A Short History of First Church
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God gave the growth.” -1 Corinthians 3:6
The history of First Presbyterian Church of Bonita Springs is an inspiring one that has unfolded over the course of a half-century. Since its humble beginning, God has blessed this congregation with undeterred vision, strong leadership, and growth, guiding us to become one of the most vital flagship churches in Southwest Florida. Our church has developed a significant regional impact and wide-ranging international outreach, supporting over 50 missionaries and mission organizations.
In 1972 Bonita Springs was a small fishing village with a beautiful beach but very little else. The local governing body of the Presbyterian Church, believing this area would eventually grow in population purchased land on Bonita Beach Road. An experienced pastor named Rev. Harry Price was called to be the Field Minister for the new Bonita Springs Chapel. The congregation was chartered with 65 members, and a small building accommodating about 90 people and a pastor’s office was constructed (Price Chapel). Within eight years, Rev. Price had built our membership to 174. Upon his retirement, Rev. Joe McClure was called as our second pastor.
Continued growth of both the community and the congregation led to an ambitious project to construct an office wing and a 400-seat sanctuary (currently the Great Room and CenterPoint). By 1986 winter attendance at multiple services exceeded 1,000. The congregation expanded its local ministries and embarked on a building project to enlarge the sanctuary (to hold 800) and add a fellowship area (McClure Hall).
Dr. McClure retired in the mid-1990s, and Dr. Paul Kirbas was called to be our church’s third pastor. Dramatic growth in Bonita Springs prompted the founding of Wonder Years Preschool and the First Academy of Music. A major capital campaign in early 2000 and an 18-month construction process resulted in the dedication of our current 1,300-seat sanctuary in November 2001. First Thrift shop was established and became a permanent addition to the community. After Dr. Kirbas took another position in 2003, the congregation called Dr. Douglas Pratt as its fourth pastor. At that time, the combined membership (full and affiliate members) was 1,400.
Since 2004, First Church has continued its steady and sustained growth. Facility improvements have included creation of the BookCenter, Library, Café First,
and Art Gallery, renovations to McClure Hall and the Great Room/CenterPoint, development of garden areas, and enhancements for traffic flow and parking. Several cutting-edge ministries and outreaches developed during this time, including additional concert series, the Bonita Christian Forum, the Spiritual Development Center, and a professional recording studio. In May 2020, First Church began offering a livestream option to complement in-person worship services on Sunday.
The current combined membership of First Church is approximately 2,600. Six ordained pastors serve the congregation, along with a professional and
support staff of over 40 dedicated Christian servants.