Growing the Kingdom in Colorado


By RaeAnn Slaybaugh / Photos by Mike Schueler 

Storyline Church was running out of room. 

Nestled beneath the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Arvada, Colorado, what had started in 2015 as small church plant had since swollen to a congregation of almost 1,500. Led by Pastor J.T. English, the church was reaching Arvada with the Gospel message and people were responding. Nearly every week, men, women and children were making the life-changing decision to follow Jesus. 

But that growth meant Storyline was rapidly filling available space, a problem that Lindsay Acocella, Storyline’s Director of Strategy and Operations, admits that every church hopes to encounter.

“The question then became: ‘Where are we going to put all these people?’” Acocella remembers. “We had to come up with a solution.”

Lindsay Acocella, Director of Strategy and Operations

Faith-based financing

Storyline’s leadership team went through a period of searching, balancing God-given vision with practical resources. In 2021, the decision was made to renovate and expand Storyline’s current campus, a former grocery store anchoring an Arvada strip mall. At the time, the church’s vision for the revamped space was clear. The harder part? Paying for it. That’s where a refinanced loan from WatersEdge Ministry Services helped Storyline transform that vision into reality. 

Based in Oklahoma City, WatersEdge is a nonprofit, Southern Baptist financial services organization that has specialized in church financing for more than 65 years. 

“We immediately sensed such a partnership [with WatersEdge] — a like-mindedness of what we were wanting to accomplish,” she says. “Not because we wanted to make Storyline well known, but to be obedient to what we felt like the Lord was calling us to do.”

English, Storyline’s Lead Pastor, emphasizes that same word: partnership. “It was clear to me from the very first phone call that this was all about the mission of God and seeing Jesus known here,” he says.

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The church already had a loan for its original building but decided to refinance at a lower rate through WatersEdge, borrowing additional funds for new space and renovations. The total was significant — $7.1 million — but refinancing allowed Storyline to expand while simultaneously saving thousands in loan interest each month. 

“Now, those dollars are able to be reinvested in our ministries,” Acocella says.  

Even the interest the church does pay isn’t going to a bank’s bottom line — through WatersEdge, it’s being used to fund other churches. 

“We want everything about Storyline to be Gospel-focused, even the loan for our building,” Acocella adds. “With WatersEdge, we know that those funds go back toward Kingdom causes.”

Growing with students

Aside from enabling the church to hire new staff members, which was a huge benefit, the freed-up funds from refinancing have also fueled the expansion of in-demand ministry areas, beginning with middle and high school. To this end, Storyline leased the building next door to its primary facility as a dedicated space for students. 

“It has great sound, lighting and video capabilities, as well as space for both small groups and bigger gatherings,” Acocella explains. “There’s also a really large worship and teaching space with a nice stage.”

The church body’s reception to the new space has been phenomenal: Storyline now welcomes about 100 middle school and high school students every week. 

“Our students and families really love having that separate, dedicated space,” Acocella says. For one thing, visitors to the building have their own entrance from the outside, allowing for custom signage and an exciting, welcoming experience. Separate access to the facility also makes it easier to host various activities throughout the week. 

“It’s taken what we’re able to do in those ministries to the next level,” she adds. “In fact, we’re already at capacity with leaders, which is a rare thing to be able to say about student ministry.”

Adult discipleship gets its own home

Meanwhile, Storyline transformed its former student space into an adult discipleship area — another opportunity for the church. 

Once a large worship room with a smaller office area and game room in the back, the walls were knocked out to create a single, large room. The dark “student vibe” motif was lightened with paint treatments and fixtures. Round tables, a stage, and high-quality audio, video and lighting were added.

Today, the room hosts men’s Bible study on Monday nights and Wednesday mornings, a year-long discipleship program called “The Storyline Institute” on Wednesday nights, and women’s Bible study on Thursday mornings and evenings. More than 600 adults use the remodeled room every week.

“This has really allowed us to make the best use of that space,” Acocella points out. “We really tried to make it very welcoming. It has been a wonderful addition.”

A firm foundation for kids

A remodeled kids’ area was also part of Storyline’s expansion plan.  

Aesthetically, colors and design were switched up — not just in an effort to be “kid-friendly,” but in accordance with Storyline’s foundational truths for children’s ministry. 

“This includes a timeline of 40 biblical events — things we really hope that every child who comes through our doors will understand by the time they leave fifth grade,” Acocella explains. “We feel that these will really set them up with a great foundation of discipleship as they move forward.” The foundational truths are depicted front and center in hallways, the kids’ worship room, and in classrooms.  

“One of our core values is community, and we really believe that parents are the primary disciple-makers in their home,” she adds. “We didn’t just want to create a great space for kids; we wanted parents to also be reminded of our foundational truths every time they walk back there.” 

Of course, this focus on student and children’s ministries is intentional. 

“We really believe that the next generation is not the church of tomorrow. It’s the church of today,” Acocella emphasizes. “We want every person — young or old — who comes to Storyline to feel like this isn’t their parent’s church or their grandparent’s church. This is their church.”  

Growing up and out

Renovations were completed on the Arvada campus in mid 2022, and Acocella says Storyline has already seen the benefits. 

“I anticipated that the Lord, by His grace, would use this space to advance the Gospel and further the Kingdom of God here in Arvada,” she says. 

And He has. Storyline is seeing its largest Sunday worship attendance ever — not only matching pre-COVID numbers, but surpassing them. And the benefits go well beyond attendance. 

“As a church, we’re not interested in only inviting people to the Sunday gathering; we really want to take them deeper in discipleship,” Acocella says. “These additional spaces and freed-up funds have allowed us to really do that in our kids’ ministry, our student ministry, and our adult discipleship ministries. They’re allowing us to let Sunday morning be a front door, but people don’t just stop there.”

Case in point: the student space can be rented to other organizations — including, recently, a Christmas shopping event for needy families. 

“These are the kinds of things that we envision continuing to use our spaces for,” Acocella says. In fact, the church regularly opens its doors for local police, the fire department and others to host community-focused gatherings.



Year established: 2015

Number of staff — full- and part-time: 14 / 6

Average weekly attendance: 1,500 in worship +
300 children

2022 budget: $2.8 million+

For English, the renovations are an extension of Storyline’s mission, providing a physical space where non-Christians can encounter a radical Gospel message that stands in opposition to the self-focused affluence that’s often prevalent in Arvada. 

“One of our values is that ‘Jesus is the good life,’” he says. “What we’re trying to do is awaken people from the slumber of this idea that they’re living the ‘good life’ because they live the mountains, or because they have their kids on the right sports teams, or because they can afford to call a community like this home.”

As those truths continue to resonate, Storyline will continue to grow. 

“There are seasons that churches go through. And we’re in a season of celebration,” English says. “You can’t manufacture this. Our church is happy to know Jesus in deeper ways, to be full of His Holy Spirit, and to be known in community.” 


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