Congregation changes church name to reflect focus
A sign along the highway -- at 198th Street and U.S. Highway 24-40 -- marks the property of Cornerstone Family Worship.
But a sign at the corner of Sixth and Church streets marks the church's name change, which took place in August.
Ron Swaim, pastor, said the church is still part of the Assemblies of God denomination. The name change, he said, stemmed from a vision that he and other church members had for the church.
"We wanted a name that would better reflect our vision for the community," Swaim said. "... We are about building stronger families so that families can survive together and live a fuller life with a hope of heaven in the future."
Swaim said the church starts with each person's personal relationship with God.
"I don't know how people make it without God," Swaim said. "I know they do it but I don't know how."
Once families establish a strong relationship with God, through their churches, Swaim said, their lives change.
"Families that were having a struggle have actually become closer," Swaim said. "It's not just about a relationship with God, it's about a relationship with people -- wholesome fellowship with good people."
And, he said, today's world offers distractions that take people away from religion.
There's entertainment, and there's work, he said.
"It's easy to get caught up in the work environment where people are always leading you away from the family," Swaim said.
Sign of change
The new sign at the church highway property notes it's owned by Cornerstone Family Church. The sign, Swaim noted, doesn't say it's the future home of the church.
He noted the 26 acres the church purchased this year for a little more than $200,000 has likely already grown in value. And, the church's income has recently been padded by the installation of a wireless telephone tower, which Swaim estimated is generating about $800 a month for the church.
Whether the church will wind up building at the highway property or selling it at a profit and selecting another location is unknown.
But one thing is clear, Swaim said. The congregation needs more space.
"We're out of space for our Sunday school classes and for our children's programs on Wednesday nights," Swaim said. "We need to expand already, but we don't have the adults that we're going to need to have to make that move."
When Swaim took over as pastor in May 2002, 15 to 20 attend Sunday church service. That attendance has grown to 60.
And, the church has proved to be popular with area children who attend Sunday school and Wednesday night programs. When children become involved, their families frequently follow.
"We're a stronger church because of it," Swaim said. "The median age when I got here was around 60 and the median age now is probably in the 30s."
This is an age group that seems to be interested in religion, Swaim said.
"We're a growing community and we have a lot of younger couples that are moving into town and we want to be there for them," Swaim said.
Waneta Karriker and her husband, Herman Karriker, started the Assembly of God Church in Tonganoxie in 1960. The congregation met in a downtown storefront until building a church at the corner of Sixth and Church.
Herman served as pastor for 41 years, and until his death a year later in 2002, he continued teaching Wednesday night Bible study lessons.
Herman lived to see his church, which was destroyed in a May 11, 2000, tornado, rebuilt. The repaired and rebuilt church opened in October 2001.
If anyone would have sentimental ties to the old church and its name, it would be Waneta Karriker.
But she's embraced the changes.
"We were so used to the old name that it did take a little adjusting," Karriker said. "But I think that by naming it Family Worship we're saying we're concerned about families and that we're reaching out to families for any need that they might have -- spiritual or any other need, we are concerned about it."
It's the same with the possibility of building a new church at a new location, she said.
"It doesn't matter about the name of the church or the location," Karriker said. "Because we haven't changed our relationship with God and what's being taught and preached from the church, it's the same story from the Bible and the Bible doesn't change."
And, Karriker said, she's delighted that while the church was in negotiation for the land, they learned about the cellular telephone tower that would be installed.
"It's just another way that God's going to help us pay for the property," Karriker said. "So I say he has been faithful to us all along the way."
The tower is a blessing, Karriker said, adding: "That's just God looking out for us."