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A new chapter at New Life Academy, church

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One key addition for New Life Church is a new space for its youth ministry, which includes gathering areas and a game room. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith) 2 / 2

It’s been years in the making, but New Life Church and New Life Academy finally celebrated their next chapter. 

NLA and New Life Church hosted a grand opening for their remodeled spaces on Feb. 4.

“One of the things that is exciting about a building project is that not only does it address needs now, but it’s something that future generations can continue to enjoy,” said Cade Lambert, Head of School for NLA. “What I’m hoping is that when I’m long gone people will continue to be blessed by the spaces.”

The construction project added or remodeled a total of 28,000 square feet at a cost of $5.3 million.

The project was funded through fundraising and philanthropic donations.

“One of the commitments was that we would not acquire any long-term debt,” Lambert said.

Some of the additions to NLA and New Life Church include: spaces for youth ministry, a game room, five additional classrooms, an enlarged cafeteria, a café and a common gathering area.

“New Life Church has had a desire for many years to do something with youth ministry,” Lambert said, “so, we started talking about an interest in maybe doing more than that and something that would meet the needs of a lot of the ministries.

“We took an existing idea and kind of revisioned it and ended up addressing a lot of needs.”

Both the church and the academy officially occupied the remodeled building in January.

“Construction isn’t always a romantic process, but I think this one went exceptionally well,” Lambert said.

A place for youth

John Anderson, the youth minister at New Life Church, said creating a new youth ministry space has been something the church has been wanting for many years.

Previously, the youth ministry programs and groups met in a separate building, once used as the priest’s residence.

“It had a lot of characters and memories wrapped up into it,” Anderson said, “but it was time to get a new place.”

The new youth ministry spaces include a large gathering area, primarily for the junior high students, and a game room.

“There’s little hints of what we used to have,” Anderson said.

The new space also includes an extra room, called “The Attic,” which is reserved for the upperclassmen students.

“It’s a place for senior highers to come in and hang out and not necessarily be around the younger students,” Anderson said. “It’s space that is their own.”

With the new space, Anderson said youth will be able to meet more comfortably.

Currently, the youth ministry program can have up to 80 students on any given night.

“Our church values the youth ministry and wants to see young people further their connection with God,” Anderson said. “It’s a great addition to something that we’ve missing.”

Additionally, the added space will allow the youth ministry to offer more opportunities for students – movie nights, weekly programs, a place to meet and speakers – as well as opportunities for parents to come in for seminars.

“I’m hoping to provide opportunities for parents to come in and talk about youth culture issues,” Anderson said. “I want to minister to the whole family.”

21st-century learning

When it came to identifying NLA’s needs and desires for the construction project, Lambert said the school turned to parents and other stakeholders.

“We were blessed to have an architect that had some vision as well,” he said. “It challenged us to think about what we were lacking from a facility standpoint.”

Lambert said one of the biggest needs for NLA was a larger cafeteria.

“The cafeteria was starting to become a big choke point for us,” he said.

Lambert said both the cafeteria and the common gathering space will offer great opportunities for students to gather.

“A big part of our mission is growing students and their faith,” he said, “and a lot of that is through the relationships that they have. Having room to sit down in the cafeteria and room to visit and collaborate during the day is huge.”

Lambert said the school took a unique approach to the classroom layouts by using long tables, rather than desks, and experimented with wall-sized white boards.

“We’ve gone with a different furniture concept that allows for more collaboration,” he said. “The new classrooms are really 21st century classrooms and provide the space and the technology to continue to meet the needs of the 21st century.”

The end of last school year, and the beginning of this year, proved to be challenging for NLA students, teachers and parents since such large chunks of the school were roped off.

“We had temporary offices, we had cubes in the media center,” Lambert said. “We were in pretty cramped quarters for the first semester.

The new classrooms and the new cafeteria enable the school to add more students. The school currently has a kindergarten through grade 12 enrollment of 712 students. 

“We’re glad to be in more of a real home now,” Lambert said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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