On Easter morning, worship will again ring out on Zoar Road.
The longtime church nestled against the state line will again host services, this time as part of Good Shepherd Church. The Zoar Road site in Fort Mill joins the much larger Moss Road location in Steele Creek, complete with matching decor and the same sermon each Sunday morning.
“We want to be one church, two locations,” said Chris Thayer, campus pastor for the Zoar site.
According to the Steele Creek Historical and Geneological Society, Zoar United Methodist was the oldest Methodist church in the area. It formed in 1861. A cemetery beside it includes dates from several eras. By 2013, it was down to a handful of people and a six-figure debt.
The denomination asked Good Shepherd to take on the property, congregation and debt.
“We did, not thinking we’d use it for Sunday worship,” said Talbot Davis, pastor at Good Shepherd. “By early 2015, we realized we’d be fools not to do Sunday worship there, with the incredible housing boom all around it.”
The location was a place for service teams. It housed a homeless ministry. Now three new staff members were hired for the Zoar location, and about 50 people volunteered for the church re-plant.
“They’re not migrating,” Davis said. “They’re coming here to multiply.”
What was the chapel is now a small group meeting area. Wood from the old chapel was refinished, the entire inside updated. What was meeting space for support groups is now a children’s area. What was the family life center is now a 196-seat worship facility.
Even for a church bringing in 2,000 people during three services on a Sunday, the move to Zoar is a big step. Zoar will have services at 10 and 11:30 a.m. Sundays. A projector and screen will broadcast the sermon Davis preaches earlier that morning at Moss Road. Live worship will be included.
Good Shepherd has a Spanish-speaking site at Moss Road, but the Zoar expansion is the first foray into a multi-campus setup. Davis isn’t concerned with making everyone comfortable with the transition, saying often the role of faith leadership is to bring a little discomfort. Some larger events will combine folks from both campuses, but it isn’t a main goal.
“It’s less important that everybody gets together as everybody has a circle,” Davis said.
The smaller site on Zoar Road offers that opportunity. The idea is, people need the connectivity of small groups to grow their faith, not just an hour each week listening to a sermon.
“We want people to move from rows to circles,” Thayer said.
As campus pastor, Thayer said he can focus on meeting people and their needs while leaving the sermons to Davis. Randy Johnson, worship leader at Zoar, came from a multi-campus church and understands some of what fellow staff members can expect.
Updating technology and other needs for a place that hadn’t held a service in three years is one challenge. A greater one is getting folks to buy into the idea of building a new community in a growing area.
“There’s a lot of that,” Johnson said. “Just that idea that you don’t want to just have people come over and fill seats.”
The church will have an open house 3-5 p.m. March 19, with inflatables and barbecue. The full reboot comes Easter morning. Seeing so many new homes are being built around the Zoar site, the church staff isn’t concerned about filling up a room. They just want to make the space, and themselves, as inviting as they can.
“We saw an opportunity to invite the coming community,” Thayer said.
For more on Good Shepherd, visit gsumc.org.
John Marks: 803-831-8166