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McEver Road UMC considers new locale for bigger congregation
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Sara Bassett-Carroll directs the choir Wednesday at the McEver Road United Methodist Church in Oakwood. McEver Road UMC is considering moving locations in order to expand for its growing congregation. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Forty years ago, it was a fraction of the size it is today.

McEver Road United Methodist Church today has a sizable sanctuary, basement meeting rooms, two kitchens, a large fellowship hall, a few rooms for Sunday school and a nursery.

But the space is just barely meeting the needs of a bustling church.

"What we’re trying to do right now is make the best use of the space we have," Pastor Rob Bruce said.

Following Sunday’s 10:30 a.m. service, the church will have a potluck and church conference where members will vote on the possibility of moving to a new location farther down McEver Road past Mundy Mill Road and across from West Hall High School.

Bruce stressed that the vote would not be to approve the move itself, but to approve "exploring the opportunity to relocate."

The church has been expanded since its original construction. The interior glossy wood doors to the sanctuary stand where the original exterior doors once stood. The sanctuary was expanded, adding a small prayer room where the pastor’s first office once was, and building out a slightly larger office in the front.

The fellowship hall was added and serves as an event venue and holds contemporary Sunday services with modern, Christian music.

While the expansions served the congregation well and the church has been beautifully maintained, there’s still a need for more room. Bruce said it can’t easily happen on the existing property.

"We’ve got some acreage here, but we can’t really build on it," he said. "It’s all downhill. When we brought an architect in, they met with our leadership team and said, ‘You can build on this property if you want to, but it’s going to cost you a fortune.’"

The potential new property farther down Mundy Mill would be more centrally located for the population attending McEver Road UMC. Bruce said it would also attract more people from northern Gwinnett County.

In the meantime, a little shuffling might make the church facility function more efficiently.

Currently, children’s programs are held in the basement, which has larger rooms, while the two upstairs meeting rooms are much smaller and designed with children in mind.

"We’re going to have the children move up here by Good Friday," Bruce said. "For some reason we had adults meeting up here, which is crazy because these are smaller rooms."

Adjacent to these two children’s rooms is a nursery, which the church outgrew a long time ago.

"We’re out of room in here, too," Bruce said, indicating a portion of the nursery that was originally a storage room is now being used with the rest of the space.

In the hall outside the children’s rooms is what the church calls "Lift Your Spirit Cafe." It’s a large cart in the hallway with coffee and breakfast items.

"There’ll be pastries and stuff out here Sunday morning after the 9 o’clock service," Bruce said. "This is a gathering place, but this is another problem, because we’re so crowded and then we’ll try to have Sunday school meeting in these rooms. There’s no place for this."

The church is almost always in use. The area’s largest women’s Alcoholics Anonymous meets at the church three times a week, filling the basement rooms.

But one of the problems, Bruce said, is the way the building is situated on top of a hill overlooking McEver Road, with a parking lot hidden behind.

"It never looks like there’s anyone here," Bruce said.

A new church facility could not only meet the needs of the congregation, but it could better serve the church’s mission, Bruce said.

"Although the building is well-maintained and pretty, it doesn’t really meet our mission and vision," he said. "The mission is given to us by Christ, to make disciples for the transformation of the world. Our vision — the way we do that — is loving Christ, loving people and helping people love Christ."