Bucking the trend: Mega church plans to convert Jupiter gym to house of worship

Christ Fellowship wants a 368-seat facility in the 20K sf space

Christ Fellowship's Todd and Julie Mullins along with 1200 West Indiantown Road in Jupiter (Getty, Google Maps, Christ Fellowship)
Christ Fellowship's Todd and Julie Mullins along with 1200 West Indiantown Road in Jupiter (Getty, Google Maps, Christ Fellowship)

While churches across South Florida are selling off properties to developers, a mega church in Palm Beach County is planning to convert a gym into a house of worship.

Christ Fellowship Church has applied for a special exception to convert the 20,000-square-foot Jupiter Fitness Center at 1200 West Indiantown Road to a church with seating for 368, according to Jupiter town planner Garret Watson. 

The gym is in the Shoppes of Jupiter Creek shopping plaza. Christ Fellowship submitted its special exception application in December, records show, and it will likely be reviewed by the Jupiter Planning and Zoning Commission at its April 11 meeting, Watson confirmed.

If approved by the planning and zoning commission, the Jupiter Town Council will review the request at its May meeting, he said.

Christ Fellowship was founded in 1984 by husband-and-wife team Dr. Tom and Donna Mullins, the church’s website shows. In 2011, they passed leadership of the church to their son and his wife, senior pastors Todd and Julie Mullins.

The mega church reaches a weekly congregation of 30,000 across more than a dozen locations in and around Palm Beach County, as well as via online broadcasts.  

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Records show the church owns a multimillion-dollar portfolio of 17 properties across Palm Beach County. It has yet to purchase the Jupiter gym on West Indiantown Road.

While Christ Fellowship is expanding its congregation and its real estate, other churches across South Florida are shrinking in both categories.

Religious affiliation and institutional involvement are dropping dramatically nationwide. A 2021 Gallup poll found only 47 percent of adults in the U.S. were members of a church, synagogue or mosque, making it the first time religiously affiliated Americans were in the minority since Gallup started tracking the metric. It represented a more than a 20-percentage-point drop in two decades. The same poll in 1999 found 70 percent of Americans belonged to a house of worship.

Unity of Jupiter is among the South Florida churches selling to developers. In January, the Jupiter Planning and Zoning Commission approved Rich Properties’ 35-unit townhouse rental project on the church’s property. 

That same month, developers in Miami’s Edgewater bought a development site with a historic church for $20 million. They plan to keep the church, built in 1926, and convert it to retail space. 

Developers Tal Levinson and Eric Malinasky are planning a six-story, 300-unit apartment development on the site of First Eben Ezer Missionary in Fort Lauderdale. They paid a combined $9.2 million for the land, and helped move the church to a larger campus in Oakland Park.