Our Story

Early Beginnings

New Hope Community Church began in the early 20th century as Memorial United Brethren Church in Bryan, Ohio. The church was formed by a group of residents who had been associated with the United Brethren Denomination at various other locations and had relocated to Bryan. An old Universalist church building in downtown Bryan was purchased and for the next five decades a group of believer, though always small in number, met at this location.

In 1970, an offer to purchase this first building was accepted, and the congregation began looking for a place to build a new facility with the obtained monies. Although there were a couple of alternatives, a location in the then new Bona Vesta Subdivision on the northeast side of Bryan was chosen. A building of a little over 4,000 square feet was constructed, and the congregation, averaging about 50 in attendance at worship services, made the move to this facility in 1971 renaming themselves the Bona Vesta United Brethren Church.

A Gradual Decline

Over the following years there was a gradual decline in the attendance and membership of the church. This was partially due to the “hidden” location of the church, as it was accessible only from within the subdivision. There was no direct access from Highway 127, a highly traveled road that runs along the complete front of the subdivision. And even though only one row of homes separating the church property from the highway, the fact that there were homes, trees, and other buildings on these lots totally restricted the line of sight from the highway to the church building.

By 1984, Bona Vesta United Brethren Church had evolved into a very aged congregation. Average attendance at worship services was under 30. The church was part of a “circuit” with the Stryker United Brethren Church, with their pastor living in Stryker. There was even discussion at the conference level on the continuing existence of this congregation. Most of the congregation realized that they could not continue in their present mode much longer.

Making Changes

In 1984, a proposal was made by the North Ohio Conference to the Bona Vesta United Brethren Church that they become a Church Extension Project. The North Ohio Conference stationed Richard Thorp at Bona Vesta United Brethren Church with an agreement that the Conference would assume a portion of his support for a period of three years, with the amount of this support declining each of those three years. On Pastor Thorp’s first Sunday in July of 1984, there were sixteen present other than himself, and all sixteen were women.

Attendance had hit its low point, but began to grow. For all of 1984, the average worship attendance was 33, for 1985 it was 53, and for 1986, the average was 71. During this time, a sense of excitement began to build as new life came into the congregation.  Also, as a result of this growth, there became a sense that additional facilities were needed.  A building committee was formed and some building options were considered.

Coinciding with this, the three year declining financial commitment from the North Ohio Conference ended and, on July 1, 1987, the congregation became officially self-supporting. The date of July 1, 1987 also had additional significance as Pastor Thorp resigned to pursue another Church Extension project. On August 16, 1987, Pastor George Kreger, previously co-pastor of the Lake View United Brethren Church, accepted the call to Bryan.

During the second half of 1987, a small building project began at the church. This project involved the addition of about 1,400 square feet of classroom space, as well as an effort to change the appearance of the church so that it faced Highway 127. The house directly in front of the church had previously been purchased by the church and, in 1986, many trees and bushes, as well as a garage and a small building had been disposed of. Two driveways had been tied into Highway 127 and a large parking lot between the highway and the church was now installed. A large, lighted sign was placed along the highway calling attention to the church as the building project was taking place. Visibility was greatly enhanced and as the building project progressed, those on the highway saw the front of a church building and not the back.

1988 saw the growth continue as an average of 98 was achieved. 1989 resulted in an average attendance of 132 and 1990 saw this jump to 151. These years saw the church expand its ministries as well as modernize its facilities. A commitment to ministry and to excellence was very prevalent.

A New Name

In 1991, due to the fact that the church was averaging 150 people on a Sunday in a 5,700 square foot building, a very challenging building project of 14,000 square feet was embarked upon. The project included a 420 seat worship center, nursery, classrooms, and an office area. With tremendous involvement and sacrifice from the congregation, over 12,000 hours of donated labor were a part of this project; this building was dedicated in fall of 1993. Concurrent with the occupation of this new building, the church changed its name from Bona Vesta United Brethren to New Hope Community Church, accurately reflecting its renewed hope for the future as well as its desired outreach into the community.

The investment in this facility made it possible for New Hope to continue to grow while at the same time greatly expanding its ability to offer greater ministry opportunities. It wasn't long before the church added a second worship service and began planning its next expansion.  As New Hope continued to be blessed with growth, a third worship service would be added as well in the year 2000.

As the congregation grew throughout the 1990's, it became apparent that while we could always add additional worship services, our children’s and student areas were in need of expansion.  This need result in the planning of another building project which would more than double our ministry space for the ever-growing children and student ministries. A ground breaking ceremony was held in 2000 on the 6.5 acres just northeast of the original church building.  This land had been acquired during the 90’s by the church knowing that we could always expand there if the Lord blessed.  Because of its location across the street, the new building was named the North Campus while the original building became known as the South Campus.

During this phase, the church added a third Sunday morning worship service to accommodate the growing attendance. Construction of the North Campus was completed in 2002, giving us 28,000 additional square feet of space for classrooms, a gymnasium, an auditorium, a kitchen, and offices.  In the years after its completion and the relocation of our staff and some of our ministries to the North Campus offices, additional projects took place at the South Campus.  A second nursery of over 500 square feet was constructed to assist in our every growing infant and toddler age groups.  Much of the older section of the South Campus was remodeled over the following years to provide a very inviting and attractive pre-school ministry wing!

As you have read this history to this point, and learned of the significant growth of New Hope Community Church and the numerous major building projects, the question of how all this was financed is a common question.  We are pleased to share that our Elders always embraced the concept of paying for these projects as they were undertaken.  We are pleased to state that New Hope carries absolutely no debt on any of our facilities or operations, other than our debt to our God who has blessed us in ways we could never have imagined.

Toward the end of the decade of the 2000’s, Pastor George Kreger shared with the Elders his openness to beginning the process of preparing for his successor.  As Richard Thorp had laid a solid ministry foundation for Pastor Kreger, so the time had come to begin planning for New Hope’s next leader.  Much time and effort followed over the following two years as a transition process was envisioned, planned, and implemented.  And in May of 2012, after a quarter century as the Lead Pastor at New Hope, Pastor Kreger handed over his Lead Pastor title to his successor, Pastor Patrick Schwenk.  The Elders of New Hope and the congregation, and we believe fully God’s Holy Spirit; have fully affirmed repeatedly that Pastor Pat is to lead New Hope through this next exciting chapter.

As a church we are so looking forward to what will do through the ministry of New Hope.  Several new staff members have joined us for what we hope and pray will be another remarkable chapter in the life of our church.  God has been so faithful to us over the past three decades!  As He is the “same, yesterday, today and forever” we believe He has much in store for our future.

Reflecting back, our story is certainly one that is reflective of God's goodness and blessing as we have sought to be obedient in sharing the true hope that only Jesus Christ can provide to our community and area.  Looking to the future we do so with a great sense of excitement and expectation as we continue seeking to do that which we believe would be both pleasing and honoring of Him.