By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Gainesville First United Methodist Church ignites hope with new youth wing
Herndon Lee, 16, of Gainesville enjoys the new coffee bar named Common Grounds, where snacks and refreshments are available to all. - photo by ELISE PERKINS

Members of all ages came together for the open house and dedication ceremony of Grace Hall, named after the late Grace Hooten Moore.

“It’s great, my mother would be honored, humbled for this recognition,” said Jim Moore, who spoke at the consecration service. “She was involved in this church, and until her health failed she was here every Sunday. It was just an important part of her life.

“I hope it encourages the youth to participate. The better the facilities, the better the ministry, the more the youth are involved,” he said. “I’ve seen that over the life of this church. This is a great addition to our church and will help the youth program tremendously.”

After years of discussion and planning, the new youth hall offers amenities including a worship hall, a coffee shop, game areas featuring a billiard table and table tennis and a small lounge, all aimed at youth and students.

“We began several years ago looking at and studying our facilities, and trying to upgrade our children’s side and our student, or youth, side,” said Terry Walton, senior pastor. 

Over the course of planning, committee members visited several churches across state lines as well as different denominations to understand what the new facility needed, and what had helped their youth ministries succeed. 

“We did a facility study, and then we did planning for that facility and right as the economy began to break, we did a capital campaign and (this) is the culmination of all of that,” Walton said.

The plans came together with the understanding and hope the new youth wing would be more than walls and furniture. Committee members and church leaders wanted it to be a safe place for ideas to be discussed and for the youth and students between the sixth and 12th grades to have a place of their own.

“It’s been a long uphill climb, but we got it and we’re absolutely thrilled with it,” said David Burchett, director of student ministries. “It’s a place in the church that our students can call their own. We’re really excited to have a place where they can come and not have to share it with other people and be pushed out. They come first in this space.”

With the opening of the new wing is the launch of a rebranding effort for the youth program. Sunday’s celebration brought together the current youth population of the church along with many of the older generations who are now leading groups of their own.  

“The past couple years it’s been kind of stagnant, so I think it provides a kick in the rejuvenation process to get it started,” said Michael Mullins, 23, a student at the University of North Georgia. He has been a part of the youth organization since 2002 and is now a youth volunteer who leads several groups throughout the week. 

“Our theme is now Ignite, which in a way that is exactly what it is doing; it’s starting to ignite a flame, a passion for God that hopefully spreads throughout Hall County and the Gainesville community,” Mullins said.

Many members of the youth group are already enjoying the amenities the new wing has to offer and what the new space means for them.

“I’m really excited for the changes we have in our youth program because I think it’s going to be great for our youth group,” said Natalie Oxley, 18, of Gainesville. “It’ll offer a lot of separation and more room for our high school and middle school programs. I just think we have a lot more room for new people, and to invite new people into the youth group.”

The Children and Youth First South Wing Consecration Service honored the work that went into the new wing, from looking at blueprints to picking out paint colors, and thanking the congregation that had donated the funds to make it possible.

“We have expanded our facility by 30 percent capacity, giving us an opportunity for ministry to students, children, and their families,” Walton said. “These are not buildings, these are facilities through ministry, so what I hope will come out of it is that it will make room for more children and youth. To have a place where they can come and learn of God’s love of them and they will bring with them their families.”

The residents of Lanier Village Estates raised a large portion for the construction of the new worship hall as a lasting gift to the Children and Youth First Building Campaign, honoring the legacy of Grace Moore, who joined GFUMC in April 1957. She enjoyed teaching children, youth and adults through her involvement in the church’s ministries.  

“She was such a loving person to children youth and adults, and some of our folks recognized that, and wanted to do that in memory of her,” Walton said. “So we’re really thrilled that there’s that long line of legacy continuing to be lived out in our youth ministry.

“The whole point of this is not to have a big building, the whole point of this is to facilitate ministry in efficient and excellent ways in the name of Christ. That’s what I dream will happen, and I believe it already is happening through these facilities.”