Heartland Community Church Takes a Pay Cut

By: Faran Fronczak
By: Faran Fronczak

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.


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  • by Tim on May 31, 2012 at 06:58 AM
    Dave, I encourage you to read my first comment you replied to. I have NEVER been to Heartland church. You are avoiding the issue. In none of my comments have I supported Heartland or any of its leaders. You however level serious claims yet sidestep whenever you are asked to produce proof. If this information is available with some digging then why haven't any of the news organizations in town done stories? If you have information then what better way to avenge and/or honor your family members who you claim were swindled of their life savings then to bring this information to the authorities. If you truly are as educated as you claim you would know that it would be better to give your evidence to the authorities then to make baseless claims on a news site. Yet instead of doing the right thing you backtrack and make false accusations of me (like I said, I do not go nor have not gone to Heartland). Since you choose to take the path you are you only come across as spiteful, making unwarranted claims.
    • reply
      by Dave on May 31, 2012 at 01:30 PM in reply to Tim
      I in no way said you were a member of this church. You may want to do some reading. It is laughable that you would ask why no news agency has looked into this. Well for the same reason they do not look into other stories. If they were great reporters that knew where to find information they would not be working in Rockford. Its for the same reason they won't roast Morrissey for all they money he has wasted on trips to China. They just are not that good. What did I accuse you of? For the record there Timmy boy. My information is from a bought and paid for private investigator to the tune of $1350.00. I do not side step. I prepare. I am still preparing. When I am fully prepared I will roast those who have fraudulently obtained money in a court of law.
      • reply
        by Dale Doback on Jun 1, 2012 at 05:00 AM in reply to Dave
        OK Dave, I'm going to have to agree with Tim in that you are just angry over this feeling that your family was swindled out of their savings. I would be upset if I felt that way too. It's clear now that you do not have any information, and it's "laughable" that you would tell Tim and myself to "dig deep" when you had someone do the "digging" for you. If there is any information, it clearly isn't public otherwise YOU would have found it, and not spent any money trying to dig up dirt. You also mentioned that this jet "stays in there air" and is disguised under homeland security. Really? Let's say that is true, then you obviously have information that, once again, is not public knowledge therefore can not be found by "digging deep". If you have a problem with the church, and want to see them in court, then just start the process. By coming to this page and accusing people of crimes isn't doing anyone any good. PS you told "timmy boy" to sit up front, listen closely, and then put your money in the collection plate" which implies that he goes to Heartland. BTW, its Deming, not Demming.
      • reply
        by Tim on Jun 1, 2012 at 06:51 AM in reply to Dave
        Well if that's the case then you must not have any confidence in the information $1350 bought you. Because with your latest comment here one has to wonder who is more gullable: your relatives who were 'swindled' by the leaders of Heartland (as you claim), or you who paid $1350 for information that apparently is only good enough for you to allude to in comments to a story on a station's web site.
  • by notgood Location: Rockford on May 29, 2012 at 08:47 PM
    you all need to vent somewhere else. what about the new converts to Christ. Will you destroy any work of the Lord. The bible says they were like children running around gossiping.(1 Peter 4:15) . . .However, let none of YOU suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a busybody in other people’s matters. So shut up would ya's. get a life and go serve the Lord. If this church is not of God it will totaly fall to the ground and is that what you really want. Rockford has had many churches fall. So lets all pray for Rockford and seek the Lord first before we open our big fat mouths. Stop one second and think before speaking. did you ever try that. Its funny how money afects all of us. If you gave money from your heart thats great. Now if the next person does evel with it its not your falt. Of course you need to be wise in your giving . But please dont run around bashing after you gave.
  • by Tim on May 29, 2012 at 11:20 AM
    At the outset let me say that I have never been to Heartland. Now Dave, you seem to be pretty strong in your views. You claim to have done some deep digging. The solution is simple, if you have true, factual, undeniable proof of private airplanes and homes in Catalina purchased with church money and/or money that was not intended for these items, then by all means approach a media outlet with the factual information. There are enough left leaning media outlets around that would jump at the chance to bash any type of judeo-christian organization, and if you have factual information then all the more reason for their investigation. However, to simply claim to have 'dug deeper' than anyone else does not provide 100% truthfulness to your claim. Churches (or church staff) that personally profit with money intended for church purposes should be called out. But at the very least, if you do not feel right with how your church is spending the money you give to it, leave. See that's one of the good things/things nobody seems to remember: God doesn't really care where you love/honor/worship Him, just that you love/honor/worship Him. Remember, it's a PERSONAL relationship with the Lord.
  • by Tim on May 29, 2012 at 11:20 AM
    At the outset let me say that I have never been to Heartland. Now Dave, you seem to be pretty strong in your views. You claim to have done some deep digging. The solution is simple, if you have true, factual, undeniable proof of private airplanes and homes in Catalina purchased with church money and/or money that was not intended for these items, then by all means approach a media outlet with the factual information. There are enough left leaning media outlets around that would jump at the chance to bash any type of judeo-christian organization, and if you have factual information then all the more reason for their investigation. However, to simply claim to have 'dug deeper' than anyone else does not provide 100% truthfulness to your claim. Churches (or church staff) that personally profit with money intended for church purposes should be called out. But at the very least, if you do not feel right with how your church is spending the money you give to it, leave. See that's one of the good things/things nobody seems to remember: God doesn't really care where you love/honor/worship Him, just that you love/honor/worship Him. Remember, it's a PERSONAL relationship with the Lord.
    • reply
      by Dave on May 30, 2012 at 08:21 AM in reply to Tim
      Here is the thing. I belong to a smaller church. Though there are the politics that go on as at any church there is not so much going on that a member cannot clearly see the direction of the church. The excuse given here for the financials not to be present in the lobby is absurd. Stating that they did not want the congregation to how poorly things are. That is the point when it is most important to be honest. If you want to know the facts about this church you certainly have to look beyond the local. As to fleecing. If manipulating an emotionally weak person and angling an older persons views/beliefs to take money from reducing that persons standard of living to nothing is Ok then heartland is one great church.
      • reply
        by Tim on May 30, 2012 at 02:59 PM in reply to Dave
        Dave, unfortunately you did not do anything in your reply to give credit or proof to your claims of a private jet or homes in Catalina. If you have hard proof then your claims are given merit. If not, then you just sound like you are making false claims because of issues that have happened to your family members. If these people were not in full control of their faculties and were manipulated then produce proof and speak to authorities. Did these people want to give what they did? Regardless if you feel they were manipulated, if they gave freely and wanted to do so you can't really complain.
        • reply
          by Dave on May 30, 2012 at 03:30 PM in reply to Tim
          I do not hold the hands of others and lead them to the proof. It is all of public record. Unfortunately it takes some education, know how and effort to go find what you want. You go ahead and sit up front, listen closely and then put your money in the collection plate. I am a bit more confrontational than to just call the authorities. When a stick is poked in my bee's nest I come out stinging as I will with this crooked organization when the time comes. I walk through the front door, find the person in charge and then make sure they know that everyone else will soon know they are nothing more than a crook masking in religion and stipends. Heartland should not even be aloud to call itself anything associated with God. For the record Tim what have you posted that is anything near factual about this church? What have you looked into beyond this article and the comments posted here? As the great Demming stated "You are blind and have everything to lose when you speak without profound knowledge". What profound knowledge do you have in regard to anything associated with this church? Yeah, thats what I thought.
  • by Dale Doback Location: Rockford on May 29, 2012 at 11:20 AM
    Dave, I applaud you for coming to a public forum and speaking your mind. You have every right to do that, and it's nice to see people express themselves. Now, I asked a simple question in my last response, and you didn't answer it. If Heartland does own a private jet, which you claim, then why wouldn't they have sent it to pick up their own employees/members/family during a time of great need? That would make sense to me. If you have proof, then share it and I would be glad to give it a look. Until then, telling me to "look deep" makes no sense. I'm guessing that your allegations are just hearsay. Also, if your family members gave away 20% or more of their life savings and feel they have been ripped off, then I am deeply sorry. I was a member at heartland for 6 years and was NEVER told a single time that I needed to give all of my money, give 20% of my savings, or any of that. As a Christian, I follow what I am told to do in Scripture as a believer and that is to tithe the first 10%. The church follows this same principle. In times of great need, I may have given more, or in times where I had been blessed by something unexpected, but the churches preaching was always been backed by Scripture. The homes in Catalina, I did not address because I have no clue what you are talking about. Some former staff and members started their own church in Ventura, if that's what you are thinking of? I know that the Bankords have a vacation home in Florida, but not California. I can tell you that they were wealthy before Heartland, and that they sold their mansion for a more reasonable condo just a couple of years ago. All of that to say that maybe there was foul play involved, I don't know that there wasn't, and you don't know that there was, but to automatically assume, blast rumor as truth, and to willingly ignore what the church HAS done for the community is just ignorant.
  • by Dale Doback Location: Rockford on May 29, 2012 at 11:19 AM
    Dave, I applaud you for coming to a public forum and speaking your mind. You have every right to do that, and it's nice to see people express themselves. Now, I asked a simple question in my last response, and you didn't answer it. If Heartland does own a private jet, which you claim, then why wouldn't they have sent it to pick up their own employees/members/family during a time of great need? That would make sense to me. If you have proof, then share it and I would be glad to give it a look. Until then, telling me to "look deep" makes no sense. I'm guessing that your allegations are just hearsay. Also, if your family members gave away 20% or more of their life savings and feel they have been ripped off, then I am deeply sorry. I was a member at heartland for 6 years and was NEVER told a single time that I needed to give all of my money, give 20% of my savings, or any of that. As a Christian, I follow what I am told to do in Scripture as a believer and that is to tithe the first 10%. The church follows this same principle. In times of great need, I may have given more, or in times where I had been blessed by something unexpected, but the churches preaching was always been backed by Scripture. The homes in Catalina, I did not address because I have no clue what you are talking about. Some former staff and members started their own church in Ventura, if that's what you are thinking of? I know that the Bankords have a vacation home in Florida, but not California. I can tell you that they were wealthy before Heartland, and that they sold their mansion for a more reasonable condo just a couple of years ago. All of that to say that maybe there was foul play involved, I don't know that there wasn't, and you don't know that there was, but to automatically assume, blast rumor as truth, and to willingly ignore what the church HAS done for the community is just ignorant.
  • by Rachel on May 29, 2012 at 07:13 AM
    Karen, just curious why you wouldn't become a member if you love Heartland so much, have been baptized, etc....that's a huge problem at Heartland...people don't fully commit themselves...they attend because it's "fun", they have great music, etc...but then they leave and don't volunteer or help financially. How can a church survive if people are only halfhearted in their support? I don't understand it.
    • reply
      by Michael on May 29, 2012 at 09:00 AM in reply to Rachel
      Well Rachel, your statement here only proves a lot of others opinions. Think about that, and if you don't understand why I say that, then you are the brainwashed and fleeced fool.
      • reply
        by Rachel on May 29, 2012 at 12:11 PM in reply to Michael
        which statement is that Michael? I've made a few-you need to be more specific. Thanks
    • reply
      by Karen on May 30, 2012 at 07:43 AM in reply to Rachel
      Hmmm. I guess you missed the whole message I was trying to say! I have volunteered at Heartland. I also have volunteered at Sharefest. And when I do go to Heartland I do give 10 percent. And have donated money to other causes their,and as for feeling like I have to be a member,never did I feel like that is what they are about! I do not have a simple 9to5 mon tru friday job.And I was baptized because I was ready to give my life to GOD. You so missed the point! I am sorry for that!
  • by Karen Location: Rockford on May 29, 2012 at 05:47 AM
    I have sat and read comments from those who may have never set foot inside Heartland. They have done so much good for people, this leaves me feeling sad! I am not a member but am one of the thousands who attend. Yes thousands! My teenage son has attended youth camps,and I was baptised at Heartland in 2007.Every single service has left me feeling like the message was meant for me.What other Church has helped so many different types of people. They have had divorce groups,addiction, mens groups,revamping schools,youth group retreats,and yes even proms every year! Any idea what other churches do that? I love that they are a come as you are church. Thats how they bring others to GOD. So if Jesus tweets is how they do it, then I say AMEN!!!! btw it had a great message!
  • by Rachel Location: Rockford on May 29, 2012 at 05:20 AM
    I was just guessing that a lot the comments are from people who have never stepped foot in Heartland so how would they know what's going on? Church or people who attend church are a favorite and easy target for those that have never attended, had a bad experience at church..so they feel it is their appointed duty to bash churches and those that attend. That used to make me angry now it just makes me sad for the "bashers". I have a very close relative that works there so I do know a lot. Mark Bankord made some bad decisions and is now, thankfully, gone. Heartland is a church full of imperfect people but are trying to get things right. They "fleeced" 2 members of your family?? OK.whatever that means??..It's just funny how everybody "knows" what happens at Heartland but have never stepped foot inside of it just know from what my "neighbor's cousin's ex-wife" said. Heartland will go on and might make a few more mistakes..it is full of imperfect people trying to do good things. Try a little common sense, compassion and forgiveness.
  • by Rachel Location: Rockford on May 28, 2012 at 07:29 AM
    It is so funny how people that aren't religious and don't attend Heartland feel qualified to comment. It's a free country - you're free to have an opinion but it is so way off it's laughable. People base their opinions on ridiculous rumors, lies and gossip...sad because Heartland has done a lot of good but people choose to be negative and cynical...so be it. Thankfully lots of Heartland members choose otherwise.
    • reply
      by Dave on May 28, 2012 at 03:46 PM in reply to Rachel
      So because a church has done a lot of people good its OK to deceive the others? You think everything that is posted here is rumors, lies or gossip? I see first hand how the fleeced (2) members of my family. You feel that because people post these things they are not religious? How did you make that connection? You are just another being led blindly to slaughter. But hey run in and write them a check for 20K and Im sure they will make you feel warm and fuzzy all over.
    • reply
      by Dione on May 28, 2012 at 04:27 PM in reply to Rachel
      Aaaaaaaand cue the Heartland Bots! Gotta love how quickly they slither for "damage Control" =)
    • reply
      by laughing on May 29, 2012 at 04:40 AM in reply to Rachel
      Church is laughable. Period.
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