Church project adding needed space
Despite recent wet weather, work is progressing on an addition to Tonganoxie's Christian Church.
The Rev. Ben Saathoff hopes the construction project on the east side of the Washington Street church will be completed by late next summer. The addition to the church has been necessitated by growth in recent years.
"Our Sunday school classes, in particular, are maxed out," Saathoff said. "We need several classes for the Sunday school, as well as the Christian school."
In 1975, when Saathoff took over as pastor of the church, an average of 90 people attended Sunday worship services, while Sunday school attendance hovered around 80, he said. Today, about 350 people regularly attend Sunday morning services, while about 270 participate in Sunday school.
The church's growth can be traced to many factors, the pastor said.
"I believe we've tried to make things relevant over the years and give people something that works for them in life," he said.
A total of 58 children attend preschool and another 66 children attend elementary school at Genesis Christian Academy, which is housed in the Christian Church building.
The two-story addition will provide another 26,000 square feet of space and will include classrooms, a kitchen and a multipurpose room. That large room will serve as a site for concerts, theater, church services, basketball games and fellowship.
"Right now, our fellowship area will not accommodate us," Saathoff said.
In addition, the pastor said the church plans to make some space in the new addition available for small community groups to meet. And he's hopeful a teen center planned in the new space will be popular among local youth.
"This isn't exclusively just for the Christian church," he said.
From his office on the east side of the church building, Saathoff has a bird's-eye view of the construction project, which is being handled by Haren and Laughlin Construction Co. of Overland Park. It's been thrilling, he said, to watch the progress.
"I kind of wish I could get into it and help build it," he said.
With other construction projects, Saathoff and congregation members actually did handle much of the work, including construction of the Washington Street building in 1978 and the addition of the school nearly 15 years later.
This $2 million project is too complex and large for volunteers to take on, he said. But volunteers will have a chance at some work, such as interior painting. About $360,000 worth of finish work will not be completed within the 10-month project, including some kitchen equipment, Saathoff said.
"Some things, we're going to leave undone for awhile," he said.