To help accommodate their membership, which has reached nearly 2,000, First Baptist Church in Richmond Hill just added 38,000 square feet of space to their existing facility.
The additional space will be used for the church’s many growing programs and include a brand new gymnasium complete with a full regulation-size basketball court and bleachers to support the Awana athletic events and also a church basketball team.. The remainder of the space is filled with 19 classrooms for the in-house Christian Academy, five offices, conference room, break room, two locker rooms, nine restroom facilities and a playground..
The expansion ran about $4.3 million – an expense that has been covered through member donations.
"This church has always had the mindset to grow since the very first building was established in the 1940s," Children’s Pastor Ray Fowler said. "We’ve been praying for this expansion and we’re really excited about it. We don’t take it lightly – it’s an awesome opportunity and also a great responsibility."
Fowler said the church continues to move in a positive direction with a growing membership and programs that are increasing in popularity.
"My goal is to grow out of it before long," said Fowler of the added space. "There are lot more people in Richmond Hill that we hope to reach in the years to come."
The current congregation includes people from Effingham, Liberty and Chatham counties, he said.
As for the sports facility, basketball is now added to the list of sports programs that already included soccer and flag football. The sports leagues are run in conjunction with Upward, which is a co-ed Christian-based sports association that concentrates on equal playing time for each participant.
"No one is benched," Fowler explained. "Every kid gets the same exposure no matter their level of talent."
Fowler said he and his constituents are extremely excited about the expansion of the sports programs, which started years ago "on a playground next to Pierceville subdivision. We’ve come a long way."
Already being constructed on the church grounds is a baseball diamond, which will add baseball to the list of available Upward sports.
The added classroom space for the Christian Academy will give that program much-needed space, said Academy Director Heidi Hunter.
The Academy teaches academics, using the Christian-based A Becka system, to children ages 10 months through the second grade. They currently have 135 students and 20 teachers, which amounts to two teachers assigned to each age group.
"The expansion for the Academy means that we will be here to teach more kids about Jesus while they gain an education," Hunter said. "It will allow us to add a third grade level next year, with a fourth grade addition hopefully in the near future. Also, we now look like a real school. We have brand new classrooms instead of portables. We are so blessed to have these new facilities."