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Gainesvilles Good Shepherd Lutheran Church is getting ahead of its expanding congregation
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Good Shepherd Lutheran Church Pastor Ben Haupt, left, shows a floor plan of the church’s upcoming expansion to administrative assistant Margie Smith, and youth ministry intern Wynn Derong. Ground breaking on the expansion project is expected in the coming months.

 Instead of looking for greener pastures to accommodate an ever-growing flock, the congregation of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church is planning to grow its current surroundings.

According to member Charles Dyarmett, the ministry really began to grow when Pastor Ben Haupt came on board in October 2008.

The increase in membership and programs was a "noticeable difference," Dyarmett says.

The main church structure at 600 S. Enota Drive in Gainesville was built in the late 1960s. Although the last structural addition allowed the church to create some fellowship and classroom space, that’s no longer enough.

Now the church has set sights on building a new fellowship hall with seating for approximately 150 people, plus room for growth.

They will be expanding onto a portion of their property that’s bordered by Robin Hood Trail.

"Our church has experienced rapid growth over the last several years," said Doug Fuge, chairman of the church’s capital stewardship campaign.

"We want to expand our campus now, so that we can continue to accommodate new members and further expand our community ministries."

The church regularly invites the public into its "home" through the preschool, open vacation Bible school and food pantry.

Church members also regularly go out into the community for various missionary projects.

The expansion will include a bigger and better education wing, which will allow more open space to accommodate large groups, as well as larger classrooms for the growing youth population.

"We have had some babies (born into) our congregation, but we’ve also had a lot of younger families join our church. I think that is a trend that will continue, so we definitely need to get ahead of future growth," Haupt said.

"Currently, we have a building that is adjacent to the sanctuary that houses the fellowship space and classrooms. We have completely exceeded our capacity for that facility.

"We even have a Bible study group that meets in my office."

There will be new office space, a choir room and an expanded parking lot.

There will even be a new "youth suite" with a grouping of rooms dedicated to the junior and senior high ministries.

"This project will give all of our groups an opportunity to have a bit of their own space," Haupt said.

According to Haupt, the congregation had already been discussing the need for expansion when he came in 2008, but last year they officially set the wheels in motion. That’s when the church decided to launch a three-year fundraising campaign known as "Growing with the Shepherd."

"Our members pledged almost $750,000. That’s a bit unusual," Haupt said.

"Usually, a church our size would (raise) two times its annual income, but we received pledges that were about three times our annual income. People really stepped up to the plate and showed that they believe in the vision and future of our church.

"People gave in pledges quite abundantly. And the money is coming in ahead of schedule. We’ve already collected more than $400,000."

Overall, the church estimates that the complete renovation and expansion project will cost around $1.1 million. To make up the difference, the group will be working with the Lutheran Church Extension Fund.

"They’re acting as our lender," Haupt said.

"They exist solely to provide money to Lutheran churches to expand. They have reduced mortgage rates and some creative funding programs for churches that may not have been able to get funding through a (traditional) bank."

Once getting the green light on their plans from the local government, the Good Shepherd family hopes to get started building in August and to finish within six months.

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