About five years ago pastor Bill Berg heard from God at the breakfast table.
He’d been pastor of the New Hope Community Church in Cambridge since 2004 and was considering the future as he drove to Braham to meet a couple folks for breakfast.
“I just asked God, “Well, over breakfast, if they get excited about the vision to start a church in Braham, I’m going to take it from You that we should take a next step,” Berg said. “If they’re like, ‘You know what, we really don’t need another church here,’ ... then I’m going to take it as, ‘No, don’t go to Braham.’”
Berg recounts that his table companions were very enthusiastic about the idea.
“It seemed to be an answer to their prayer for their community,” he said, “and so it was definitely a step then, and God opened that door.”
New Hope Community Church will step through that door on Sunday, Sept. 8, with the first of its new weekly services at 9:30 a.m. at Braham Event Center.
Detours along the way
A couple detours in the road stretched the church’s journey out to five years from that breakfast table revelation.
The congregation built a ministry center east of Cambridge in 2014, and in 2016 they invited the people of Elim Baptist Church in Isanti to merge with them and form New Hope Isanti in Elim’s building. The Elim congregation was aging, dwindling in size, and welcomed the merger.
Today, between the four Sunday services at Cambridge and Isanti, the church welcomes about 680 adults and 200 kids each week.
Around 20 staff members and many more volunteers help provide ministry and activities for all ages from children to youth to seniors, plus recovery classes for addicts, small group Bible studies and financial help for the needy through their Community Care ministry.
With the Isanti campus standing on its own feet, Berg said a couple years ago the hearts of church staff turned again toward Braham.
“We had a strong sense that God was saying, ‘Hey, I’ve called you to go, and you have people driving 40 minutes, 45 minutes (to Cambridge),’” Berg said. “‘You need to go to their community and allow them to worship in their community and then invite people from their community to go across the street to go to church.’”
First steps toward Braham
Youth pastor Justin Domino, who leads youth meetings in Cambridge and Isanti, made the first foray into Braham by starting a weekly youth meeting on Wednesday nights during the school year. For the past two years about 40-50 teens have been showing up to a storefront on Central Drive across from Hardware Hank.
“We set it up with couches and made a little living room-style feel so it feels like home,” Domino said. “It’s a great place to come and relax and be with friends.”
Volunteers who have a connection to the area help out with meetings and special events like last year’s foam party, Cinco de Mayo festivities and Color Wars.
The New Hope group has also joined with other Braham churches’ youth for events.
“We get 60-75 students in our building,” Domino said. “It’s been sweet. It helps our students and their students know they’re not doing this alone. Sometimes it’s hard to feel like you’re the only Christian in town, but then you find there are so many.”
Building relationships with the Braham teens has been a huge catalyst in seeing people excited about the New Hope campus that’s coming, Domino said.
“There’s been students I talk to that come to youth group that say, ‘I don’t attend any church on Sunday morning,’” he said, and they’re interested in checking it out.
In an effort to connect with more local residents, for the past year Pastor Berg has been holding a men’s group on Thursday mornings at Park Café and stopping around town to chat with folks during his Monday prayer drives.
“I didn’t grow up in that area,” he said, “so I totally get it that to come in you have to build relationship; you have to build trust. People have to see your heart. We’re not coming in like, ‘Hey, we know it all.’ We’re coming in with a towel over our arm just wanting to serve like everybody else.”
What to expect at New Hope Braham
Serving the people of Braham means offering something for everyone on Sunday mornings.
The kick-off service at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 8, will include children’s programming for infants through 5th graders – not an easy feat when all supplies have to be brought into the event center every week.
“We’ll bring in carpet,” Berg said, “We’ll put up all kinds of cute things. We transform the boardroom into a nursery and toddler room where you walk in and say, ‘Hey, this is cool.’”
According to youth pastor Domino, there’s no special programming for teens on Sunday mornings, but they’re encouraged to join the worship team, greet people, help with Hope Kids or enjoy the service with their parents.
Preaching in Braham will be divided between pastors Berg, Domino and associate pastor John Foley, with Berg behind the podium every other week.
The service will last around 60 minutes. Music is contemporary. There’s no dress code – casual is just fine. Mom and dad can enjoy coffee and a snack before or after the service while kids jump in the new bouncy house – placed inside the event center’s big room.
“We’ll have this big playground atmosphere in there for kids,” Berg said.
Adding to the fun on Sept. 8 is the Fall Kick-Off with a petting zoo and free lunch after the service. A Fall Kick-Off for youth will take place Wednesday, Sept. 11, with Color Wars.
According to Berg, the Braham services will mirror what’s happening at the two other campuses – “same topic across the board, same graphics, same lighting style, music style, all that,” he said. “We want people to be able to walk into any campus and be like, ‘Hey, this is New Hope.’”
Even with its unique identity, Berg says New Hope is ready to find its place in Braham “working alongside the other churches and to pull together to help change the spiritual fabric of the community,” he said. “The people there are very welcoming and really believe in their community and are faithful. You want it to win.”