Pastor Thad Smith believes that spending more than $6 million on a new building for its children's ministry at Morningside Baptist Church will be a strong statement that family matters there.
"Parents are seeking the best for their children," Smith said of the Columbus church. "We have got great programs, and now we are going to have a high-tech, state-of-the art place to hold classes."
When completed, the two-story structure will be a little more than 38,000 square feet, making it the largest building on the campus. The building will include a couple of large interactive rooms and an indoor playground.
Primary users of the new facility will be children in the sixth grade and younger. Smith said it will open up more space elsewhere for the older children.
The building that currently houses the children's ministry will undergo a renovation.
Morningside does not have a regular school, but Smith said Morningside Christian Preschool has 45 children enrolled, and there is a long waiting list.
The new building should allow growth at the school.
Smith said the key to a successful Morningside future is outreach to young families who want up-to-date and secure facilities for their children.
On Morningside Drive since 1952, the church says in its literature that its vision is to be "the place where Columbus worships."
Morningside currently has 1,041 members of which about 550-700 are active, Smith said.
"They come from all over," he said.
The construction of the new building is phase one of a master plan that, when finished, will see four of the church's current eight buildings demolished and three buildings go up in a manner that members will no longer need to walk outside to get from one building to another, the pastor said.
"That is really important to us," Smith said. "We will have everything under one roof."
One building will be demolished in phase one to make room for parking. That is because the new building will sit on what is now a good portion of a church parking lot that has access from Frazier Drive.
Smith said that the buildings that will be torn down are quite old and require a lot of maintenance.
"We have gotten a lot out of those buildings," he said.
The entire project may cost as much as $20 million but specifics of the next two phases have not yet been determined.
Morningside's master plan was adopted in 2011. Smith, who came to Morningside with his wife, Tamma, and daughter, Addison, from Ringgold, Ga., in February 2008, said discussion of the need for a master plan had been going on for several years before he arrived.
He said the master plan shows the church members believe the church is growing and will continue to grow.
"It is certainly a good sign," Smith said.
Money for the construction of the children's ministry building comes from both the church's regular funding and a special stewardship effort in the church.
"The people here feel this is a good investment in the future," Smith said. "We wanted to secure at least half of the funding and we met our goal last spring."
Freeman and Associates of Columbus are in charge of the construction. Smith hopes the building will be finished within 15 months.
"With construction, you never know what might come up," Smith said.
While some preliminary work has been done on the site, there will be an official groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 13 at noon following the worship service.
"It is all very exciting for us as we move forward," Smith said. "This building is just the beginning."