Kids thrilled by Next Level Church's Easter egg drop
There was no snow on Easter, but there were showers of multi-colored eggs in the sky over Exeter.
The Next Level Church held its annual Easter Egg Helicopter drop for its large congregation and for guests who wanted to participate. Families who attended a morning church service in Epping were invited to bring their kids to join the race to gather thousands of eggs stuffed with candy and prizes that were dropped at Exeter High School.
The church also held egg drops for congregations in Newington and Portland, Maine. "We know that this is the largest opportunity to get people to come join us," said Next Level volunteer Matt Howland, adding that Easter is one of a handful of days that even people who normally sleep in on Sunday mornings will head out to church.
For those familiar with Next Level Church, the egg drop was just a small part of the joy for life, family and God that the church works to generate among its members.
"It's a church unlike any other," said Rochester resident and Next Level member Susan Muthee, who brought her two young boys to the egg drop. "It's very relaxed and there's a lot of humor in the services."
Church volunteer Crystal Lovely thinks Next Level may be the type of church a lot of people are looking for.
"It's for normal people," she said. "There are so many rules in other churches. When I was introduced to Next Level, I was amazed at the difference. It's all about loving Jesus."
At Exeter, it was also about loving Easter eggs. The church set up a cluster of inflatable bounce rooms where hundreds of kids worked off some energy while waiting for the egg copter to arrive.
The drop was divided into three different age groups.
Mark Stanley, 5, of Portsmouth, came up with a strategy as he watched the younger kids rushing around the field to fill their bags with eggs.
"I'm going to get all the eggs that drop in this corner," he quietly confided to his mom.
Jamison Howard, 3, and his sister Jaelynn, 4, who made the trip to Exeter from North Berwick, Maine, to take part in the egg drop, proudly showed off their green bags stuffed with eggs to their dad, who watched and rooted for them.
Katy Little, 5, of Exeter, was thrilled with her pile of eggs and cheered each time she opened one and a small toy or a piece of candy fell into her lap.
Chris Boardman, pastor for the Epping branch of Next Level Church, said the congregation has been growing in leaps and boards.
"We started out with 12 people and about $200 in the bank," said Boardman, who added that he hoped the egg drop would encourage more people to give the church a try.
Next Level expects to open its new church in Somersworth within the next couple months. That church will have room for 500. Boardman credits the growth of Next Level to head Pastor Joshua Gagnon, who has been able to connect with people of all ages and from all types of backgrounds.
"He's just very relevant," said Boardman. "And he makes everyone feel welcomed."