Five years ago Andrea Thompson moved from Los Angeles to the Black Hills.
Born and raised in the Midwest, Thompson returned home to spend time with her family; her mother was battling stage-four lung cancer.
While spending time at home, Thompson began attending church with her parents at Hills View Evangelical Free Church in Piedmont.
“God changed my life,” Thompson said. “This became my church family.”
Thompson's mother died six months after she returned home. She and her husband, Jerad, decided to stay in the Black Hills and they now live in Rapid Valley, where they have been active members of Hills View for the past five years. Thompson is part of a worship team that leads services on Sundays.
“Everyone is welcome there. People can walk in, feel welcome and feel loved. We want to welcome you in and have a place where you can grow and learn about God and learn about the love of Jesus. That’s what makes Hills View so special.”
Ten families founded Hills View in 2006, but the church now welcomes more than 300 members for two worship services each Sunday. The continuous growth created the need for a new facility, which opened its doors this month.
Hills View held its first service in its new church July 10. The new church, built on 10 acres of property, has a capacity of more than 700 people, and in addition to a worship hall, the building includes a kitchen, fellowship hall, nursery and room for children’s church. The worship hall has two basketball courts and a high-tech sound system. There are also plans for a softball field on the grounds in the future.
Hills View Pastor Ron McLaughlin said the goal of the building was to hold worship service, as well as provide a community building for Piedmont and Somerset residents.
“We want the community to come in and use it, whether it’s for volleyball, basketball or meetings,” McLaughlin said. “It’d be a great place for a Christian concert.”
When complete, the new church will cost approximately $2.8 million, McLaughlin said. Currently, $1.8 million has been raised to complete the church.
“I feel extremely blessed,” McLaughlin said of the generosity of the congregation. “It shows their commitment to having a healthy church in this area.”
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McLaughlin, who joined the ministry at Hills View in October 2006, said there was no master plan in building the new facility. The money raised came from the Hills View congregation through simple acts of giving.
“It’s been kind of an organic thing,” McLaughlin said. “We didn’t having a capital campaign. We had core values and a mission statement and saw what God did. He kept bringing the right people at the right time.”
When Hills View first opened in 2006, services were held in the Senior Citizen Center in Piedmont. Soon, they moved to the Ramada Inn, where they paid rent to hold worship each Sunday.
Members of the congregation volunteered to set up and take down chairs each week, hooked up sound equipment and completed any other labor for Sunday worship. Children's church was held in the hotel’s kitchen and the local elementary school was rented for youth group each week.
McLaughlin’s office was located in downtown Rapid City, and Thompson, along with other members of the worship team, took turns practicing out of each other’s homes.
“It was pretty apparent we filled it to the seams,” Thompson said. “The new building has been a huge blessing. It’s something we’ve prayed about for a long time, a place to call our own.”
Hills View broke ground on the new building a year ago. Although worship services are now held in the new facility, McLaughlin said there is still work needed to the kitchen, fellowship hall, and other areas of the church.
“We were at the point we could move in and not pay rent somewhere else,” he said.
McLaughlin and Thompson expect the church to continue to grow and hope to add an associate pastor and administrative help in the future. The building also allows Thompson and her worship team to practice in one location; Bible studies will be held at the new church in the future, too.
Although the new facility was needed and is great appreciated, McLaughlin and Thompson said their hope is that the focus of the church is not on the new structure, but the people and activity within it.
“We’re not just a building. We’re so much more than that,” Thompson said. “It’s wonderful to have the facilities, but that is what it is, it’s just a building. It’s the people inside the church, and we will put our focus on the body of the believers.