Any pastor of a church is happy when all the seats are filled for Sunday services and for one new Canfield church, this is no exception. Grace Family Church is about filled to capacity and church members are searching for a larger facility.
"We're at the 100 mark on average, but we pretty much fill the room," said Pastor Jonathan Moore.
Moore is the founder of Grace Family Church. He said it has been a long road, but he wanted to offer a church for those who don't feel at home in a traditional church atmosphere. At Grace Family Church, he delivers the sermon in casual dress. He welcomes everyone to attend in casual clothing and said he will not turn away people who may be sporting a lot of tattoos.
Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Pastor Jonathan Moore shows some of the fun ways his new church works with kids, using sports to help teach the Bible.
"Our goal is not to take people away from other churches," he said. "We here to provide a different atmosphere for those who don't attend church."
Moore spent the better part of his life in the ministry. He graduated from Struthers High School in 1978 and attended Youngstown State University where he was pursuing a degree in education. Just before completing his bachelor's degree, Moore transitioned from a career in education and coaching to the ministry. In 1996, he received his bachelor's degree in Bible and theology from Global University, where he is currently working on his master's degree.
From 1995 to 2001, Moore served as a foreign missionary with Assemblies of God. He resided in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa. Following his mission work, he returned to the area and for the past 11 years was the lead pastor at Highway Tabernacle in Austintown. He also served as president of Youngstown Christian School in Boardman.
Moore left Highway Tabernacle to form his own church in October of 2012.
"We started as a nondenominational church with a group of individuals from all ages, cultures, and walks of life who were committed to no longer be bound by religion in order to pursue the grace of God, utilizing a nontraditional setting as a means of reaching their community and world."
The church started with small gatherings in different homes each week, then a deal was made for a space at the former Harley Davidson building on U.S. 224. Regular services are held there, including coffee and doughnuts.
"It is a relaxed atmosphere," he said.
He also used his coaching expertise to form a new type of men's Bible study called "Gear Up." In this program, each member is given a playbook and they gather around tables to hold discussions. They talk about a Bible chapter for 15 minutes, then a whistle blows and they move on to the next section of verses. It continues until all four quarters are complete.
The football theme has even spilled over into the youth classes that are set up with a concession stand to welcome the children each week. Their lessons follow a similar format that makes it fun for them.
While the church has progressed well over the past year, Moore said it is time to look for a larger store front to continue the work. He said his church members prefer the store front as a more casual approach to reaching the community.
"We continue to connect with people and we want to be another option," Moore said. "A more casual atmosphere that removes any unnecessary barriers non-church people may have."