First MB Church, Wichita, Kan., broke ground on a new $5.9 million, 775-seat worship center Feb. 22. The project also includes renovation work, including a revamped nursery area, and will be joined to the current building.
A worship center was part of the church’s master plan when the current facility was built some 20 years ago. Ironically, the right time to build coincided with a national economic downturn: The launch Sunday for the congregation’s capital campaign was scheduled for the same week in October that the stock market took a nosedive.
But pastor Brent Warkentin says the economy really has nothing to do with God’s purpose for the church. “Do you think God is ever surprised? Do you think this caught him off guard?” Warkentin asks. So the congregation moved ahead with plans to build. As if in confirmation, giving at First MB has remained strong, even surpassing previous records.
The current sanctuary, what Warkentin describes as “a big, flat floor,” houses three full services for this congregation that looks to grow. “Heaven’s not full yet,” Warkentin says.
The new worship center will enable them to move to two services and teach and motivate more people to go out and bring others to Christ, Warkentin says, but “we’re not going to become a building-centered church.” The current space will be used in a variety of ways—youth, recreation, potlucks, receptions and classes—once the congregation moves into the new space.
Groundbreaking was celebrated during each of the three Sunday services, with intergenerational groups of 12 people at each service turning shovels. Guests included Tim Sullivan, district minister for the Southern District Conference, and Jon Wiebe, CEO of MB Foundation, as well as representatives from the construction company and architect. Project completion is expected in spring 2010.—by Myra Holmes