By Tova Fruchtman
Enter from the ground level and you will see a jungle themed area to the left.
The three dimensional mural on the wall that depicts the days of creation in Genesis welcomes preschoolers to Waumba Land — Swahili for land of the Creator — along with a Land Rover filled with animals.
First through fifth graders head to UpStreet, also filled with muraled walls that depict the city streets of Atlanta. Large meeting rooms are surrounded with small group spaces. On the top floor, middle school and high school students gather amongst pool tables, televisions, video games and donuts before entering their own service.
And adults head to their own service. It features a live band and a video sermon at the new location of Buckhead Church, built on a 2.5 acre lot in Tower Place off the Buckhead Loop.
Buckhead Church started in spring 2001 when a small group called the Buckhead Fellowship began meeting for church services on Sunday nights. Inspired and supported by Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, the group watched videos of his weekly messages at their meeting.
Keith Eigel, who lives just on the border of Buckhead, but technically in Sandy Springs, was a part of this original group. He said soon, the 250-seat space the group had leased from a church was not large enough and they began renting space in the Doubletree Hotel at Tower Place in Buckhead. That space could accommodate 400 people, but it wasn’t long before they outgrew that location as well.
“It has been a very unique thing to be a part of something that has taken off and grown as quickly as this has grown,” Eigel said. “My wife and I have been involved in different ministry type of things. We’ve never had an experience quite like this. It’s been a lot of fun.”
On Easter Sunday in 2003 the now Buckhead Church moved into a renovated Harris Teeter grocery story building on Roswell Road. There they had room to grow, with seats for up to 1,000 members.
But plans were in the works for another move and fundraising began in the fall of 2004 for the construction of a permanent facility back in Tower Place. On May 6, members of Buckhead Church had their first services at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the new four-story facility, which resembles an office building and concert hall more than a typical church.
Even with four services at the Harris Teeter location, the space was not big enough. People were sitting on the floor and overflowing into the hall. The new location offers an auditorium for adults that seats 3,000. Finally, Eigel said the church once again has empty seats.
“The mission of the church is really to not fill up what we have, but to have empty seats for people to invite their friends to,” he said. “That kind of relationship building way to have growth really seems to have worked.”
And being able to invite more friends is what Eigel is most excited about when it comes to the new location.
“I think the thing that everybody is most excited about is really just having room to continue to invest in their friends,” he said. “They can invite them to come. That is certainly what we are most excited about as a family and I’m most excited about. We can go back on mission.”
Buckhead Church continues to be a part of North Point Ministries, which has three campuses that also include North Point Community Church in Alpharetta and Browns Bridge Church in Cumming.
Jeff Henderson, campus director of Buckhead Church, said he hopes this quick growth is just the beginning.
“Sunday we had over 5,000 people at church but within a 10 mile radius of Buckhead Church there are 300,000 people who don’t go to church,” he said “God hasn’t blessed us with success. What God has blessed us with is enormous potential to reach the 300,000 people in this community.”
But that means using innovative models and Henderson and the staff of Buckhead Church spend time learning not from other churches, but from executives at companies like Chic-Fil-A, Coca-Cola and Starbucks.
That model means that the church was very intentional in the design of the building, emphasizing space for small group meetings for each age group.
“Small groups for us are where we want people to land,” Henderson said. “When people can get to know each other, can open up their Bible and get to know a lot more about God, in that small group environment, that’s kind of a win for us.”
So they start the small groups with the kindergarten students and hope to have the same volunteer adult leader follow that group through high school graduation.
And in a church where 65 percent of the membership is single, they also emphasize relationship building as the key to bringing people — many of whom have not been to church in years or ever — into the Buckhead Church.
“We believe life change happens within the context of relationships…relationships with God and relationships with friends,” Henderson said. “And so all of our environments are really built with those two things in mind: How can we build an environment where we talk about a relationship with God, but we also foster a relationship with other people?”
Henderson said he hopes this new location and building design will help bring even more people into the church. Many people, he notes, who never thought they would go to church have come to the Buckhead Church and were surprised to find their kids excited about coming, their marriage reconnecting or that they wanted to travel on missions around the world. He thinks this building will help them reach more people in Buckhead just by having empty seats for them.
“For us that’s also one of the wins,”
Henderson said. “If we can get all these people gathered together — these 300,000 — and unleash them — not only to the community but all over the world — there’s a lot of healing and there are a lot of resources that we could provide to, not just this community, but other parts of the world. Those are needs that probably wouldn’t have been met if this group wasn’t out there doing it.”
So far, the church has only had two
Sundays and a total of six services in the new location, but Henderson said they have
received only positive feedback. He said they have worked very hard to ensure that they are a “great, great neighbor,” hiring 14 police
officers and enlisting the help of 700 volunteers to make sure parking goes smoothly.
Find out more about the Buckhead Church at www.buckheadchurch.org.