Baptist church makes big strides with building addition
When Pastor Sandy Seaba came to Elm Grove Baptist Church in 1974, he didn’t intend for the position to be permanent.
Now, 35 years later, Seaba remains the church’s devoted leader, and he is watching it grow extensively this year with a $2.5 million addition.
“This is my life,” Seaba said of the church on the corner of Kansas Highway 32 and 158th Street. “And I think a church should grow. Anything that has life to it should grow, not just with a new building but with new people.”
In April, the church that proudly bears the nickname “the old county church” had a banquet to raise money for its new addition. Members and friends of the church had the opportunity to donate to the cause and to commit to donating a set amount of money during the next three years.
“We raised about $450,000 that day,” Seaba said.
The project will be completed in three phases, and Seaba said the church had devised a plan to pay off the loan it received in 10 years by having such banquets every three years. Each banquet will have a target amount of funding to be raised.
The new church is expected to open in November of this year, and the expanded parking lot and additional improvements will be completed as part of the second and third phases.
Don Lowe, owner of Lowe’s Construction, is the contractor on the job and the church’s treasurer. Lowe said the project was about 70 percent finished already, and the bulk of the work was behind them.
“We’re going to start doing the Sheetrock next week, then we’ll be ready soon for painting,” Lowe said. “Painting will take a long time, but the hard part is over now.”
When completed, the 25,000 square-foot building will have a 740-seat auditorium, six adult Sunday school rooms, a secure children’s area with five classrooms, new offices and restrooms, a foyer, an extended banquet hall and a large kitchen. The building will also have two overflow rooms, which will allow the church to seat about 1,000 people for worship and service. Seaba said the old church building would be used for teen services and apartments for the church’s out-of-town guests and missionaries.
The juxtaposition of the giant addition and the modest building right beside it sheds light on how far the church has traveled.
Elm Grove Baptist Church was Elm Grove School from 1885 to 1964. Seaba became the church’s fourth pastor in 1974. He stood behind the Elm Grove pulpit for the first time that year and preached to nine people.
“Of those nine people, five were my family,” he said. “And the next week, we had one more person join the congregation because my wife had another baby.”
Seaba now sees a lot more people filling the pews than did that first week. Record attendance for the church was more than 700 people, and an average of 300 people from 24 different towns come each week.
A program called Build Our Sunday School, or B.O.S.S., is at the heart of the church’s success, Seaba says. Every month, Seaba averages the Sunday school attendance and compares it to the same month during the previous year with hopes that it’s higher. Only a few times has it not been.
“This is what makes the church click,” Seaba said. “I am more proud of this than anything else here. It’s not the pastor or the building, it’s the people, the children who breathe life into this place.”
Though the church has vastly grown, Seaba strives to maintain its traditional country feel and conservative values. That small-town charisma is something Elm Grove will forever embody, Seaba says.
“We still sing from the hymn books,” he said. “Service is on the same day and time it’s always been. We still have those old traditions that made this church great, and we’re going to hang on to them.”