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A new Christian church is convening in Newton-Conover Auditorium, and as it does, it combines a comfortable worship with cutting edge technology, while also providing a firmer foundation for the facility and the faithful.
Offering its first services Easter Sunday, The Cove Church established a new Catawba County home in Newton-Conover Auditorium. Guided by a site pastor who shepherds his local flock, the growing regional church offers a relaxed worship setting that connects with a broader community of faith thanks to the power of the Internet.
The Cove was first established in Mooresville in 1998. Two and a half years ago, the organization became a multi-site church as it expanded into adjoining communities including Statesville and, this year eastern Catawba County.
"Our senior pastor, Mike Madding, believed we needed to open a third campus, and we were not sure about where," said Dan Roseman, senior pastor for The Cove's Catawba Valley campus. "We wanted to grow in more than one location so we could tell people about Jesus in more than one place.
"We did some demographic research for different cities," Roseman continued. "We prayed about it a lot and believed God moved us in this direction."
Often, satellite campuses of a larger church prove more successfully than entirely new church plants, Roseman said.
"A church plant has a 80-90 percent fail rate within two years," Roseman said. "A church campus has a 90 percent success rate if there is already a leadership network. Statistically, a satellite is a more reliable place to put some resources in."
As The Cove was seeking a new site for a satellite campus, Newton-Conover Auditorium was also looking for opportunities for tenants that would rent auditorium space on a recurring basis. After a previous tenant, The Green Room Community Theater, moved to a new permanent home, there was a revenue void Auditorium leaders needed to fill.
"From a facility standpoint, they are renting the building 52 times a year, and they are renting it from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. every Sunday," Newton-Conover Auditorium Executive Director Reggie Helton said, adding that those hours of usage still allow facility managers to book other events after 3 p.m. "From a facility standpoint they are replacing half the revenue we lost from a former tenant, and their use of the building on Sunday has not affected me as far as renting it to others in the community."
Plus, as The Cove's unique reliance on technology also benefitted Newton-Conover auditorium.
With three separate church campuses in operation, The Cove presents several services, all of which deliver the same weekly messages from Cove Senior Pastor Mike Madding. Whether it is the evening service in Mooresville or the Sunday morning service in Newton-Conover, Internet broadcasting allows church-goers at the various campuses to experience the same Christian message.
"One of the reasons we do message that way is because we are one church in multiple locations, and it is a benefit for us to all be on the same page," said Brooklyn Madding, director of missions for The Cove. "And every service after it is over, you can download it, (from the Internet) and watch or download and listen."
And to help deliver that message, The Cove invested in technology upgrades at Newton-Conover Auditorium.
"I was blown away by the amount of technology upgrades they wanted to make," Helton said, adding before The Cove's arrival the Auditorium received a grant to install new projection and video display equipment.
"What we were planning to install didn't meet their needs, so they matched our contribution and upgraded significantly.
"We now have the biggest non-movie theater screen in Catawba County," Helton said of the screen with the 270 diagonal. "We have a high-definition projector with an an amazing sound system.
Technology-wise, we are comparable with any facility in the region."
With high-definition projectors, high-tech sound systems and sermon messages delivered by Internet, The Cove certainly is a 21st Century Church, and as such, it appeals to those who might feel uncomfortable in other churches.
"One of the hallmarks of The Cove is we are a Christian church, with a message presented in a relaxed setting," Brooklyn Madding said, adding Pastor Mike Madding delivers sermons that are "relevant to people's lives."
"We really make the services easy to understand, even if the people have never been to church," she continued.
And that's part of the audience Roseman said he hopes the Catawba Valley campus will attract.
"People who have felt uncomfortable in a church before can come here and feel comfortable," Roseman said. "When you come in, you can expect to find a relaxed setting, a free cup of coffee and friendly people.
You can expect to hear the message of Jesus to be presented in a non-threatening way. We try to do everything we do in a non-threatening way."
Technology even allows The Cove to present Spanish translations of every message. A Spanish-speaking visitor to the church can obtain a headset, and as English speakers hear Pastor Madding's message, they can hear the same message in Spanish.
However, for all of The Cove's aspects that might seem unconventional, it still fills traditional roles of the church, particularly with Roseman installed as campus pastor alongside with a staff of three.
"We have found that outside of preaching, there is a lot of pastoral responsibility. They are caring for people, they are leading a staff," said Roseman, a Statesville-area native who has been involved with The Cove about two years. "There is a need for leadership and direction, and a need for someone to be as immersed in the community as possible, so that I can see what is needed outside the four walls of the building."
Serving as a campus pastor for an organization larger than one site-specific congregation, Roseman said he can develop relationships with citizens and other organizations so "we can be the church more than just on Sunday mornings."
Plus, as campus pastor Roseman also fills a role of "master-of-ceremonies" for services each Sunday mornings. Each weekly service dawn about 9 a.m. at Newton-Conover Auditorium. First Roseman said there is fellowship and church-goers can gather and talk before the program begins at 9:30 a.m. with praise and worship music in a contemporary style, Brooklyn Madding said.
"It is really upbeat and dynamic," she said. "The campus pastor is on stage and he says a few words and prays, and then the video begins and the message happens."
During services, The Cove offers ministry for children, "Cove Kids."
"The Cove Kids' purpose is not to be a baby-sitter. We are there to tell the children about Jesus and so that the parents can hear the message of Jesus without having to watch over their children for an hour and a half," he said, adding child security is a top priority for The Cove.
The church also provides parents with materials they can use to talk with their children about the Christian faith.
"We are there to equip the parents to tell their own children about Jesus," Roseman said.
So far response has been positive.
"I have met a lot of people who came because they were curious.
Multi-site is a relatively new concept for a church," he said, adding that doctrine-wise the church is affiliated with the Baptist denomination. "We have had nothing but positive response, even among some who were skeptical."
For Easter Sunday, the church welcomed about 262 people, and attendance has been as low as the 130s, but on average, the congregation has been consistently near 200.
Roseman also said he is looking forward to building relationships with other area ministries.
"We don't try to say we are better than any church or that the churches here aren't doing their job," he said. "God is moving us here, and we want to reach more people, and develop friendships with the other churches because we believe we are working with them. We have not sensed animosity from any of them."
And the church is hoping to be here for the long-term.
"For now, we have a fantastic home, and we have put a real significant investment into the building, so we have no immediate plans of going anywhere," Roseman said.