Northeast Mesa’s Via Church is in the middle of a multiphase transformation to keep up with its growing congregation.
Phase one calls for the demolition of the older buildings, and the construction of a parking lot and landscaping. Phase two will see the renovation of the auditorium where the congregation worships.
“We have six buildings, with build dates ranging from 1973 to 2006, and the four oldest buildings are connected by one roof,” said lead pastor Rick Thiemke.
“Over the last couple years, we’ve been trying to assess our needs. We had a roundtable of people from the congregation with different areas of expertise—construction, law and finance. We did all of our due diligence on what it would take to upkeep those older buildings that aren’t very efficient.”
Phase one began in mid-July, with Thiemke taking the first swing at the chapel.
“There’s a lot of mixed emotions,” he said. “It takes a lot of sacrifice, financially and human resources efforts to put up a building. It’s not an easy feat to remove a building. Every square foot costs a lot of money to put up.”
Kicking off in 2020, Phase two is still being financed, Thiemke said. “
“It is the renovation of the auditorium where we worship,” he said. “It was built in 1997. It’s kid and family friendly. We’re still raising money for that.”
The cost to repair and maintain—not even improving—the buildings would have been “exorbitant.” Thiemke said he’d rather put money into the two remaining buildings the congregation chose to keep. They also take up “a lot less footprint.”
Having a new parking lot will be of great help to the congregation, he said. Right now, Via Church’s parking lot on Power Road and not contiguous. Parking is at a premium, and the church officials run golf carts to shuttle members to the church.
“We feel like getting more parking on the campus is going to help us,” he said. “Our newest buildings can’t be seen from Power Road. These buildings were built when Power Road was Bush Highway, which was a two-lane desert road. That road’s been widened over the years and it’s really changed those original plans and how the buildings are going to function.”
Before the demolition, Thiemke allowed the Mesa Fire Department and SWAT team to perform drills in the building. After word got out about the opportunity, Gilbert and Tempe first responders followed.
“That’s been a great thing to allow them to use the buildings in that way,” he said. “It’s a rare training opportunity for some of our first responders. It worked out really well. The congregation felt good allowing the community to be able to benefit from that.”
Thiemke arrived in the Valley in May 2011 to fulfill a need for a pastor at Via Church. Previously, Thiemke led a church in Yorkville, Illinois, through a major revitalization. Starting with just 18 members and 50 in attendance, the church experienced dramatic growth with 67% of the congregation having received Christ at New Life Church during his 11 years of leadership.
He’s had similar success at Via Church.
“I told them no at first, but tell me what’s happening,” said Thiemke, who lives in Mountain Bridge with his wife, Susan. “I told them I would pray with them. I was coaching them along a little bit and it became apparent that this is what God was doing in my life. I tried to stay open to it and the congregation voted me in in 2011. It’s been great to help a congregation that was started in 1973. There’s a lot of history there. We’re honoring the past, but staying more loyal to the future.”