It's known as the biggest church in Rockford with thousands attending services every weekend. But for the first time since taking over a local mall, employees with Heartland Church say they're starting to feel the effects of the economy.
In 2005, Heartland Community Church purchased The Colonial Village mall for $8 million. Then came a $13 million renovation. Now more than 6 years later, church leaders say their organization is still paying for it. "Owning a mall certainly has been a challenge during the recession. But we're grateful we have a lot of new tenants in the mall, and that's been a huge help," says Lead Pastor Doug Thiesen.
He says tenants haven't been able to bring Heartland completely out of the red. Despite serving about 5,000 members every weekend, one pastor says Rockford's largest church is seeing attendance drop.
14 members of the leadership team are sacrificing 10% of their pay to help cut costs. "We're looking at the whole organization. Restructuring our organization. Focusing in on our core ministries. Just doing what's most important for us," says Thiesen. The church has about 75 employees, including some volunteer positions. Pastor Thiesen says despite the challenges, the organization's services will not be affected.
The church says budget problems won't affect any of their intended events coming up including Sharefest this summer. Also the church's two co-founders Mark and Sherri Bankord just resigned after serving the stateline 14 years.