During Sunday services at a church east of Greenwood, cars often are parked in the grass as an influx of new members has the 173-year-old church more crowded than ever.

About two years ago, about 400 people would come to Sunday services at Rocklane Christian Church. Now, that number is around 600, said Dion Reed, the church’s minister of involvement.

To make room for more people, the church added a third service, and some drivers are having to either park in a gravel lot or in grass fields when the parking lot fills up, he said.

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In the past couple of years, the church has grown to the point where it is running out of room and needs additional space if it is going to continue growing its membership, Reed said.

“We exist to help people know God,” Reed said. “It’s hard to help people know God when you don’t have room for them.”

A new pastor and an emphasis on community outreach have both been factors in the church’s recent growth, Reed said.

The church, at the northeast corner of Main Street and North Franklin Street, is one of the oldest churches in Johnson County and first opened its doors in 1845. Since then, the church has had multiple expansions and renovations. Drivers passing by still can see the original church building and steeples but also can see the other expansions that have spread out from the original structure. Most recently, the church added a new sanctuary space about 15 years ago, Reed said.

“1845 was when the original church was built,” Reed said. “We’ve been adding onto this building ever since.”

Now, the church is planning a multi-million expansion that would add a 600-person sanctuary, additional meeting rooms for adults and kids, as well as another 175 spaces for its parking lot. The project, which officials hope to start this spring, is essential to the church’s mission, he said.

The church has requested permits for the work from the county, and if members vote to approve the project, construction on the exterior of the building could be complete this time next year. The 34,000-square-foot addition will go on the east side of the building on land the church already owns, Reed said.

Besides a new sanctuary, which would allow the church to go back to two morning services, the addition will also include a cafe, gathering space and classrooms spaces for adults and kids that can be used for Sunday school and other programs. The current sanctuary will house youth programs and special events, but the church doesn’t plan on having multiple services at the same time, Reed said.

The project is expected to cost between $3 million and $4 million, Reed said. So far, the congregation has raised about $1.5 million as part of an ongoing three-year fundraising campaign, he said.

Church members will volunteer their time to finish out the interior of the expansion to help cut down on the cost of the project, he said.

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Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.