The Church We See

Mission Statement

Grand Avenue Temple, Where Everybody is Somebody Special Reaching out To Unite all in God’s Love.

Vision Statement

We see ourselves as a realized expression of the Kingdom of God and that Grand Avenue Temple will be a community where anyone is welcome and everyone has a place. Lazarus Ministries will be the means through which that will happen for those who come to the Table looking for a place in the family.

Our Story

Grand Avenue Temple is a church with a rich past, an exciting present and a promising future.  We are one of five congregations in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

Grand Avenue Temple was founded in 1865, just after the Civil War. By the early 1900’s, the congregation had grown to be one of the largest in the state and was instrumental in establishing several new Methodist houses of worship in the growing town. From this, we became known as the “Mother Church of Methodism”  in Kansas City.

Adam Hamilton, pastor of Church of the Resurrection has said Grand Avenue was the Resurrection of the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Presently, Grand Avenue Temple is a small but active, downtown congregation. Grand Avenue is known for true congregational diversity; serving the Sojourner community, urban downtown dwellers and faithful members from other areas of the city. This historic congregation is a focal point for the downtown area and a spiritual center in the urban core.  With a continuing tradition of mission and outreach to our downtown neighbors, this active church is always involved in the surrounding community.

Grand Avenue Temple has a promising future. Ministry to our rapidly changing city and world has brought this historic church into the 21st century. As the downtown community grows and changes, Grand Avenue will continue to be an active witness in the urban core through outreach and ministry.

Outreach and Ministry

For three centuries, Grand Avenue Temple has ministered to the needs of the downtown community as it changed from a prosperous and busy commercial district to a neighborhood abandoned by both businesses and residents. In the mid-1990’s, when the plight of downtown fell to its lowest point, we began to address the needs of the homeless and hungry at our door; a group we call “Sojourners,” who are still with us today.

The term Sojourner is used because it is an inclusive term demonstrating respect. The people served through Lazarus Ministries are in a foreign land in our culture because they are marginalized by society. The scripture refers to the Israelites as Sojourners when they arrived in Israel because their land was no longer their own. The Sojourner is in a foreign land, the Sojourner is traveling. Lazarus Ministries is trying to help get our Sojourners to a better place, which the Bible refers to as a promise land.

With faith, dreams and the congregation’s commitment, meal service to the homeless began and, in 1996 Lazarus’ Table formed serving 10,000 meals that first year. Over the past 14 years the services provided have grown significantly, going beyond providing food. To better reflect the breadth of programs, the name changed from Lazarus’ Table to Lazarus Ministries. Today, Lazarus Ministries’ services include a clothing boutique; free clinic staffed by UMKC Medical Students; library; drop-in center; hair salon; free eye clinic and a women’s emergency overflow shelter. The shelter houses approximatley16 women per night and opens December – April, during the coldest months of the year when area shelters are overflowing and turning people away.

The Historic Building

Grand Avenue Temple came into being just after the Civil War. Founded by Reverend Stephen Griffis and 75 Northern Methodists in 1865; the original site was a cow pasture with gullies and ravines. A basement was dug in 1867.

The present building along with the 12-story Temple office building next door, was constructed from 1910-1912 and designed by John J. McKecknie, the pioneering architect in reinforced concrete construction in Kansas City during that time. The exterior, although altered, retains a Grecian simplicity and a dominating temple front facade.  The sanctuary originally seated 1500 on the main floor and balcony. The interior finish was cathedral oak with ivory walls. The color of the walls today reflects the brilliant colors of the stained glass windows found throughout the sanctuary.  Natural lighting is provided by the fifteen stained glass atrium windows in the ceiling assisted by over six hundred ceiling lights.  John McKecknie intentionally made no use of a permanent religious motif anywhere in the interior or stained glass windows.  It is thought that this was to make the building more suitable for the variety programs to take place there. Upon completion, Grand Avenue Temple became nationally known, and was referred to as the “Crossroads Church of America” and the “Church of   Strangers” as a result of the visitors to Kansas City who stayed in surrounding hotels and visited The Temple.

Grand Avenue Temple was officially listed in The National Register of Historic Places on May 8, 1985.  The church houses the original Skinner organ (1912) which has been named to the National Register of Historic Instruments.

Grand Avenue has had financial difficulties over the years and at one point during the Great Depression, lost both the sanctuary structure and the 12-story office building next door. We were eventually able to get the present building back, but the original dream utilizing both buildings was compromised after just a few years. Our dream is to restore the original vision of the congregation, which included the use of the 12 story building next door as part of the original design.

Although challenged by our changing situation through the years, Grand Avenue and its members maintain the desire to remain downtown and serve the community.  Grand Avenue Temple United Methodist Church is truly a community church in the truest sense of the word.

“Come and see…”
(John 1:46)