NORTH WEBSTER — Monday afternoon, Feb. 1, half a dozen members of North Webster Church of God and DJ Construction nudged their golden shovels into the damp soil during a groundbreaking ceremony on the south end of the sprawling church complex.
The original church, built in the 1950s, will be demolished Feb. 9 to make way for a 15,930-square-foot addition which will house an indoor playground and coffee bar. Included in the plans is an adjacent outdoor patio.
The symbolic gesture set in motion a longtime dream for enhancing the church’s stated mission of “connecting people to Jesus and to one another,” according to Jeff Boyer, the church’s pastor.
“This is an exciting day in the life of the church. It’s something we have been talking about for several years,” he said.
“We don’t want this building just to be for our people. Our hope is to offer times throughout the week the community feels welcome to come, read a book and have a conversation. Moms can have a cup of coffee while their kids play in a safe environment. Teens can do homework here.”
The addition, slated for completion in the fall, is only the first phase of work on the church.
Once the addition is operational, DJ Construction will return to remodel the vacated portions of the church now used for children’s ministry. The present nursery will serve as the venue for adult small group meetings.
The final phase will involve renovating the kitchen.
All told, 2,950 square-feet of the current facilities will be redone.
“We do it in phases to keep the church operational,” said Enos Yoder, DJ’s manager of project development. “It should all be done by the first of next year.”
For Bob Schrock, owner and CEO of DJ Construction, the effort is more than just a construction project.
“It is a big part of who we are, and reflects our values of how we run our business,” he said. “It comes down to aiding churches and their mission for reaching others for Christ.
“As exciting as this groundbreaking is, we will be back here for the dedication service and at that point we are getting out of the way and letting the church do what they do, serving children and others who don’t have someone in their life who cares. The building is wonderful but it is a tool to get others in and learn of Jesus.”
Yoder’s interest in the project also runs deeper than business as usual.
Three years ago, he delved into his genealogy, searching for information on an ancestor who played semipro ball around the turn of the century.
What he found was a “black sheep uncle” who “as a young man was struggling to keep his life in order,” Yoder said. Records showed “he made a life-changing decision in 1941 here at this church to follow Christ.”
“North Webster Church of God is grateful to the town of North Webster and particularly the town board for partnering with us and helping us stay in our present location and expand and grow with our mission,” said Boyer.
“Our doors are open to the community,” he said. “We want to see families that are healthy and filled with hope. We want to create an atmosphere where kids will bring their parents to church.”