Old church with new name to build multimillion dollar project in southwest Lawrence

Courtesy: Lawrence Wesleyan Church

A big new church at the Kasold curve in southwest Lawrence makes sense. If you have ever been a white-knuckled passenger in one of my family vehicles as it speeds around that big curve at 31st and Kasold, you would understand why. Regardless, look for construction to soon begin on a multimillion dollar church facility.

The Lawrence Wesleyan Church has filed plans with City Hall to build a new church on property just south of 31st Street where it turns into Kasold Drive. Plans call for a $5 million church building that will feature a sanctuary that can seat about 400 people.

Courtesy: Lawrence Wesleyan Church

But the big new building is only part of the news, said Elizabeth Scheib, connection and communications director for the church. The church is also changing its name. In early May the 80-year old Lawrence church will change its name to Connect Church.

“We have been around here for 80 years, but for a number of years the question we often here is “What is a Wesleyan?” Scheib said.

Wesleyan is a Christian denomination named after John Wesley, who is more commonly associated with the United Methodist denomination. The Wesleyan denomination is smaller and less well known than many of the other large Protestant denominations. Scheib said that played a role in the pending name change.

“We cherish our denomination, but most people don’t come to Lawrence looking for a Wesleyan Church,” Scheib said. They come to Lawrence looking for a place to connect, and hopefully they will consider us.”

The church will remain a part of the The Wesleyan Church denomination.

As for the building, the church is planning for growth. The new building will feature a sanctuary that is about double the size of the church’s current facility at 3705 Clinton Parkway. In addition, the new facility will feature a youth area, complete with a gaming area on a mezzanine level, a children’s area, a kitchen, and a foyer area that will double as meeting space for the church and other community organizations that use the church as a base of operations.

Also important to note is that the project includes a large amount of ground for future expansion. As we previously have reported, the church bought essentially all the vacant farmland that was just south of the Kasold curve. The church sold a good part of that land to a development group led by John McGrew, who has been building duplexes and other housing on the site. Scheib, though, said the church retained 7 acres for its project.

“There is plenty of room to expand, when need be,” she said.

The plans filed with the city show an athletic field — like a soccer field — being located on the open space behind the church. But Scheib said those plans are tentative. She said church leaders are exploring several options, including a sports field, a disc golf course or even a playground that could be made available to the neighborhood.

“We want to be a good neighbor,” she said. “We are really dedicated to serving the community.”

The church has a congregation of about 700 and growing, Scheib said. For the past 30 years, Nate Rovenstine, along with his wife, Janet, have served as the lead pastor of the church.

Look for construction to begin on the church in early May. The church will host a groundbreaking on May 7, at which point the name of the church also will be officially changed to Connect Church. The new church building is expected to open in the spring or summer of 2018. In the meantime, the church will continue to meet at is building at 3705 Clinton Parkway. Scheib said the church has put that building on the market, so the church is prepared to move into temporary space if it is sold prior to the completion of the new building. I’ll keep an eye on that spot as well. It is a fairly large two-story building that used to be commercial space, and probably could be converted back to that use. It previously housed the Raintree Montessori School, and before that it served as the district offices for Lawrence Public Schools.