Community finds 'venue' for spiritual healing, outreach

Venue Church volunteers kick eggs to spread them out before an Easter egg hunt the chuch sponsored at Camp Jordan Park in East Ridge in April 2014.

In January, more than 3,000 people took part in Venue Church's weekend-long grand opening for its new location. The space, located on Lee Highway, can seat 900 adults, with a separate area for over 400 youth.

The opening celebration included a Friday service and several Sunday services - all of which were filled.

Lead pastor Tavner Smith said the move was necessary based on the church's tremendous growth since its launch in October 2013.

At the previous location on Shallowford, six services were held every Sunday to accommodate attendees. In 2015, Venue opened another campus in Ringgold, Ga., where the majority of members from outside Chattanooga live.

The church held eight services between the two locations, and all of the services filled quickly, Smith said.

When the old Sam's Club on Lee Highway became available for purchase, he and his team jumped at the opportunity.

"We really felt like that was meant to be one of our main locations," Smith said.

For a year, all services were relocated to the Ringgold campus while the new space was under construction. Smith said he and the congregation did most of the renovations themselves to mitigate costs and launch the new campus debt-free.

On Christmas Eve last December, the Lee Highway location officially opened its doors with a service that was directed mainly to members. Smith said the church delayed the formal grand opening to ensure any kinks or issues had been worked out.

He attributes Venue's growth and success to God, as well as the church's approach, which is reflected in its mission.

"Our mission is to meet people where they are and help them walk down this path of discovering who God created them to be so they can live their fullest life," said Smith.

Venue Church is active in the Chattanooga community. With the exception of last year, the church has been a regular fixture at the Riverbend Festival. The congregants rent a booth for the entire week and pass out water, hire costumed characters for the kids and offer prayer for those who want it, Smith said.

The church and its members are also involved in a variety of outreach programs in the city, donating either financially or through their time.

In the coming weeks, Smith said he will meet with Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke to coordinate a citywide day of service.

"We want to sit down with him and say, 'What's going to answer a need for the community?'" said Smith. "A lot of times, I think, we do these community outreaches as churches and it doesn't really help the community, it just makes us feel better that we did something."

Venue Church is at 6101 Lee Highway, and has two services: at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Sundays.

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