FRANKFORT – The mission statement on the website of a Frankfort church caught the attention of Tina Blackburn of Joliet.
“Our motto is to love God, love people, live it out,” she read.
Instantly, Blackburn said, she knew God wanted her and her husband, Allen Blackburn, to be part of Hickory Creek Community Church.
They’re now part of its weekly Bible studies, Tina Blackburn said, and God is becoming more real to her. She said other members live a sincere faith. The pastor and his wife worship alongside their flock, she added.
Tina Blackburn said the children’s programs are as phenomenal as the people who run them.
“You can see the love in the eyes and smiles of the leaders for the kids,” she said.
Since 2004, Hickory Creek Community Church has experienced tremendous growth both in members and building size. The church will host a grand opening for the community Saturday and Sunday.
Humble beginnings, and new vision
Hickory Creek was founded in 1972 as a Southern Baptist church, said its pastor, the Rev. Scott Kircher. In 1973, it became Frankfort Baptist Chapel. In 1975, members bought land, which the church paid off in 1979. Members met in a local school until the church was built on that land in 1985. Everything remained the same until 2007.
In 2002, Kircher was a financial futures broker for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange when he received the call from God to enter seminary. Two years later, Kircher was sent to Hickory Creek – where Sunday attendance at the time averaged 38 – as an interim pastor.
In 2005, Hickory Creek hired Kircher as its full-time pastor. Kircher admired the commitment of the tiny congregation and encouraged the members to enhance both their commitment and their facilities.
“I knew if we worked together as the body of Christ, we could do some amazing things,” Kircher said.
At the time, Hickory Creek had $30,000 in the bank. Kircher suggested the church spend the $30,000 for upgrades and repairs. Church members – who were small in number, but not in faith – did as Kircher suggested.
One year later, in 2006, Hickory Creek had 130 members and $30,000 in the bank, Kircher said.
“The congregation saw that God wanted to do something here,” he said. “We trusted him, and we’ve been growing ever since.”
The fruits of their faith
Kircher said Hickory Creek built a new worship center in 2008 and added a kids ministry center to it. Gradually, Hickory Creek hired additional pastors and ministry leaders.
Ministries and activities the church now offers include Bible studies, prayer groups, community outreach, active mission work and short-term mission trips for youth and adults, according to a church news release.
In addition, Hickory Creek offers ministries for men, women, and junior and senior high school students, as well as an Awana children’s ministry, the release stated. Most recently, the church underwent its second major expansion in eight years.
According to the release, Hickory Creek added more than 65 percent of additional space and completely renovated the existing space. Today, the nearly 15,000-square-foot facility includes an updated and expanded worship center that seats 470, a new ministry center for kids ages preschool through fifth grade, an entry and foyer area that more than doubled in size and an administrative area for the ministry staff.
The expanded space is definitely needed. Kircher said Hickory Creek has been “running close to 600” at worship services. At the church’s dedication service earlier this month, 725 people attended, he added.
About 800 people – most of them from the New Lenox, Frankfort and Mokena areas – call Hickory Creek their church.
“There’s a lot of love here,” Kircher said. “I often hear from people, ‘When I walked into Hickory Creek for the first time, I felt like I was home.’ ”
As Hickory Creek continues to change and develop, Kircher hopes the church doesn’t grow so quickly that people feel lost or unimportant. Part of the mission of Hickory Creek is to welcome people of all ages and to minister to them wherever they are in life.
“We want you to walk in and feel like it’s family,” Kircher said.
Kircher refuses to take credit for Hickory Creek’s renewal.
“I attribute the growth to the people,” Kircher said. “God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. When we can rely on him to use the gifts he’s given us, God works in powerful ways.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Grand opening weekend
WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 and 11 a.m. Sunday
WHERE: Hickory Creek Community Church, 10660 Lincoln Highway, Frankfort