A Center Grove area church is set to begin a major expansion this month as part of an ongoing project to turn a former elementary school into its permanent home.
Southland Community Church, housed at the former West Grove Elementary School on Smith Valley Road east of State Road 37, plans to begin construction on a 29,000-square-foot auditorium and gathering place later this month. The church, which was founded in 2009 with its first meetings at a funeral home, wants to make its site clearly identifiable as a church and make room for future growth, senior pastor Steve Schellin said.
The new space will have an auditorium with room for 700 people, with the ability for a future expansion to bring its capacity to more than 1,000, Schellin said.
“When it is all said and done, we think the Lord wants us to build it and we trust Him to fill it,” he said.
Construction is tentatively planned to begin later this month and will take between nine to 12 months to complete. The goal is to have services begin in the new area by Christmas, he said.
The church routinely surpasses 425 attendees at its Sunday services, Schellin said.
The building, which housed West Grove Elementary School until it closed in 2010, has served as an excellent site for the congregation, allowing it to offer a variety of services to the community, including child care, counseling and assistance for developmentally disabled adults. However, not being easily recognizable as a church has limited the church’s growth, which has flatlined the past couple of years, he said.
The church announced its first phase of $5.7 million in improvements in 2015. Those plans included adding 425 parking spaces and the construction of the new auditorium. Estimates on how much the project would cost have risen since 2015, based on a construction market that much costlier, he said.
“We did the parking lot first,” he said. “That was the immediate need because the parking lot was designed for teachers and buses, not for a church with a lot of cars pulling in and out.”
Church members have raised $2.7 million so far for the project, and the church intends to take out a loan to cover the remainder of the work, which it hopes to pay off within the next five years, Schellin said.
Even though the church has been at the former school since 2010 and has owned the building since 2013, they still hear from people surprised to find out how the building is being used, Schellin said.
The expansion, which will be on the building’s west side, will be easily visible from State Road 37 and Smith Valley Road. And, once the final section of Interstate 69 is completed, the church might be visible from the interstate as well, he said.
A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for an expansion at Southland Community Church.
When: 10:15 a.m. Sunday, in between the church’s 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. worship services.
Where: Southland Community Church, 5800 W. Smith Valley Road, Greenwood.