Freshwater finishing up Waconia campus

“One church, two locations” is an easy way to sum up the multi-site church approach that Freshwater Community Church will be employing when its new Waconia campus launches on Sunday, Nov. 10.
“The biggest challenge with the congregation and the community is explaining what a multi-site church looks like,” said John Braland, the lead pastor at Freshwater, whose St. Bonifacius campus has been serving the greater Minnetrista area since the late 1990s. “Once people see what it’s all about, they think it’s really cool.”
At St. Bonifacius, services will be held at 9:30 and 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Sundays. The Waconia campus will hold services at 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. on Sundays. Services at the Waconia campus will mirror those at St. Bonifacius, right down to the inspirational live music that is a highlight of any Freshwater service.
The Waconia campus will be guided by Pastor Steve Erickson but Braland will serve as the lead pastor and provide the sermons for both campuses. Braland will deliver his sermon live for the St. Bonifacius services as well as the 5 p.m. Saturday service in Waconia. Perhaps the biggest difference between the campuses is that those attending the Waconia campus for the 10 a.m. Sunday service will watch Braland’s sermon via video.
“We’re really into maximizing technology,” said Braland, noting that Freshwater is no stranger to incorporating video and other technology in its ministry. For example, it’s not uncommon to watch someone share their story on video during a Freshwater church service. The church also produces Freshwater TV, a weekly cable access program that airs on Channel 13 (Mediacom) at 8:30 p.m. on Monday nights.
The Waconia campus is expected to attract approximately 200 to 300 of the 1,000+ parishioners who currently attend services at the church’s overcrowded campus in St. Bonifacius each week.
“The church has grown and we’re out of space there,” said Erickson, who noted the church had limited options. It could spend approximately $10 million to purchase land and construct a new building or take the path that it’s on now, which meant finding an existing building and creating a second campus.
Freshwater found the ideal location in the old Dueber’s building in downtown Waconia.
The church acquired the 18,000 square-foot building this spring. Demo work started in May and extensive renovations began in July. Freshwater is planning to hold a ribbon cutting and open house for area businesses at 10 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 1. The campus will hold its first church service at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 10.
The approximately $1.4 million project is being built in phases and funded through donations from the congregation, which has provided volunteer labor that has shaved about $300,000 off the cost of the project. Both Braland and Erickson thanked the congregation for its support of the Waconia campus project.
“Everyone has contributed significantly, no matter what their gifts or strengths are,” said Erickson, who started at Freshwater about eight months ago specifically to launch and pastor the Waconia campus.
The sanctuary will comfortably seat 350 people and will be used for worship services and other gatherings. Freshwater officials anticipate making the space accessible to the community for everything from homeowner association meetings to funerals. It will feature a state-of-the-art audio/video system so any group needing high tech audio/video capability will be welcome to use this multi-purpose room, which will include a stage.
The lobby area will include a full coffee bar with Sunday barista and will feature the same barn board decor that is found at the St. Bonifacius campus, a touch that will further strengthen the connection between the two locations. After getting a beverage from the coffee bar, people will be able to gather at nearby tables and booths.
A multi-purpose room dubbed The Lake is located in the northwest corner of the building. This area will include a stage and closet space and will be used for children’s ministry, meetings and other events. Classroom space can be found on the east side of the building by a new east entrance/exit. Unlike in St. Bonifacius, Freshwater will not offer childcare services at its Waconia location mainly because there isn’t a need for it.
The southwest corner of the building will eventually feature a Student Ministries area that church officials hope will not only serve Freshwater but teens from the community, as well. In this area, church officials hope to offer everything from tutoring services for elementary-aged children to a place for teens to spend time.
“If we can provide a positive influence here and impact youth with morals and values and a safe place to hang out, we want to do that,” said Braland, who noted that the project has a nice local feel to it. “One of the best things is that we’ve been able to utilize local companies on the project. It’s been a great thing.”
Braland mentioned that Freshwater has heard a lot of positive feedback from downtown businesses and citizens about the new campus. “It’s bringing a whole lot of life down here,” he said. “Nobody wanted to see the building empty so community-wise, it’s a great thing. It’s an investment in the community.”
Both Braland and Erickson praised city officials for their support during the project.
“I’ve planted three other churches and of the multiple cities I’ve worked with in the past, Waconia has been the best,” said Erickson, who noted that the project has experienced few bumps, although one financial and logistic challenge involved the realization that three additional HVAC systems were needed for the building.
“When you purchase a building and a do a build-out of this magnitude, there are going to be surprises but we have a strong team that rolls with the changes and does what’s necessary to get the job done,” Erickson said.
“We have a willingness to take on big tasks that stretch and challenge us. We want to impact lives in a positive manner. To do that, we need to take on risks and challenges and by the grace of God, we’ve been able to do that and become a better team in the process,” he said.
Erickson looks forward to the ministry opportunities that will come with the new Waconia campus. “We’re here to make a positive impact in the community. This is an open invitation for people to come visit us,” he said.
If the new approach proves successful, it might have to be amended to “one church, three locations” as Freshwater officials are already contemplating a potential third campus (location TBD) in the future.
To learn more about Freshwater Community Church, visit

Contact Todd Moen at [email protected]