Growing with Garner: First Baptist buys 12 acres in expansion effort

kjahner@newsobserver.comMay 9, 2014 

KYLE JAHNER — kjahner@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— – The growth underway in southern and eastern Garner has attracted attention beyond the business and residential development community.

First Baptist Church of Garner, on the heels of a sudden influx of donations last summer, purchased 12 acres on East Timber Drive for $1.1 million as part of its new plan to become a multi-campus church.

The land sits just west of a large tract of land Core Properties intends to develop commercially as the final piece of its development of White Oak Crossing. Specific site and building plans have yet to be hashed out and the church must raise money to build on the land with a capital fundraising drive. Generally, the church plans on a variety of spaces including a multi-purpose space capable of hosting Sunday services.

The facility will serve as an expansion, not a replacement for the current church near Benson Road and U.S. 70.

“Overall the vision is to take what the Lord’s been doing here on this campus, and multiply and expand it,” senior pastor Travis Tobin said, mentioning ministries including Community of Hope, which provides a food pantry, after school and job services. “This campus is easily used five to six days per week, sometimes seven.”

By policy the church does not disclose the nature of donations, though Tobin said the project came together quickly, with the funds raised over an eight-day period. Negotiations began in August and the church reached an agreement to buy in January. The congregation approved the purchase and the church has been doing due dilligence the last few months.

“A year ago, this wasn’t even on our radar,” Tobin said.

The church membership rolls are just shy of 1,500 members and has adequate worship space for the three English servces and one Spanish service it hosts, according to executive pastor Lee Childs, but ancillary facilities such as small meeting spaces have become outstripped by demand. The new facility will be designed around the church’s needs, Childs said, rather than trying to fit existing ministries into an existing building. As for the core worship space, Tobin said it made more sense to follow a recent trend toward multi-use space rather than “bolt a pew down that we can use one hour a week that costs us millions of dollars.”

Tobin said that from the start the goal was to situate the church for the next 40-50 years. And as worship leader Beth Hunnicutt noted, the growing commercial activity around the area will put the church on real estate with high visibility and activity as the area grows. Tobin said he hopes dirt could be moving in three years, and that at least some building could happen soon after, but said it could be beyond his time at the church until the full potential of the space is realized.

“God’s given us an ideal place. And all around us is going to be (developed), whether residential, commercial, retail, it’s going to be right in the middle of it,” Tobin said. “We want to be available to the community.”

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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