Politics & Business

Ok-Land neighborhood in Colorado Springs will get new Story Church, different neighborhood additions – Colorado Springs Gazette

Pastor Brandon Shupp’s new church that opens Sunday in southeast Colorado Springs is targeting what he calls “the dones.”

Those are people who say they’re OK with believing in God and Jesus as their Savior, but they’re done with church — “the politics, the preconceived ideas, maybe the judgmentalism,” Shupp says. “We want to create space where that’s not happening, where people can realize they do have value and that doesn’t come from what we do, but it comes from who God made us to be.”

Story Church is rising out of a 30,000-square-foot section of the old Kmart off South Circle Drive and Airport Road in the neighborhood known as K-Land.

A giant gym in the space that two charter schools had previously leased is being dusted off, renovated and outfitted with a mega sound system and a stage for church services. Long hallways and classrooms are losing the institutional look with a vibrant paint makeover and murals.

Shupp said he hopes to fill the converted gym with 200 people — 50% of its capacity — for the first official service on Sunday at 9 a.m. and another at 11 a.m. Services also will be livestreamed.

Volunteers on Saturday will hand-deliver 5,000 door hangers to houses in nearby neighborhoods to generate interest. That’s on top of the 70,000 mailers sent to local residents.

Ryan Clark does some work on the duct system at a new church, The Story Church, which officially opens Sunday. He is The space that is located in the old K-Mart center at Airport Rd. And Circle Dr. will be using the space as a community center. Among some of the other uses, there will be a daycare center, a wrestling club, and a chef/baker coming in for a community kitchen. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

“We wanted to spend time praying for our neighbors as we walk along our streets,” Shupp said. Prayer, along with building “authentic community” and “vibrant spirituality” are among the church’s spiritual tenets.

The area is one of Colorado Springs’ most ethnically diverse and poorest, and Shupp’s vision is to form Story House Collective — a contemporary community center with services for residents.

“A problem with the American church is we have these big buildings that do nothing Monday through Saturday and are full on Sundays,” Shupp said.

Former Olympic wrestler Joe Betterman has set up one area as a workout center for a wrestling club, an elite program for high school wrestler, and Army training.

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Becca Salinas paints a mural for a day care center that she and her parents will be opening on May 1. The center will be in a space where a new church, Story Church, will hold its first service Sunday. The space is in the old K-Mart center at Airport Road and Circle Drive. Among other uses, there will be a wrestling club and a chef/baker coming in for a community kitchen.

A chef and baker are to open a café and kitchen, which among its undertakings will produce unpackaged, fresh meals for low-income families.

A 75-capacity room that had been a school library will be available for community meetings, and the converted gym will host events.

Little Mountain Climbers, a daycare and preschool for low-income residents is readying its room for licensing.

“We’re a new business focusing on inner-city families and wanted to find a spot that would be central and easily accessible to them,” said owner Becca Salinas. “This location is perfect.”

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Bonnie Berg irons fabric Wednesday that will be hung in the sanctuary of the new church.

She said she’s sold on the concept of compatible tenants.

“We think it’s a great idea to have a safe place for people to build community,” Salinas said.

Story Church, which Shupp defines as “inter-denominational,” is affiliated with the Mountain Plains District of the Wesleyan Church.

It’s also one of the first partners of 12Stone Church, a large, multi-site church in Atlanta that helps start new churches to “bridge denominational differences for the cause of Christ.”

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Pastor Brandon Shupp, is putting the finishing touches on his new church, The Story Church, which officially opens Sunday. Shupp makes a phone call inside what will be the sanctuary for the church on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. He is The space that is located in the old K-Mart center at Airport Rd. And Circle Dr. will be using the space as a community center. Among some of the other uses, there will be a daycare center, a wrestling club, and a chef/baker coming in for a community kitchen. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

Also lending a hand with the startup process is the Alabama-based Association of Related Churches.

Shupp is working with an inaugural team of about 100 people, including sound master Daniel Lee, an old friend from Boulder who said he likes the energy.

“It’s a church where people can just walk in and be who they are, and come as they are and be able to find hope,” he said. “That’s a church I want to be a part of.”

Lee said he appreciates that church leaders want to listen to community needs and work to address them.

“My favorite thing is that we are here and willing to keep our doors open for the neighborhood, to welcome and invite people.”

Shupp shies away from using the word “evangelical” to describe Story Church, although, “We definitely believe we’re supposed to share the good news of Jesus.”

The church won’t claim any political alignment, either.

“I believe our political beliefs should flow from our faith, but statistically, our political beliefs drive where we go to church,” he said. “We have people here that might wear a MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat, and we have people that wear a Black Lives Matter T-shirt.

“We shouldn’t fit neatly into the Republican party or the Democrat party,” he said. “We should be speaking to both sides.”

A graduate of Wasson High School, Shupp formerly worked as a youth pastor at New Life Church and has been involved with the Wesleyan church for five years.

Starting or planting a church is “hard to do well,” Shupp said, citing a failure rate of at least 75%.

Shupp, the son of attorney and former El Paso County Commissioner Gary Shupp, and retired CASA of the Pikes Peak Region manager Liane Shupp, wants to get it right.

He and his wife, Jenn, started nurturing the idea about a year ago, and last summer began meeting with other pastors and creating buzz about Story Church, which seeks to “empower all people to tell a great story of their lives by understanding the hope, the value and the power of Jesus.”

More than $60,000 has been raised, with donations of another $40,000 worth of materials, equipment and furniture, he said.

Shupp’s goal is to raise $500,000 for startup costs and one year of operation, and $100,000 a year after that.

“Colorado Springs has a reputation of being an evangelical mecca that has a church on every corner,” he said. “It also has a reputation for being competitive — but we haven’t experienced that. I haven’t had anyone get territorial.”

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