Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 10, 2012

Movin' on up

LifeSong Church has new home in downtown Russell

Mark Maynard
Associated Press

ASHLAND —  LifeSong Church is making another, more permanent move, this weekend.

Beginning Sunday, the church founded in 2006 through the Kentucky Baptist Convention as a “high impact” church will be making an impact in its new home in Russell.

LifeSong has taken over the former Russell Central Elementary school buildings in downtown Russell.

It came after a generous offering from Jerald Witten, who lives in Houston but has ties to the area. He owned the property and offered it to LifeSong — for a song, or essentially free.

“We came down and looked at it in the spring of 2009,” said LifeSong Pastor Keith Menshouse. “We told him no for a year. We’d started in Ashland and launched in Ashland so we weren’t sure we wanted to move out of Ashland.”

But LifeSong was essentially a church without a place to call home. They started out in the Hope’s Place building on Greenup Avenue, but quickly outgrew that space. They then moved to the Paramount Arts Center for Sunday morning services, but spent a lot of time moving equipment in and out.

“They were really great to us, but there was a lot of wear and tear of loading and unloading,” Menshouse said.

They would begin setting up at 8:30 in the morning for the 11 a.m. service and then started breaking down until about 1:30 p.m. Menshouse was part of the moving team so he never was able to truly meet the congregation in a casual setting.

“There’s people I have no idea who they are,” he said. “I’m looking forward to meeting my church.”

There has been a lot of work done in the new facility, including putting in a new elevator. Several other inside projects have given the Sunday school rooms a fresh look. The morning service will be in the recreation center, with seats on the gymnasium floor aimed toward the stage of the old Russell High School gym.

Keith Menshouse will be preaching in a gym where his late father, Glen Menhouse, played basketball for Russell.

More than 300 chairs are set up for Sunday’s first service in the recreation center, which will be used at other times as the gymnasium — making it a gym-a-torium for the church.

Menshouse said while LifeSong has about 100 members, the Sunday services are routinely nearly double that total.

LifeSong is a Baptist church but not in the traditional sense. Everything from dress to the way visitors are approached is casual. They are seeking individuals who have never been to church or haven’t been in a long time, Menshouse said.

“I’m very pleased with the focus of where LifeSong is at,” he said. “We want to stay true to our mission statement.”

The vision is to become a magnet for those in the community who are seeking a church home but have become disillusioned with a previous experience.

LifeSong was launched as one of 25 “High Impact Churches” through KBC funding as an ongoing strategy to reach the unchurched. They were given $100,000 over a five-year period. The church is self-sufficient now, Menshouse said.

Fairview Baptist Church was the sponsoring church and is still where LifeSong has its baptisims. LifeSong is part of the Greenup Association of Baptists.

“Anything we’ve done has not been us,” Menshouse said. “God has opened the doors.”

Menshouse was asked to spearhead the effort not long after his son, Clark, was seriously injured in a horrific automobile accident. He has made a near miraculous recovery, recently graduating from Western Kentucky University and gotten married.

“When you see God do that kind of thing, you don’t sweat the little details,” he said.

It was usually at this time of the year when LifeSong had to move its Sunday meetings from the PAC because of the Festival of Trees and Trains.

“We’d be out for about three weeks,” he said.

This year though the move from the PAC to a new location will be permanent.

LifeSong has occupied the new building since the spring of 2011 and had a lot of church and community support in getting the space ready for use.

“John Clark sent us over a crew of guys who worked four or five months and he paid them,” Menshouse said. “They got a lot of our labor done. The last two years I’ve been more construction manager than pastor.”

Parking is an area of concern, but Menshouse said local businesses have been generous in offering spaces. They have been welcomed to the neighborhood, he said.

“We’ll have 10 or 12 guys in bright yellow vests directing traffic” on Sunday, he said.

While everything may not be perfectly in place yet, Menshouse looks to the future of LifeSong with more hope than ever.

“God has been good to us,” he said.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.