Harvest Church is born
After nearly two years of planning, Harvest Church was planted by Faith Evangelical in the fall of 2000. Harvest held its first service on September 3, 2000. 147 people attended that first service. A month later, the church had its official “grand opening” with more than 200 people in attendance.
Services were held in the Skyview High School Commons with the help of a “church in a box:” A 25-foot custom-built trailer filled with black boxes on wheels that contained everything the church needed to function. After a few services, it only took one hour to set up the sanctuary, classrooms, nursery areas and everything else needed to run the church.
Harvest continued to grow and flourish.
Our first Celebrate Freedom event
In 2002, we hosted the very first Celebrate Freedom at Castle Rock Park in Billings as a “no strings attached” gift to the city. It started as a family carnival with lemonade, fair foods, and various free activities. A few years later we added our favorite element: professional fireworks. The city of Billings had not been able to consistently fund a show, so Harvest stepped up to fill the void.
Over time, Celebrate Freedom has become an epic event for families of the Yellowstone Valley and beyond. Thousands of people attend each year.
Some might assume that a church would never host a “real” fireworks show, but we prove them wrong every single year! At 35 minutes long with a jaw-dropping finale every time, it’s as impressive as any other big-city show.
In 2019, the list of family activities reached its peak. Not only was there a city of bounce houses, face painting, and all the usual lawn game fare, but we had added laser tag, horseback rides, rock climbing, shooting sports, character photo ops, bear encounter, and more. In 2020, the pandemic forced us to scale back and discourage the gathering of crowds. The event was moved to MetraPark and simplified to focus just on fireworks for a Covid-weary city.
Since then, the event has stayed at the Metra, but we're beginning to add back in some hallmarks of the original event, including live bands, clowns, food trucks, glow gear, and laser tag.
Putting down roots in the Heights
In the spring of 2003, Harvest broke ground on the construction of a new building. The 35,000 square foot building was planned with the community in mind. The building includes 28-foot and 36-foot climbing walls, a basketball/volleyball court and rooms the public could use for meeting space.
On June 27, 2004, 1,800 people turned out for the first services in the new building.
News articles from 2012
about the Oasis opening
Harvest opens The Oasis Waterpark
After the third failed attempt by the City of Billings to get a bond initiative passed for an aquatic facility in the Heights, lead pastor Vern Streeter heard the Holy Spirit speak to him in what he says was one of the most audible experiences he has ever had. “Harvest needs to build the pool!”
A pool had been envisioned in a future phase of the Harvest Church campus master plan, but with such an immediate need in the community, the Harvest Church Council moved those plans up. Oasis Waterpark opened its doors June 3, 2012. The opening was the culmination of more than four years of work, fundraising and construction by the Better Billings Foundation, which is the charitable arm of Harvest Church.
The Oasis cost about $4 million to build and sits on 6.7 acres of parkland donated by the City of Billings to the Better Billings Foundation, which runs the facility.
Oasis is now an integral part of the community, serving thousands of families each summer in a variety of ways. Known as one of the best family entertainment values in Billings, the Oasis also provides swimming lessons and jobs for around 100 young adults each summer.
Recently, several new additions have been built by the BBF on the parkland adjacent to Oasis to bless the neighbors. These amenities include picnic shelters, a harmony walk, a walking trail, a basketball court, and BMX jump line tracks.
Harvest opens a clinical counseling center
In 2019, Harvest started a capital campaign called Headwaters. Its primary goal was to bring a river of blessing to the Yellowstone Valley, and a key piece of that vision was to build a new worship center. Then in 2020, the pandemic hit. Building materials became expensive and even unattainable, making the original plan impossible. At that same time, with widespread isolation and distressing work and home environments, the mental health of the general populous hit a new low.
That's when God began to reveal to Harvest leadership His plan to carve out a new channel for the river: a counseling center. In 2021, Harvest Counseling Center opened in the basement of the church, offering professional therapy services from licensed clinicians who take insurance and Medicare. The Counseling Center has since moved into a rented building downtown. Eventually a new building will be constructed at the back of Harvest's property. HCC is a strategic partner with Harvest Church, but it is a separate entity and a private mental health center, operated by its own staff.
Vern Streeter resigns
On January 15, 2023, our beloved church founder gave his last sermon as Lead Pastor at Harvest Church. His legacy is astonishing, and the beautiful framework he gave us for "how to do church" is emblazoned on our hearts. Vern and Ramie are starting a new chapter in life (as of yet, undefined) but it will definitely include more time with their kids and grandkids.
Rev. Vern Streeter, before he was a Reverend, planted Harvest Church with a few friends on October 1, 2000. After four fun years in Skyview High School, Harvest moved into our current “temporary” facility. Vern’s outward orientation made Harvest an enjoyable place for those who are skeptical about God, church, and church people … or maybe just a bit bored. His outward- and others-focused mentality also resulted in multiple community events and involvement, a water park, a counseling center, a welcoming and non-judgmental church, and a deep love for Billings and the surrounding communities. These are qualities the church staff strives to embody, even in his absence.
Vern grew up in Billings and after a wild stint at the University of Montana (Go Griz!), earned an undergraduate degree in Communication from Biola University, and then a Masters in Bible from Dallas Theological Seminary.
Vern has one wife, two daughters, two sons-in-law, two grandsons, and lots of heads on the wall. For fun Vern likes to hunt, climb, ski, sail, backpack, ride his horse deep into the backcountry, ride both road and mountain bikes, drive fast, and fly his paraglider. Occasionally Vern sits down and watches sports on TV.
"I am still surprised and grateful that Jesus saved me. I wish that all people would love God and love each other. I hope Harvest helps make that happen." – Vern Streeter