BY CAMILLE GILLIES
Although some churches in the New Tampa/Wesley Chapel area have become stagnant or even lost membership in recent years, one church, located on Morris Bridge Rd. a few miles south of the Pasco County line, has blossomed — Cypress Point Community Church!
Situated on 30 verdant acres just north of the corner of Cross Creek Blvd. on Morris Bridge Rd., this now-thriving nondenominational house of Christian worship started in 1998 with a handful of individuals who gathered for Bible study in the former Hunter’s Green Model & Visitor Center. Anxious to move from that choppy office space, which once served as the Hunter’s Green community’s new home sales hub, the group had a novel idea for a more practical meeting place: the Muvico Starlight 20 movie theater on nearby Highwoods Preserve Pkwy.
“When we called (Muvico) to ask if we could rent space from them on Sunday mornings, they thought we were joking,” recalls Dean Reule, founder and lead pastor of the church. But, after some persuasive calls to the megaplex’s corporate office, the group began meeting at the movie complex just off Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd.
“I think there were 11 people at our first service, and that included us and our kids,” Dean says, laughing, glancing at his wife and fellow pastor, Hettie, who smiles and nods in agreement.
Those humble beginnings have today grown into a 750-member congregation that now assembles in an impressive auditorium located on tree-shaded land where cattle once grazed.
“We bought this property in 2004, and after spending a couple of years in the rezoning process and another in site development, we finally opened our doors in October of 2007,” Dean remembers. “It took a while because we bought during the real estate boom.”
Dean says the church purchased the former cattle ranch with future expansion in mind, stating, “Many churches tend to outgrow their space and we didn’t want to make that mistake.”
The church currently features a 30,000-sq.-ft auditorium / multipurpose building, a former house now used for church offices and administration, a playground and acres of land for recreation and future building projects, which, the Reules says, will include a building dedicated to youth activities and another to house a growing food assistance center.
“We started our food assistance program in 2008 and every month we provide two weeks’ worth of food to 48 families in New Tampa, Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills,” Dean explains, adding that he envisions expanding the program to include counseling and other services, such as haircuts and anything else that’s needed.
Additional church programs include Celebrate Recovery, which helps anyone in need overcome a broad spectrum of problems ranging from addiction to loss, and Military Support Ministry, which provides events, support and encouragement to the husbands and wives of our Military, as well as care packages, prayer and support to our deployed men and women. We provide assistance from financial support, to help around the home, to baby supplies, to childcare to counseling services.
A Focus On Youth
Considering the church’s lengthy list of children’s programs, it’s not surprising that the co-pastors’ wish list includes a youth building. Hettie, who also serves as Cypress Point’s children’s pastor, runs the multidimensional youth program. With a Bachelor’s degree in Christian Educational Ministries from Taylor University in Upland, IN, and a Master’s degree in Education from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Hettie has created a program that appeals to every age group, which is precisely how the program is structured: infant through 4th grade; 5th and 6th grades; and 7th grade through high school. From stimulating classrooms for the little ones to a comfortable gathering place for the preteens to a high-tech band and activity room for the older kids, each age group has its own space that’s designed specifically to suit their interests.
“Our children’s ministry is age and stage appropriate,” Hettie says. “And all of our volunteers are trained and background-checked.”
An assortment of faith-based kids’ clubs is available, ranging from Awana (a kids’ Bible club) to Performing Arts Club for Kids (PACK), a summer program created by public school teachers who attend the church. PACK encourages kids to explore their God-given talents through acting, voice, dance, movement, staging and costuming, which culminates in a stage production.
Activities For Everyone, Too
One program at CPCC that isn’t just for kids is the Cypress Point Community Church Martial Arts Ministry, which is all about instilling biblical principles of living a Godly life. Kids and adults see the kicks and strikes, but also benefit from the high level of discipline.
Cypress Point University (CPU) offers short-term (non-accredited) classes and seminars. The goal of CPU is to provide classes that positively affect your daily life and walk with God. Classes on basic theology, biblical content and Christian life skills are held each summer.
For Sunday services, held each week at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., kids may be checked in securely to the children’s service or attend the adult service with their parents. Children’s services feature Bible stories, worship songs, crafts and interactive games. Cypress Point Community Church’s youth services include a youth-led worship band, Biblical teaching and dramas that appeal to a younger crowd. Adult services include worship and music, followed by an adult Bible study.
“Our worship arts pastor Jill Barber puts together a diverse, creative musical program,” Dean says, adding that a Sunday service may feature gospel, pop and country songs. “Our church tends to attract artistic people. We like to feature those talents with activities like art shows and gallery nights where the art ties in with a Christ-centered theme.”
Pastor Dean says the church reflects a snapshot of the community, diverse in its makeup. He believes people are drawn to its authenticity and warmth, a view shared by longtime church member Chip Elmblad. Chip and his wife Kathy are Meadow Pointe residents who have attended Cypress Point since 1999 and initially were drawn to the church because it felt “real, warm and contemporary,” Chip says. “We were looking for a place with personality and spirit – a place (we could) grow with. We liked Dean and Hettie’s vision of spiritual formation and their focus on families.”
Today, Chip serves on the “eldership team” – a senior leadership team – and also is involved with the middle and high school youth band. In fact, he gives free guitar lessons to the kids. Kathy also works with the congregation’s youth and leads Bible study groups. Chip attributes the church’s success to God, the faithfulness of the staff, a contemporary orientation and core teachings that adhere to a traditional creed.
About Pastor Dean
Pastor Dean Reule received an undergraduate degree in religious studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX, a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ, and a Doctorate (Ph.D.) in Religious Studies from Florida State University in Tallahassee. He says he became a Christian at age 19 and followed a spiritual path because he felt, “a mystical sense of divine vocation.” He met Hettie at a church in Charlotte, NC. Together, they moved to Tampa in 1997, initially residing in Meadow Pointe before moving to Cross Creek 10 years ago. They have three daughters, ages 20, 17 and 12. The Reules say they enjoy life in the suburbs, especially seeing the area and the community evolve.
“When you’re people-focused, you welcome growth,” Dean says.
There’s no disputing the progress of Cypress Point Community Church, which has come a long way from its days of a few people convening in real estate sales centers and movie theaters.
For more information about Cypress Point Community Church, visit cpcconline.com ; call 986-9100; or stop by the church at 15820 Morris Bridge Rd.