Big Churches Get Bigger

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (RNS) Megachurches here in the heart of the Bible Belt are thriving enough to support a major building boom despite a sluggish economy.

First Baptist Church of Gardendale has built a $19.7 million, 2,700-seat sanctuary about 15 miles north of Birmingham. After a small arson fire in April delayed the opening, the first service in the new building is now set for Aug. 8.

First Baptist Church of Trussville is in the midst of a $7.5 million expansion that will include a new, larger home for its preschool, expected to be ready in January.

A new $4 million, 1,000-seat youth sanctuary is under construction and expected to open this fall at the Church of the Highlands, and Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Homewood is getting ready to break ground on a $9 million children’s building.

“It’s certainly a difficult time in the economy, but it appears we’re staying on track with our budget,” said Chris Byrd, chairman of the building committee at Dawson.

Churches are finding that with housing construction in a downturn, they can save money when they invite bids on their building projects.

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