On Jan. 22, the Sawmill Covenant Church at 8794 Big Bear Ave. will change its name to Gateway Community Church.

On Jan. 22, the Sawmill Covenant Church at 8794 Big Bear Ave. will change its name to Gateway Community Church.

The Rev. John Atkinson, pastor, said the church was founded 14 years ago with 28 members who worshipped in rented space. Sunday attendance now averages 300.

"We were growing for a number of years and we felt like we hit a plateau," Atkinson said, "and in the last year-and-a-half, we wanted to do more service and outreach and make better connections in our community, which has always defined us, but we wanted to renew that with our community."

The church's community outreach team looked at a number of ways to renew the commitment to be "an outreach-focused church that is connecting to (the) community and its needs and helping people connect to God," Atkinson said.

In connection with the name change, the church will unveil new projection screens, colored lighting, a touch-screen computer in the welcome center and a more versatile curriculum for children's Sunday services, Atkinson said.

"Gateway is clearly suggestive of an opportunity to enter into a relationship with God and service of people," Atkinson said, and the term "community" reflects the congregation's outreach focus.

The initial name reflected the location of the church and its affiliation with the Evangelical Covenant Church denomination, Atkinson said.

Atkinson said the church's community outreach team members found the word "covenant" in the church's name had "been a barrier to people because it didn't communicate" the church's focus. It also suggested "an older, more traditional congregation" and the church is a "contemporary and dynamic congregation," he said.

Jennifer Carline, a member of the leadership team for the children's program, said a new program for preschool to third grade is called "Living Inside Out."

It provides a large group video presentation and worship music, after which the children break into smaller age-related groups to make crafts, play games, hold discussions and learn Bible verses that relate to the message.

The new program includes a variety of ideas for supplemental hands-on activities, Carline said.

The church also has separate Sunday services for fourth- through sixth-grade children, which provide a discussion-oriented curriculum, she said.

Older children attend the adult service and also have the opportunity to attend youth group activities Sunday evenings and sometimes through the week, she said.

The new name and renewal are about "being true to what God has called us to do," Atkinson said.

For more information, call (614) 791-9449 or visit www.gatewaycc.info.