Church builds on a firm foundation

with online audio/slide show

By Dawn Schuett

ZUMBRO FALLS — Members of Zumbro Community Church have toiled for nearly seven years in building the church.

Their faith has grown with each step in the process. When they lack money, people give. When they need equipment or outside help, they get it.


"Don’t give us any credit," said the Rev. Dave Mohler, the church pastor for 10 years. "God simply wants to prove He’s alive."

Construction of the church started in 2000 and continues today, but the history of the congregation goes back at least 15 years when it worked with Village Missions, a national organization that provides pastors for rural churches. The church is now independent of Village Missions. Members of the congregation initially met in homes before they built the parsonage in 1994 along Wabasha County Road 7 south of Zumbro Falls.

When members set out to construct the church next to the parsonage, they wanted it designed to meet the needs of their most important ministries: children, youths, seniors and home-schooled students.

Their intent becomes obvious to visitors when entering the church.

Looking past the walls without drywall, the wires hanging down from the ceiling and the concrete floor of the unfinished foyer, they’ll see the largest room in the church.

They might be surprised that it’s not a sanctuary adorned with crosses and filled with pews.

It is instead a gymnasium/auditorium that can accommodate basketball and volleyball games, potluck dinners, weddings and other events with up to 1,500 guests.

The design is non-traditional for a church, Mohler said, but it’s more practical.


Off to each side of the gymnasium are small wings of the building. One wing includes a kitchen with commercial-grade appliances and a fellowship hall. The other wing has office and classroom space and is where the congregation currently gathers for Sunday services with weekly attendance averaging 60 people. They’ll eventually move their services to the auditorium.

The building also has a nursery, shower rooms, a library and choir loft.

Hammers and hymnals

Depending on the day of the week, church members are more likely to be seen with hammers rather than hymnals when they’re at the building.

Sundays, of course, are reserved for worship. Women’s Bible study is Monday nights. Wednesdays are for the Youth and Zumbro Valley Bible Club.

But Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays may also be work nights for the men in the congregation and other volunteers helping to finish construction of the rural church.

"It’s not for the faint of heart," Mohler said of the project. "It’s an endurance test. It’s a marathon."

God has been with the congregation throughout the journey, Mohler said, eager to give some examples.


Mohler was still teaching at a Christian school in Rochester several years ago when a student’s parent heard about the church project and asked Mohler if the congregation needed lights for the building. The parent said he knew of a building being torn down and it was possible those lights might work for the church. The congregation had received a quote of $10,000 for new lights.

A month later, the parent called Mohler while he was teaching class and told him the lights were available if they could be picked up that day. The church got the lights, bathroom sinks, mirrors and more for only $850.

The commercial-grade appliances in the kitchen, including an eight-burner double convection stove with a grill, would be worth $50,000 new, but the congregation got them for less than $1,500.

Another time, when the congregation needed $21,000 for concrete, it received a $22,000 donation.

"It seems like when we’re out of money, miraculously things are provided," said John Adams, a church elder. "Personally, it helps me spiritually to grow. It’s a good witness to the community to the power of God."

About $170,000 has been spent on the building, which has a value of about $1 million.

Mohler said he never asks the congregation to donate money and offerings aren’t collected at every church gathering.

"The Lord just provides," he said. "People just give."

Defying the trend

Greg Meland, director of formation, supervised ministry and placement at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, said what Zumbro Community Church has done is uncommon these days.

"I think that it’s pretty rare that a new church gets established and there’s intentional planting of a church going on in a rural area," Meland said. "What we see more often is a consolidation of resources with rural ministries."

Rural churches have fewer financial and leadership resources, although they face fewer social and political issues.

"The challenge always in rural ministry is being stretched for resources," Meland said.

Some churches in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa must also address the needs of a population that is more diverse as immigrants move into the region, Meland said.

That isn’t an issue at Zumbro Community Church, but Mohler said he expects the congregation to increase in numbers.

Community use

Mohler is certain that the church will be used by many people who aren’t members.

"We don’t believe God has put this building up for us," Mohler said. "It’s obvious he has a plan for this community."

Home-schooled students from as far away as Spring Valley have already played sports in the gymnasium. The church has a potluck dinner for senior citizens once a month. And other social gatherings are frequently at the church.

Those who are members say the sense of family and fellowship is what brought them here.

"You’re always accepted no matter what," said Melissa Skogen of Zumbro Falls, a member of the church for two years along with her husband, Josh Skogen, and sons, Cole, 3, and Cael, 4.

The Skogens have visited churches with much larger congregations and buildings not nearly as plain as Zumbro Community Church, which Melissa Skogen said is "usable without all the frills."

"It’s still church and we all still believe in God," she said. "Just because it doesn’t have the steeple or the stained glass, it’s still God’s house."

What makes this ministry work, Mohler said, is its simplicity.

"Our goal is to be biblical. It’s not to be big," he said.

For more information about Zumbro Community Church, go to


Zumbro Community Church

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