The Twin Falls Reformed Church is spending $1.4 million for an additional worship center wing.
The 15,600-square-foot, two-story addition will house Sunday school classrooms for children through the fifth grade, allowing all young children to be in the same building as their parents during services.
The worship center now has a nursery for youngsters up to 3 years old, but children ages 4 to 12 attend Sunday school in the building next door at the church’s former worship center. Teenagers will continue to have Sunday school apart from their parents, in the building next door.
The church built its new worship center in 2003, but the old building has continued to play an important role. Many classes and community events are held in the facility, and the nonprofit Magic Valley School for the Performing Arts is housed there, as well as a large gymnasium.
Church administrator Mike Smit said there have been concerns about sending elementary-aged children next door for Sunday school while their parents attend church services in the newer building. He said the arrangement might keep families with younger children at home.
No one in the church has been accused of inappropriate behavior, but with child abuse in the news, Smit said church leaders want to do what it takes to keep families feeling secure.
“Those of us who grew up in the church didn’t think anything about it, but we think that having the kids in a separate building may be keeping attendance lower than if all of the kids were in the same building as worship,” Smit said. “When you take a step back and think about it from the perspective of someone who is new to church, it makes sense that they would want their kids close by.”
When the church formed in the 1970s, it had less than 50 members. Now its membership tops 1,700, and Sunday service attendance is about 800, with several hundred children participating in Sunday school.
Smit said church leadership wants young families to participate after Sunday services as well. Under the current arrangement, parents rush next door to retrieve their children from the nursery and then leave, he said.
Much of the project is bank-financed, Smit said, although the congregation donated $600,000 for a down payment on the loan. It took about two years for church leadership and the congregation to plan the project.
“The economy is still in a tough place, but it’s a great time to build. Interest rates are low and construction labor is lower than it had been,” Smit said.
The addition will leave the church with extra space that might be used for a school or day care, said Pastor Brian Vriesman.
“Nothing is nailed down, but we will explore both church and community needs,” he said.
General contractor Anderson Construction of Twin Falls expects the project to be complete by the end of the year.