In regard to the life and future of the church, Gainesville First United Methodist Church’s motto is always, “Could there be more?”
After Sunday, more is exactly what there will be for the children and youth of the church.
Ground blessing and ground-breaking ceremonies were held Sunday at the church for the new “Children and Youth First” construction project that will add extra space.
Leaders and participants in the service included pastors, ministry directors, members of the church council and committees and members of the congregation.
As members of the church of all ages prayed and sang together at the ceremony, youth and adults alike were invited to lead worship and break ground.
Over the years, expansion has been an important part of the church’s mission.
Ricky Presley, the building chairman who organized the expansion plan, reminisced on the history of the church.
In 1832, a local preacher named J.W. Glenn brought together a church with 15 members in Gainesville called First Methodist Church. He said the project has been a long time coming and jokingly related the work done on the project to the efforts of the church’s first pastor.
“Sometimes it feels like I’ve been working on this since 1832,” Presley said.
The church’s building committee has been working for almost 10 years on an initiative to expand facilities for the children’s and student ministries.
“The church began to realize that we were having some space limitations with our children in particular,” said Dr. Terry Walton, senior pastor of the church.
“As we really began to research what we felt God was calling us to be and what the world needed, especially in this community, we began to look at, ‘Why can’t we broaden our emphasis to children and youth first?’ We’ll put them first and empower future generations for Christ, then aren’t we in fact doing what God has called us to do, to make the world a better place?”
Walton said the children aren’t just the future of the church, but are an important part of today’s church. He said the first impressions made on a child at a place of worship are the most crucial.
“We only have them for a brief period of time, and so it’s an opportunity to really encourage and support and give them muscles, if you will, for their living,” he said.
The church plans to build an additional 30,000 square feet to the north and south wings and renovate its current facilities.
Construction plans will include an indoor playground, an improved children’s worship facility and more youth worship space for middle and high school students.
Walton said this initiative is necessary so the church can offer a facility for children and students to establish an identity at their worship services.
“We’re not just excited about giving them more room, but giving them space that is clean, that is contemporary and is relevant.”
Over the course of the construction, areas of the church will be closed for safety. No specific date of completion has been given.