Bowles' big churches preach universal message

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By Matt Gunn

A sure sign that faith perseveres through even the most difficult times is to examine the churches a community can sustain. In South Jeffco, two churches in particular remain easy to find while driving along West Bowles Avenue toward the foothills.

WaterStone Community Church and West Bowles Community Church position themselves as nondenominational Christian hubs that fill a role in the community as well as for their parishioners.

“We strive to have a dual focus — both a focus on our community and a focus on the people of the church,” said Brad Heykoop, WaterStone director of operations.

Both churches trace their roots to the mid-1980s, coming from humble beginnings before flourishing and becoming large congregations.

Toward the late 1990s, the two churches built up their permanent homes, reaching the size they are today.

“That was a period of a lot of turmoil but a lot of growth,” said Dave Beatty, associate pastor at West Bowles Community Church.

One reason why — particularly in South Jeffco — was the April 1999 Columbine High School shootings.

“A lot of churches in this area experienced a pretty significant influx of people at that time,” Beatty said.

And, in another parallel, it wasn’t all about what WaterStone and West Bowles community churches preached, but what they offered to youths and the community.

“Honestly, early on, and still in large measure, it was the ministry of youth that we offer,” Beatty said.

West Bowles Community prides itself on the programming it offers young people in the community. When there’s a need for support or friendship, Beatty said, the youth group has been there.

And it’s not just in a traditional style that the churches work.

“We probably have the edgiest youth group around,” Beatty said. “We give a little bit of latitude to our leaders to be a little wild and crazy.”

At WaterStone, which changed its name Sept. 1 from Centennial Community Church, another piece that has impact is its congregation’s participation in the community.

“We as a church strive to be very community oriented,” Heykoop said. “We want to have an impact on the community; we don't want to be a country club type of church.”

WaterStone’s belief is that people can transform themselves not only through biblical teachings but also through positive participation in the lives of others.

“I would say we’re a very biblical-based type of church,” Heykoop said. “The preaching is taken out of scripture and is more applicable to how we live our days today.”

And instead of just preaching, the concept is about reaching out to individuals who need a little support from fellow churchgoers and neighbors.

“It’s informal to us what the church should be about, but it’s not really structured outreach,” Beatty said. “People really respond to the needs of others in this church when they see them.”

About 1,200 people attend each church, hailing primarily from the southwest metropolitan area. WaterStone offers Sunday services at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., while West Bowles Community Church has an early session at 8:30 a.m., groups for adults at 9:30 a.m., and a 10:30 worship service.

With the holiday season here, one of West Bowles’ biggest productions is fast approaching.

Each year the church puts on an original play.

“We’ve got a history here of putting a big production on for Christmas,” Beatty said.

This year’s performance is called “Grandpa’s Attic,” and will take place Dec. 8-9 and Dec. 14-16 on West Bowles Community Church’s theatrical stage in the main worship area.

“That’s been a tradition since about 1992,” Beatty said.

Contact Matt Gunn at matt@evergreenco.com.