BRADENTON -- Life has been a series of moves for Joanne and Ralph Hoehne, founders of The Source, a local nondenominational church.
They moved to Bradenton from Manitoba, Canada, seven years ago to launch a real estate investment company, but they also brought along life-long Christian beliefs.
“We are business people,” Joanne Hoehne says.
The couple had no intention of starting a church, but it happened in December 2007 in the living room of their home, called they say, by God, to minister to, among others, the business community.
The oldest of their four children, Brett, now 19, said he was more than surprised at the decision. In fact, he said was shocked but ultimately happy. He now works with the church youth, and is involved with sound and technical elements of the service,
There were 13 people in the Hoehne living room for the first service. The young congregation has experienced a series of moves as it grew and found its legs. Along the way, members worshipped at a sports facility in Ellenton, an assisted living facility, and in the Whitfield Industrial Park.
Early this year, after months of negotiations, and with some large financial gifts from local supporters, they acquired the former Braden River Baptist Church building at 5412 State Road 64 East.
The 17,000-foot-building on 7 1/2 acres comfortably seats the congregation, which has now grown to about 300 and the church is debt-free.
It has become a hub for a number of church activities and outreaches. The Source has a small fleet of buses that it uses to bring members to worship from inner city areas of Bradenton and Sarasota, and it has regular roadside giveaways of food, everything from bread and vegetables to fruits and eggs,
The food items arrive by truck, which is parked at the entrance of the church.
“We put a sign up and they come and get it,” Joanne Hoehne said of passing motorists. “We go through a truck load a day.”
The Hoehnes employ a teaching, rather than preaching, approach to worship, and sit side by side on stools at the 10 a.m. Sunday service.
“Most people don’t understand how to live the great life God has for them,” Joanne Hoehne said.
“If Sunday doesn’t affect your life Monday to Satur- day, we’re not doing our job.”
While worship had always been a part of the couple’s lives, it wasn’t until 16 years ago that they found a church “that taught them to plug into a real relationship with God, and not just a religion,” Joanne Hoehne said.
The church website, www.tapintothesource.com, gives some of the flavor of a service at The Source.
“For your convenience, people will meet you at the door and answer any questions you may have. On Sundays you can grab a cup of free coffee and doughnuts before finding a seat. Our services run for about 1 hour, 20 minutes. We start with contemporary praise and worship music,” the website says.
Worshippers can expect to receive practical tools for everyday living.
“Our goal is to be life-giving and practical... we do not have an atmosphere of being judgmental or critical,” the website says.
Member Ted Patt joined the church about 18 months ago.
“My attraction to the church was really the church’s approach to believing,” Patt said. “It was refreshing and fills your heart with freedom and happiness.”
While the focus of the church has expanded, its ministry to business remains important, said Joanne Hoehne.
Business roundtables are held several times a year and business mentoring to help people succeed is at the core of what the church does.
Although the Hoehnes work full-time in the ministry, they take no salary from it and support themselves with their business interests.
They also home school their two youngest children, and a third child attends Braden River High School.
“Life has been so busy,” Joanne Hoehne said.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.
IF YOU GO
What: The Source
Where: 5412 State Road 64 East, Bradenton
When: Sunday worship at 10 a.m.; First Wednesday communion 7 p.m.; Ignite-youth service 6:30-9 p.m. Fridays; Ladies prayer 9-10 a.m. Fridays; and The Rising-Middle School first and third Sundays at 10 a.m.
Co-pastors: Joanne and Ralph Hoehne
Information: (941) 592-4700 or www.tapintothesource.com