And You Thought “Starbucks Church” Was Just A Funny Skit!

Last October, during Pastor’s Appreciation Month, the Church Council put together a skit. In case you missed it, it featured a parody of me and my love for Starbucks by depicting me going to the City for a building permit that would allow us to put a Starbucks in the church facility.

Well, here you go … (bold and italics are mine for emphasis) …

Gwinnett’s 12Stone church features glitzy amenities, Starbucks

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 01/22/08

The new building for 12Stone Church on Buford Drive doesn’t have a sanctuary. It has a worship experience center.

And what an experience it will be for the thousands of people expected to attend the Lawrenceville church, which will have its grand opening Sunday. A congregation of the Wesleyan church, 12Stone was formerly called Crossroads Community Church.

In addition to the 2,500-seat high-tech worship center, the 105,000-square-foot building features a full-service Starbucks cafe, facilities for children, from birth through college, and film and recording studios.

There’s even a special room for prayer that looks out over the auditorium. The room will be open during this week.

“We wanted our building to have pace and peace,” said Dave Ronne, 12Stone’s director of redemptive arts, as the staff calls music and film. “We want to get people in and serve them well, and give them the peace of a slower pace, something they wouldn’t find at the mall.”

Ronne estimates that about 50 percent of those coming to 12Stone are likely “spiritually unresolved” people who never attended church as children or who stayed away for decades. The church building was designed to make attending enjoyable and memorable.

Besides the large auditorium, there are “living rooms” for small groups, the 12Stone Cafe and a 425-seat auditorium for latecomers or families with sick children — with a live feed from the worship service. The staff expects the cafe to provide a quiet place for people to connect in deeper conversation, Ronne said.

“We worked hard to make sure our different environments help make the Bible more relevant,” said Norwood Davis, the church’s chief financial officer. “And we want to lower the anxiety that comes from a new experience.”

To that end, congregants are encouraged not to bring children into the worship experience center, where the message and the medium are specifically for adults. Instead, parents may drop off their children in a venue to receive an age-appropriate message and activity.

“A single mom can know her children will be cared for well,” said Davis. “She can relax and connect meaningfully with God, without having to worry about her children. We don’t want a 2-year-old to disrupt anyone’s experience.”

The semicircular auditorium has graduated staircases, said Ronne, so that no seat is too far from the stage or the primary communicator, as speakers are called.

It has a variable room acoustic system that allows the stage to accommodate an orchestra, a praise band or someone with a soft voice. The auditorium can go “dead” for dramas, can be “livened up” to sound like Spivey Hall or can amplify sound dramatically.

The system’s price tag was about $250,000, Ronne said, “but we have to provide the best for the people who are here 52 weeks a year.”

There are five huge high-definition screens around the room to show films. Ronne cites studies indicating that retention of a message increases when information is seen as well as heard.

Usually there’s a short illustrative film to accompany whatever is being taught during worship on a particular Sunday. Made in house — film and music producers are on staff — sometimes in only seven days, film is an important part of 12Stone’s ministry “since our membership is so video-oriented,” Davis said.

Many of the church’s films can be seen on YouTube. One, “Consumerism! The musical,” has received 200,000 views, Ronne said.

Sunday services in the new facility will be filmed and sent to the church’s Hamilton Mill campus, to be shown the next week. 12Stone plans to open a second satellite campus somewhere in north metro Atlanta, Davis said.

Instead of going to Sunday school, adults at 12Stone meet in small study groups in one another’s homes during the week. But children receive a message on Sunday.

Parents also will encounter an electronic check-in system when they drop off their children on Sunday mornings. Both child and adult will receive a badge and a number, and no one will be allowed to leave without a match. It’s a system used by hospitals and health clubs.

The staff included the best features from a number of venues in the $30 million facility.

The 12Stone name comes from a story in the Old Testament book of Joshua: the 12 tribes of Israel stack 12 stones into a monument along the River Jordan after crossing into the Promised Land.

“That was a bold crossing,” said Davis. “God has given us the trust of a new building that will accommodate thousands. What we want to do is to inspire bold crossings.”

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