VOORHEES – Twenty seven years ago HOPE United Methodist Church’s lead pastor Jeff Bills held the Voorhees church’s first service at the town’s Signal Hill Elementary School. Almost three decades later, he will welcome a second church campus which will offer a unique Sunday worship experience in a local Mount Laurel Middle School. Since the launch of the first location in Voorhees, the church has grown to be among the largest United Methodist congregations in the Northeast with an active core group of more than 800 people who are from the greater Voorhees area.
“HOPE has always sought to communicate the Gospel in relevant ways to speak to those with no church background as well as those already-committed Christians,” Bills said. “We come from all different walks of life and experience.”
The Thomas E. Harrington Middle School, located at 514 Mount Laurel Road, will serve as a new church campus beginning Sunday, January 21 at 10:30 a.m. The second campus, 15 miles from the Voorhees location, will be led by the same staff and lay leadership as Voorhees with a focus of outreach, hospitality, worship and children’s ministries, according to Bills, who added that “so far we have a Mount Laurel launch team made up of 75 HOPE members.”
Bills has been an essential member of the Voorhees community for the past 27 years. It was in the fall of 1988 that he was on a hospital visit when he wandered onto the Main Street construction site. As he noticed there were no plans for a church in the development, he had a strong sense he would lead the effort to institute a new church in Voorhees. On Sunday, November 18, 1990, HOPE church held its first service in the cafeteria of Signal Hill Elementary School.
HOPE has grown steadily into one of the largest churches in GNJ with more than 1,500 calling it their faith home.
“HOPE in 2017 looks very different from how it looked in 2000 and how it looked in 2000 is very different from 1990. All along, I have taught and modeled that growth requires change, change often creates conflict, and conflict handled in God-honoring ways makes things better,” he said.
Bills continued that HOPE has a strong emphasis on kids and families with Sunday mornings offering fun and creative programs geared to children of all ages – from nursery to youth. There is cutting edge music, inspiring videos, along with a practical and relevant weekly message that allows HOPE’s contemporary worship service to be a little different than what many expect of a typical church. HOPE prides itself on being intentional about welcoming all people on the spiritual spectrum with particular attention to those who “don’t do church.”
“We are committed to engaging people in a clear and understandable way,” Bills said. “Our approach is to start where people are and then help them lead to the place Jesus calls us to be. We have always sought to be clear about the difference between the timeless truths of the Gospel and the temporary styles of communication. Styles are ever-changing and the church needs to adapt to stay relevant. The Gospel is the unchanging foundation that keeps us anchored.”
On a Sunday morning, people visiting HOPE can expect “to find us excited about being together and excited about welcoming others and making them feel comfortable. They are going to hear laughter, great music, and the sound of happy kids,” he continued.
Bills emphasized that HOPE church, now in two locations, remains committed to being a “light on the hill.”
“We are a faith community that desires to be a blessing to the people of Voorhees, Mount Laurel and the surrounding communities,” he said.
For more information visit the church’s website at meethope.org or call the Voorhees church office at 856-751-4673.