On a regular Sunday morning at Eagle Brook Church’s Blaine campus, the place can be so full that crowds have to cram folding chairs into the lobby and watch a livestream of the service happening next door.
The Blaine church added two extra services on Sunday nights to try to fix its overflow problem. But still, the crowds kept coming.
The only solution was to expand, said Gari Pisca, executive director of operations at Eagle Brook. The Minnesota megachurch with Baptist roots launched the construction of a 22,000-square-foot addition to its Blaine campus in April, a project that will almost double the number of seats available at weekend services.
Eagle Brook Church is emerging as one of the nation’s largest congregations with a weekly attendance of almost 20,000 across its locations, according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. In addition to Blaine, there are six other campuses across the Twin Cities, in Lino Lakes, Spring Lake Park, White Bear Lake, Woodbury, Anoka and Wayzata.
“We have a great demand,” Pisca said. “Our mission is to reach people for Christ. We didn’t want space limitations to keep us from being able to do that.”
In recent years, a time when mainline Christian churches across Minnesota face unprecedented declines, attendance at Eagle Brook Church has only increased.
“But for us, it’s never been about getting big,” Pisca said. “It’s about connecting with people.”
The Blaine addition will expand the church’s parking lots and provide a new auditorium that will seat 1,500, an upgrade from the current facility that seats 840. Eagle Brook will also remodel the interior of the existing building, restructuring its lobby, cafe and children’s ministry spaces.
Pisca said the renovation, expected to cost up to $14 million, was financed by Eagle Brook’s general fund, which is supported by donations from the church community.
The Blaine campus will close sometime in mid-August until mid-December while the interior is renovated. The community will temporarily shift its services to the Lino Lakes location, Blaine Pastor Travis Scharn said.
“The payoff is going to be so well worth it,” he said. “We’re not even going to remember the little inconvenience for a couple of months in the long run.”
Eagle Brook’s ministry emphasizes “connections” — to God and to others, said Karianne Langfield, a staff member at the church.
The hourlong services start at an exuberant pace, with a full band playing live music on stage under bright, colorful lights. Then the congregation watches a livestream of a pastor delivering biblical-based messages, usually broadcast from Eagle Brook’s hub in Lino Lakes.
Attendees socialize before and after services, Langfield added, often loitering around the lobby area or grabbing a cup of coffee at the cafe with friends.
“It’s not like church as most people think of it,” she said. “It’s a different experience.”
Looking forward, Eagle Brook hopes to expand even more. The Wayzata location is at the local high school, Pisca said, so the church is searching for a permanent home in the west metro area. Eagle Brook would also like to extend its reach in the southern part of the Twin Cities, she said.
Eagle Brook built its Blaine church back in 2010 — on a site just over four miles away from the existing Spring Lake Park campus — because there were too many members for the one facility to handle, Pisca said.
Now, as the city of Blaine’s population booms and the influx of new members continues, she said it was time for the church to adapt again.
“Everybody’s welcome in our church,” Pisca said. “By having the space for them, we can show we mean that.”