When Inspire Family Fellowship purchased the former Saxvik Elementary School from the Bismarck school district last April, the church acquired a building that required renovations to be up to city code, but also one with a lot of potential.
The church began upgrades almost immediately and moved its services there in July. The congregation now has completed the first phase of renovations. The church benefited from a lot volunteer work, with final costs for the property purchase and renovations coming in just under $1 million.
Pastor Randy Upgren, who has been a pastor in the Bismarck-Mandan community for more than 20 years and founded Inspire Family Fellowship in 2017, makes a point of knowing everyone in his congregation and having a place for everyone -- something that has been helped by the renovations.
“At our old location, the Baymont Inn, we had one room each for the youth and children’s ministries,” Upgren said. “Now we have a wing for each group.”
Each wing is designed with its users in mind. For example, the youth-preteen wing has its own coffee shop for kids to enjoy.
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In addition to inclusiveness, the congregation and Upgren pride themselves on the way the church serves the community. In addition to giving away 10% of its earnings each month to local chariteis, the church has classrooms available in the basement for community groups to use.
“I think the community was mostly concerned with what we would be doing here,” Upgren said. “Once they figured out what our emphasis is -- family and community -- they’ve been really happy.”
Inspire bought the 34,000-square-foot facility from Bismarck Public Schools in November 2018 for $399,000. District officials closed the school at the end of the 2015-16 school year due to declining enrollment and the need for costly upgrades.
Much of the church's Phase One renovations consisted of basic repairs and bringing the building up to code, along with repainting and preparing the former school for prolonged use by a growing congregation that now numbers about 700.
Going forward, the congregation will look to gradually improve the building and continue trying to improve the surrounding community. A Phase Two might be in the future; however it is unlikely to happen anytime soon due to cost and need. But the church is being enjoyed and appreciated by many.
“For us, it’s a huge blessing,” Upgren said.