Just a few years ago, Pastor Tim Olof took a substantial pay cut as everything from real estate to the job market took a dive in the Great Recession. Churches were not spared.

Today, The Rock Church of Sahuarita just opened a new building, giving is strong, and the non-denominational church west of town is seeing growth.

“It’s God,” Olof says matter-of-factly.

The new 6,000-square-foot building sits on 10 acres the church bought nine years ago for $78,000. A 1970s-era manufactured home that came with the property served as office space for nearly a decade — and still does.

But while youth events and the paperwork were done at the property, the congregation itself was not unlike the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, albeit not for 40 years. The 13-year-old church has held services at several spots — Desert Diamond Casino, the Community Performance and Art Center and, most recently, Copper View Elementary School. As a portable church, everything had to be packed up at the end of Sunday services.

Today, they have a place to put down roots, though Olof says he’s still adjusting to the sense of permanency, not to mention all the room.

“I’m trying to learn how to minister to its capacity,” he says with a smile.

Early beginnings

The Rock Church opened in January 2006, with Rancho Sahuarita in high-growth mode. It was among several local church plants around that time, many of them now serving thriving congregations.

The Rock has about 130 people attending on a Sunday morning, and has seen growth since opening the new building on Easter.

John Malozsak, a church member and longtime friend of Olof, oversaw much of the construction, in essence serving as a general contractor.

That, and drawing on member talent and generosity, saved hundreds of thousands of dollars on the project, he estimates.

When the church gave the green light to push toward construction about three years ago, giving doubled the first year. They broke ground 18 months later.

High-tech building

The building is impressively high-tech, from stage lights and air conditioning operated from apps, to monitors and speakers installed over the hand dryers in the restrooms that show the service going on in the next room.

“You’re literally not going to miss a beat,” Malozsak says.

The church designed, fabricated and built much of the furniture, including tables and countertops. The four children’s classrooms are designed with safety and efficiency in mind, and eventually will be equipped with cameras. Kids are checked in through an app on their parents’ phones. A patio will be used for gatherings and weddings; the sanctuary is looped for hearing aids.

Malozsak said the minimalist look borrowed a lot of ideas from CPAC.

“We have a lot of very talented and generous people in the church,” he said.

The main hall seats 213, though usually is set up for about 160. The building capacity is 289.

Heidi Demorest, the children’s pastor, is thrilled to have the space and storage.

“It was a little insane,” she said of being a church-in-a-box for years. “It’s nice to be able to spread out.”

If growth continues, accommodating it won’t be difficult. Malozsak said the building is designed to add another 4,000 to 6,000 square feet by pushing out a back wall.

Olof said the goal is to keep the church filled throughout the week, not just on Sundays.

“I want to see this placed used,” he says.

Dan Shearer | 547-9770

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