Growing congregations prompt church projects
Several churches in Tonganoxie are building for the future.
Currently, two churches in the city are in the midst of construction projects. And two other Tonganoxie parishes are making plans to expand. In McLouth, a new church building is under construction, on Kansas Highway 16.
Assembly of God
For Waneta Karriker, whose husband, Herman, is pastor at the Assembly of God Church, the past 10 months have been consumed with restoring the church building. The church, at Sixth and Church streets in Tonganoxie, was destroyed by a tornado that swept through the city last May.
"We're just moving right along," Karriker said.
The church is being reconstructed with volunteer labor, led by Don Wood, an Assembly of God construction missionary for Kansas.
And as spring brings warmer weather, activity at the construction site likely will pick up, including volunteers with the Assembly of God's Recreational Vehicle Missions America Placement Service.
"Many of those people will be coming our way with the warmer weather," Karriker said.
The reconstruction has been a long process, but Karriker remains optimistic.
"I wanted to be in by Easter," she said, adding that July looks to be a more likely month for the project to be complete.
When the May 11 storm hit Tonganoxie, the church's roof and main floor were destroyed. The walls tumbled down and the roof landed on top of them. However, the lower level of the church the site of Sunday school classrooms essentially was untouched. So that area has been used as the base for the new church building.
The 3,400-square-foot main level will include a vestibule, a nursery, an office and the sanctuary. A four-foot steeple rises above the church. The 2,400-square-foot lower level will feature fellowship area and classrooms.
The project will cost an estimated $350,000 for materials and professional fees, such as for architectural drawings and engineering plans. The church's membership tops out at 30 or 40, Karriker said. So without volunteer labor, the church could not be rebuilt.
"There's usually something for people to do if they come by, even if it's just sweep the floor," Karriker said. "We're encouraged, and we're very thankful for all of the help we received, and we appreciate it very much."
Another site where the sound of hammers is ringing along with church bells is Tonganoxie's Christian Church, which is on Washington Street, just east of U.S. Highway 24-40.
Plans call for an addition to the church to be completed by late summer. The addition to the church has been necessitated by growth in recent years. In 1975, an average of 90 people attended Sunday worship services, while Sunday school attendance hovered around 80, according to the Rev. Ben Saathoff. Today, about 350 people regularly attend Sunday morning services, while about 270 participate in Sunday school.
In addition, Genesis Christian Academy is operated at the church, for children in preschool through sixth grade.
The two-story addition to the east side of the church building 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.
In addition, Saathoff 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.
The $2 million project is being handled by Haren and Laughlin Construction Co. of Overland Park.
McLouth Church of the Nazarene
Although winter weather has delayed construction by about a month, work is on track for a new building for the Church of the Nazarene in McLouth.
"It is amazing. It truly is," said Sherry Alterman, church secretary.
The new church building is under construction on seven acres east of McLouth along Kansas Highway 16.
During the past four to five years, the church has seen a surge in attendance. On average, 140 people attend Sunday church services and 100 participate in Sunday school, Alterman said. Some Sunday school classes have met in private homes.
A new building, however, meant leaving the church's picturesque white church just east of downtown. Moving that building, which is more than 100 years old, proved to be too expensive, so construction of a new building started last year.
The new 14,400-square-foot church has been constructed with a good deal of volunteer labor. Church members estimate the project will cost about $500,000. Although the new building doesn't feature the same impressive stained glass windows that the existing church does, it will offer space for the growing congregation, which now spills over into two trailers for Sunday school and other gatherings. And the church has room for more growth on its 7.5 acres.
Alterman is hopeful that the spring weather will cooperate, so the building can be completed soon.
"We were hoping May 1," she said. "I don't think we'll be able to make the May 1 deadline. We're still shooting for that, but it would be a miracle from God to make that."
West Haven Baptist
During the next few years, construction likely will begin on Tonganoxie's West Haven Baptist Church's campus.
"We're working with an architect right now, and they are developing a master plan for our 10 acres," said the Rev. Rick Lamb. "The master plan will cover a lot of new buildings in the next 20 years."
The campus wraps around the church's existing building on U.S. Highway 24-40 in southwest Tonganoxie.
Likely, the first new building will be a multipurpose center, with 10 to 12 new classrooms and a large area that could serve as a fellowship hall and be used for sports and other programs.
"We're working on it, and the money is a big issue, and that's going to take a little time," Lamb said.
The pastor, who is starting his ninth year at West Haven, said that attendance has surged during his tenure from 70 or 80 people to an average between 250 and 270 people. And nearly 200 people attend Sunday school.
"We just don't have any more rooms," Lamb said. "We use every closet we have."
Next fall, fund-raising likely will get under way for the multipurpose building, Lamb said.
"It's exciting," he said. "It really is. A church has to do it. You don't want to get in the habit of just building buildings, though. We have to focus on what serves our needs ministrywise."
Sacred Heart Catholic
Parishioners at Tonganoxie's Sacred Heart Catholic Church soon will begin raising funds for buildings on land just south of West Haven Baptist Church.
"It will be a lot of work, but I think we can do it," said the Rev. Mark Goldasich. "Our next step is going to be the fund-raising. We've been so lucky at Tonganoxie because the people have supported the parish."
The priest said a master plan will guide development of the 11 acres, and construction will come in phases. The initial phase, he said, could cost between $2 million and $3 million.
"It's just amazing," he said. "It's like $150 a square foot. My gosh, you start multiplying that by hundreds of square feet."
Church members, who now worship at 703 River St., have some decisions to make whether a church building or a social hall comes first.
"The overwhelming majority wants a church first," Goldasich said.
"That leaves a rather large question mark of where do we meet, where do we hold our Sunday school classes. We may have to reverse that process, build a hall and pray in there."
But one thing is clear: More space is essential for the parish, which serves about 320 families.
"We've not been able to do this past year a good number of our weddings at the church because it only seats about 150," Goldasich said. "We've had to move confirmation from there because there's no room."
And for Christmas and Easter services, seating is set up in the church basement, with people watching on television monitors.
"I just don't like that, seeing it on TV," the priest said. "We've had to make do. We're at the point of having to do something."