While passing the Shelbyville Exit on his way to work for the Kentucky National Guard, Max Semenick often felt a tug at his heart for that area.
When Semenick became a community pastor at Southeast Christian Church five years ago, he and his wife, Sara, began thinking about where God wanted them to minister.
“We didn’t know anything about Shelby County,” Semenick said. “We prayed and asked God where we should go.”
The Semenicks eventually sold their house in Jeffersontown and moved to Shelby County with their three children.
“It just felt like this is where we needed to be,” Sara Semenick said. “We didn’t know why.”
Ministry happened one neighbor, one home gathering at a time.
This past weekend, Southeast Senior Pastor Kyle Idleman announced that Shelby County will be the location of Southeast’s ninth campus, and Max Semenick will be the campus pastor.
“Shelby County has experienced significant and steady growth in recent years,” Idleman said. “Southeast has more than 3,000 members and attendees that already live in this area and are already impacting this community. We look forward to loving and caring for the people who live there one at a time.”
Shelby County’s population is about 42,000 and is expected to double in the next 15 to 20 years.
“The majority of Shelby County does not attend church regularly,” Max Semenick said. “They need to be reached with the Gospel. Let’s go get them.”
The Shelby County Campus will be located in the Midland Center at 196 Midland Boulevard in the former home of a Tractor Supply Co. store. The 26,000-square-foot campus will have a 600-seat worship space, along with classrooms and other spaces for activities and gatherings.
Southeast Executive Pastor Tim Hester said the campus will be similar in design to Southeast’s La Grange and Elizabethtown Campuses, and he expects construction to take 12 to 18 months once the design and planning phase is complete.
“We didn’t send Max to Shelby County as a community pastor with the intention of starting a campus,” Hester said. “It’s really a God movement. We didn’t plan it. We didn’t strategize it. We caught the wind of the Holy Spirit. The whole idea behind campuses is to be a part of a community where we can show and share the love of Jesus—to go to places where there are so many more people who need to hear the Gospel … but we also have church members already there because that gives us the workers to go into that harvest field.”
As a community pastor, Max Semenick established connections with three local ministry partners: A Loving Choice Shelbyville, Awake Ministries and Operation Care.
He organized home groups and helped start a Man Challenge weekly group in Shelby County, and as that group grew, it began meeting in The Brick Room in downtown Shelbyville in 2016.
Southeast eventually leased The Brick Room to serve as a community center and meeting place for Man Challenge, women’s Bible studies, middle school gatherings, a recovery group and even a fitness class.
Semenick said 300 to 500 people use The Brick Room each week.
“As we lead into this campus, one of the things I’m really excited about is that it’s not like we’re going to open on a Sunday and hope people come,” Semenick said. “We’re going to have this army of people who have learned how to serve and engage and invest in others a long time before there was a Shelby County Campus.”
Sara Semenick said that Southeast members who live in Shelby County get dispersed when they attend weekend worship services at the Blankenbaker, Crestwood or another Southeast Campus.
“A lot of people feel isolated as related to their church experience,” Max Semenick said.
“I’m really excited to be able to worship with our community—to have a place where we all meet together and our kids can go to church with kids from their community,” Sara Semenick added.
Max Semenick said Shelby County has a mix of people who have lived and worked there for generations and others who are newer to the area and commute to work.
He added that he has built relationships with other pastors in the community who have been kind and hospitable to him and his family.
“They have seen us as a partner along the way,” he said.
Idleman said the wind of the Holy Spirit is blowing in Shelby County.
“When we feel the wind of the Holy Spirit blowing, we want to raise the sails and catch the wind because we believe that God wants to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine through this church,” Idleman said. “Our church members are excited about this new campus not because they will have a closer or more convenient place to worship but because they will have the opportunity to reach more people in their community who don’t know Jesus or don’t have a church family.”