CHARLESTON, Maine — The Epic Center features panoramic screens and theater-grade lighting and sports multimedia capabilities.
Yet it was not designed for entirely secular purposes.
The 12,000-square-foot building, set to open Tuesday, will serve as the youth ministry center at Charleston Pentecostal Church. It may be the only church building of its kind in the state designed to minister to youth, senior pastor Matt Ward said Sunday.
For the congregation, the expansion was a necessity, he said.
Attendance among children ages 2 to 10 increased from 100 a week in 2007 to 175 a week in 2012, according to Ward. About 120 teens currently are involved in the church’s youth program, which has been using the church’s fellowship hall for several years.
“Charleston Church continues its strong emphasis on serving youth,” Walter Young, vice chairman of the church’s board of directors, said of the new center. “We’ve grown to the point that we’ve expanded our facilities.”
Ground was broken for the $680,000 center in September. Another $80,000 was spent to increase and upgrade parking areas, Ward said.
“It is especially cutting-edge for our area,” youth and music minister Paul Rogers said of the Epic Center. “We have a lot of technology to build up our teaching of the Gospel.”
The cost of that technology was about $100,000, he said.
It will be evident the moment parents walk through the doors to the new building. Computer touch screens will allow parents to check their children into the center. Information in the system will let staff know with whom a child may leave.
A similar safety system has been in place for several years but it used pagers and a mostly paper system, children’s pastor Kelley Bean, 30, of Corinth said Sunday.
Just as school teachers have traded in chalkboards for computer slideshows projected onto a screen, so Sunday school teachers have given up flannel boards for 21st century technology. The brightly painted rooms for children ages 2 to 3 and 4 to 5 both have projectors mounted to the ceiling that can be connected to laptops.
The heart of the center, however, is its 90-by-60-foot auditorium that will seat 425 people. At one end is a stage with a 32-foot high-definition screen above it.
The children and teens who attend Charleston Pentecostal Church and their nonchurchgoing peers are growing up in a culture that stimulates their senses in a way the founders of the church most likely never imagined, Rogers, 30, of Bradford said Sunday.
“If we flash images on the screen while we teach the Gospel, the lesson gets into their heart more,” he said. “We’re trying to incorporate as many things as we can to engage their senses.”
Bean and Rogers along with other staff write and perform in skits, plays and videos that are presented for and played to the children and youth. The Epic Center includes a construction shop for building sets and props with a green background painted in one corner. Using the green screen will allow them to use technology originally developed for film and television in their own videos.
The grand opening ceremony for the Epic Center will be held at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. The band Seventh Day Slumber will perform at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
In addition, the church will hold a Family Day Carnival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. A service of celebration will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday.
For information, visit www.charlestonchurch.net.