We have updated our Privacy Policy to provide you a better online experience.

An Epic Opportunity

Missouri church operates an indoor sports facility as a community outreach.

When EPIC Church in Independence, Missouri, began looking for more space for services and a way to boost its community impact, leaders didn’t have to look far. The opportunity proved to be right next door.

Last summer, the church began negotiations to purchase and operate EPIC Sports Lodge, a 70,000-square-foot indoor sports facility located beside its campus. It’s a move that provides a unique outreach opportunity for the church, as well as a future home for its growing Sunday morning services.

“People look at it and say, Wow, I'm not used to a church that's doing that‚’’ says Lead Pastor Bobby Hawk, 37, who planted the church in 2009. The church also runs a coffee shop and daycare out of its main facilities.

Hawk says the idea started with the need for more space. EPIC Church holds three services each week, with a total attendance of around 400. As the congregation increased, Hawk says church staff didn't want to build a new auditorium that would only be utilized for a few hours each week.

That prompted discussions with Jeff Wilke, owner of the next-door facility. Wilke attends a nearby Assemblies of God church, Crown Pointe Church in Lee’s Summit. The church is now in the process of purchasing the $5 million building, being managed under the name EPIC Sports Lodge. The church hopes to have full ownership within four years.

“It wouldn't be everybody's niche, but God knew that sports was a big part of our hearts, and He opened up the door,’’ Hawk says.

The lodge has two full indoor soccer fields, two basketball courts, a fitness center, and a practice field. It attracts local youth for open play hours every day, and serves as a home for soccer and basketball leagues on weeknights, as well as sporting tournaments and other events on weekends. The lodge charges $5 for general admission.

“It's a ministry opportunity,’’ says Executive Pastor Matt A. Rutledge, 34. “We think the church should not only look like the community it’s in, but it should be involved in it.’’

Each Thursday, the church dedicates all proceeds to suicide prevention programs in the local school district. The church also runs a coffee shop at the venue, and donates that revenue to local charities. EPIC Church's pastoral staff and local youth groups frequent the lodge, building relationships with those who come through the doors.

Feedback has been generally positive, Hawk says. Plans are afoot to incorporate sports ministries and outdoor activities. 

Ian Richardson

Ian Richardson is a 2014 graduate of Evangel University and former intern with the Pentecostal Evangel. He is originally from Afton, Iowa, where he grew up as the son of an Assemblies of God pastor.