River Valley Church is making a move on Burnsville—and that's just the beginning.
River Valley is part of the Assemblies of God—an evangelical, charismatic sect that believes the Holy Spirit is alive and active in the present. The church has about 6,000 members on its roles—enough to fill a small town—spread over five campuses: The home church in Apple Valley, and satellites in Minnestrista, Savage, Faribault and Valencia, Spain.
Nevertheless, church officials have ambitious plans to expand. The church is looking for land in Shakopee and over the next year they plan to launch a satellite congregation in Swaziland, a kingdom bordered by South Africa and Mozambique.
But first they're making inroads into Burnsville.
"Our Apple Valley campus has grown a lot and we noticed that we have a lot of people in Burnsville and western Eagan area," said Tiffany Burns, River Valley's marketing project manager. "We have a campus in Savage, but we found that people didn't like driving there. We needed something right in the middle."
The congregation will soon take up residence in Burnsville High School's Mraz Center, the former home of another evangelical church that has since moved out.
"It was a perfect chance," Burns said.
River Valley is expecting a weekly attendance of 300 to 400. The Burnsville campus will be led by Pastor Don Champion, who said the services will be very similar to those in Apple Valley. Burnsville will be a full-service campus, Champion said, meaning that there will be a live worship band playing and comprehensive child care on Sundays for kids from birth to fifth grade. The campus will also be connected to the Apple Valley church via streaming video, which enables Head Pastor Rob Ketterling to deliver his Sunday message to his entire flock simultaneously.
Champion is a newcomer to River Valley. He joined the church staff on June 1. Prior to moving to Minnesota, Champion worked as a pastor in the Detroit metro area for almost 11 years. He said he had a good feeling about Burnsville as soon as he set foot in town.
"We visited and it just clicked right away," Champion said.
In the future, Burnsville could be a candidate for a permanent church site.
"I do believe it is something they want to do eventually. To have portable church can be difficult after a while," Burns said.
River Valley's expansion plans don't end there. River Valley is exploring possibilities in Edina and inner city Minneapolis, as well.
"We have no end goal. Wherever there is a need and people want us to be there, we'll go," Burns said.
The grand opening service will be on Sept. 9. There will be a soft opening, with the first service on Aug. 26.