Bethel UMC to Build a Community Center That Ministers to God’s People

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Like kids on Christmas morning, members of Bethel UMC in Atlanta are eager to break ground on their brand-new community center. From securing a loan from the Georgia United Methodist Foundation to finalizing architectural plans, Building Committee Chair John Lawrence had checked all the boxes. What the Church could not anticipate was a delay in obtaining a building permit due to COVID-19. If the Church can begin construction no later than November 1, 2020, The Bethel Community Center should be ready March 31, 2021.

The 4,000-square-foot community center is key to helping this mission-minded family of faith carry on its transformative work. “Bethel is known for its care for a broken and hurting world. We feed families and provide COVID-19 testing, blood drives, online worship services, and a small group Bible Institute, which includes Disciple Bible Study, Wednesday Noon, and GriefShare for our community and beyond,” said Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Jacqui Rose-Tucker. “As with most Methodist churches, we do have an aging congregation with one caveat, young at heart, with a desire to reach our community and reclaim our place as a community church. We are creating a legacy of faith to children, youth, and young adults in this community. We are open to inviting people of all ages, races, sexes, and gender identities. We love Christ and therefore love whom Christ loves.”

Lawrence adds, “We have missed opportunities to be in ministry to our community due to lack of space. We will use the new space to minister to children and youth who need a place of refuge after school. We will offer after school tutoring and a place where grandparents providing day-to-day care for their grandchildren can receive needed resources.”

When complete, the community center, which doubles as a fellowship hall, will feature a fully-equipped kitchen, coffee house, classrooms, and storage spaces, and seating for 300. The Church plans to offer exercise classes, dinner theaters, musical concerts, and spiritual, physical, and mental health wellness programs and resources. Members and visitors alike will have a place to hold church and community events such as weddings, receptions, and meetings.

“The community center will usher Bethel into becoming a more intricate cornerstone in the community. Small group participation will increase through Bible study, the coffee house, tutoring, and after school activities,” Lawrence said. “We will be able to help our young people thrive as some do not have internet in their homes. We will also be able to remedy some of the barriers to quality education existing in our community and beyond.”

Bethel UMC considered several factors before committing to this building project. The Church has no debt, is in sound financial condition, and is located in a desirable and growing area. Leadership surveyed its church family and friends. MissionInsite performed a demographic analysis to help Bethel UMC better understand its membership and the community at large. The data revealed that The Bethel Community Center would help to meet needs in the community, particularly when it comes to ministering to the younger demographic.

Church leadership also did their homework when it came to choosing a lender. Lawrence explains, “We partnered with GUMF because we wanted to support our United Methodist institutions. We were looking for a financial partner with competitive rates who understands the internal workings of a church and for a spiritual partner like GUMF who has a goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ.”