establishing a relationship with the Creator of everything, trying to figure out why you've been left like a whimpering puppy on the roadside, you simply don't have a heart for labeling people. You're too busy finding the Everlasting Love, the Redeemer, and then being so very grateful for finding Him that you could never have it in your being to label anyone. So, if you're ever labeled, called this or that or the other, be well aware that it isn't coming from a true Christian. notnowdear, you won't be judged at Family Church of Lawrence. Vicki and Ron have had that "sitting at the feet of Jesus" should hear their story of loss and victory...long before the megachurch adventure...God has been leading them for this exact time in their lives. There is no smooth ride to being a Christian...there is not one verse in Scripture that promises us a care-free, smooth ride. But He DID promise to be with strengthen us, to refresh us, to prepare us, to uphold us. Y'all at FCL, (Numbers 6:24-26)

John_Somers 9 years, 8 months ago

Where is your research to back up your statement that "this Sunday there must have been 2000 people at Overland services"?My research is that I was there. Unfortunately, I have recently become tuned in to the online rumors, so I started reading and paying more attention to what is going on. So I also count heads, seats and glance at the parking lot."Was the Holy Spirit present at Overland services?"I assume so. It is my belief that the Holy Spirit is everywhere and where you pray and believe in him, is where he is. As for Vicki and Ron, I don't believe I said a bad word about them, but congratulated them and take joy in what they have accomplished. The point I made was a clear point about the types and quality of journalism today. News is not news unless there is some controversy. That wasn't always true, and news used to be about what is happening, and "good" was once able to stand alone.That is the sad state of the world, the media and what people have come to expect.

FloridaSunshine 9 years, 8 months ago

Dear Mr. Somers...Actually, no. Overland Park did not spark this...God did. And the VERY lovely and dedicated pastors, Vicki and Ron, prayed and worked as I've never seen two people do so before in my long life. And they count that as gain for the cause of Christ!! Yes, it was all "left in their laps"...but they embraced it, the fledgling congregation, with their whole hearts. If you knew Vicki and Ron personally, you would realize their respect for each and every human being whose lives were touched by this quite unbelievable move on the part of the megachurch in Overland Park. Vicki and Ron are humble servants of the Lord, used to taking supposed Christians at their word. Most people will never know the "details" of what transpired between Overland Park and Lawrence regarding this situation. So be it. God knows every little detail...and His memory is from everlasting to everlasting and that's all that matters.A new and glorious story has begun for Family Church of Lawrence with no ideas of megachurchdom. To serve the wonderful people of Lawrence with love and affection and care and commitment are what the Channells are about...and anyone who is around them for five minutes will know that. How blessed Lawrence is to have this devoted couple in their midst. They are a joy!!I'm quite sure the reporter on this story was as overcome with compassion regarding this couple's journey as anyone else would be. It's a very "human" thing to want to "protect" the innocent from very calculated decisions made by a giant institution. Certainly the story could have been written in a different way...several different ways. Every reporter writes in his or her own style and I believe this reporter is as accurate as you have been. Where is your research to back up your statement that "this Sunday there must have been 2000 people at Overland services"? My question is, "Was the Holy Spirit present at Overland services?"

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