Hixson United Methodist Church is embarking on a building project that will add 28,000 square feet to its current facility on Old Hixson Pike.
According to church administrator Alex Buttram, it's for the children.
"What's driving our decision to do this now in these times is primarily our growth in members in the [young adult] up to 32- or 34-year-old age group," said Buttram. "We've had significant growth in that area, which prompted us to realize our current facility for ministering to young children [infant through fifth grade] is very much insufficient."
Other than expanding the children's ministry offerings on Sunday mornings, the project will allow the weekday Child Development Center to double the amount of children (ages 2 to 5 years old) it takes into the program, which is open to the community. It will also allow for a room for infants (ages 6 months to 2 years old).
"[Young parents] want to feel like they are in a group where there is excitement and energy for their children, and they also want to feel safe, for their children to feel safe," said Buttram. "We wanted a space [for the children] that had limited and controlled access."
"I think there's still a desire on the part of young families to connect with something religious," noted senior pastor The Rev. Reed Shell. "The interesting thing to me is that there is still that desire to be in a relationship. Our challenge is to say the church is not a bad place to come and be connected."
The expansion and renovation plans have been in the works for the past 16 months under the guidance of a building vision team made up of 75 members, divided into subcommittees.
Not only will the project add space to the currently 67,000-square-foot, 1,500-member church, but 24,144 square feet of the existing facility will be renovated.
The main sanctuary will see some renovation, but Buttram said plans are to build a new contemporary worship center for that growing service option at HUMC. The church's contemporary service is currently held in the gym, and the future contemporary worship center will double as a "larger and better" fellowship hall when needed, added Buttram.
Not only will the project benefit the children, it will also bring the buildings, some of which are 70-plus years old, up to code for handicap access, said Buttram.
"What the architects helped us realize is that we are not handicap-friendly at all," he said. "We've been grandfathered in on a lot of building code requirements and we wanted to bring the facility completely in compliance with handicap and fire."
At least four stages of construction will be needed to complete the project, said Buttram. Shell said it could take up to four or five years until all construction and renovation is completed.
The project as a whole will cost between $6 million and $6.9 million. Shell said the church will soon launch a capital fund campaign that lasts into November, at which point church officials will reassess funding for the project.
"We tried to look 30 to 40 years out and project the growth of the Hixson community and make sure we built sufficient to anticipate that kind of growth," said Buttram.