Early in 1977, the Baptist General Conference was involved in a nationwide expansion program called “Double-in-a-Decade.” One new area chosen for planting churches was greater Kansas City. Blue Springs was thought to be the best, fastest-growing suburb of Kansas City in which to start a new church.
Bible studies began in May 1977. This small group met with the Rev. Schuyler Butler, an Illinois pastor who was praying about becoming the church planter. By July, the Schuylers moved to Blue Springs, and their home at 701 Springwood Drive became the “Chapel House,” with the family room as the site for evening meetings on Sundays and Wednesdays. The first Sunday meeting, first communion observance, and first offering for Woods Chapel Baptist Church was taken on July 17, 1977.
By August 1977, a proposal had been made to purchase 4.69 acres on Woods Chapel Road, the present building site. Finances were provided through the BGC Home Missions Extension Fund. On Sept. 11, 1977, the first Sunday morning worship service and Sunday school classes were held in the Blue Springs High School music room, with 36 in attendance. A dozen people signed the list of intended charter members that was opened that day.
By February 5, 1978, the congregation had outgrown the high school facility, and the first worship services were held at the Blue Springs Civic Center on R.D. Mize Road. Closing papers were signed for the Woods Chapel Road property and the land was dedicated on March 26, 1978. However, the three-phase plan for building construction had to be postponed due to skyrocketing interest rates.
Pastor Butler resigned in January 1982 and accepted a call to the Belmont Street Baptist Church in Worcester, Mass. The congregation called Ken Erisman of Raytown, Mo., to the pastorate in August 1982. Under his leadership, the congregation continued to grow spiritually and numerically.
By September, 1983, a ground-breaking service was held on the property for the first building, which seated about 115 people. The church participated in a capital funds effort, raising about $62,000 in faith commitments. Members constructed the first (north) section of the building. It was dedicated on May 20, 1984.
Ground was broken for the second section in the fall of 1986. Again, members contributed most of the labor as construction continued into the following summer. By fall, the larger sanctuary had been completed, and the congregation continued to grow.
The church also became the parent of new churches established by church planters from the organization. John and Kathy Russell stepped out in faith to start a church in North Kansas City. Larry and Sheryl Pennings began a church in Olathe that was characterized in 1978 as “the fruit of WCBC.” Pastor Erisman sensed God’s direction to resign after almost eight years to begin a new work in Lee’s Summit, where he continues to minister. A member of the congregation, Tim Buzan, very capably preached on Sunday mornings until God led the search committee to Pastor Rodger Williams in March 1990.
Renovations continued in 1999 when the lower floor was finished to provide a fellowship hall and Sunday school rooms. At the end of 1999, the decision was made to leave the Baptist General Conference. Several years later (2007), the church name was changed to Woods Chapel Bible Fellowship.
As the congregation continued to grow, with attendance at the two Sunday services consistently around 250, church leaders announced a campaign to retire the debt ($270,000 at the time) and unveiled a three-phase development plan for the site. The present acreage is enough for a 700-seat auditorium—planned for the final phase—and the parking required by city building codes for that size structure. The first phase came in 2006 when what is now the library was constructed on the front of the original building. The project also provided a new north entrance, a wider area between the entry and the worship center, and new restrooms.
In 2010, church leaders began an extended process of reviewing every aspect of the church from its facilities to its ministries. Out of those discussions, a decision was made to hire a second full-time pastor to concentrate on discipleship and administration. Pastor Ryan McCreery filled that role from January 2011 – October 2015. At that same time, church leaders chose to seek a third full-time pastor to fulfill the role of the music and student ministries, replacing two former part-time positions. Pastor PJ Berner filled that role from February 2012 – December 2014.
Those review discussions also led to a new discipleship model. At an all-church meeting on Sept. 11, 2011, church leaders communicated a 12-month plan to revise how the church will change the way it helps people grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. The new mission is now to make disciples who worship God, grow in Christ and impact the world.
Along with this new mission, the Strategic Communications Team was formed to review everything from the church logo to the website. The team led the congregation through a church rebranding process which included adopting a new church name to better exemplify our new mission. Our new name, CrossWay Bible Church, was announced in May 2012. The team then spent the summer revising all church communications to reflect the new name, which was officially launched on Celebration Sunday, August 26, 2012.
In the fall of 2015, the Elder Team created two new staff positions: Family Pastor, filled by Pastor Steven Worstell from August 2015 – June 2017, and Pastor of Adult Ministries and Worship, which was never filled. The Worship Leader role has become a part-time position, and Jacob Schweizer is our current leader. A search team is currently searching for our next Family Pastor.
Following 27 years of ministry at the church, Teaching Pastor Rodger Williams left the church in June 2017 for new ministry opportunities. Aaron Kraft began his ministry as lead pastor in July 2017.