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Youth space complete at Mitchell church

The excitement is building for 16-year-old Caleb Gebhard as he anticipates the opening of Northridge Baptist Church's new youth space. His only complaint is he has to wait to use it. "It's nothing that we've had before," Gebhard said. "It's going...

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The expansion includes classrooms in the upstairs portion and a playroom and hangout space in the basement.(Katherine Clayton/ Republic)

The excitement is building for 16-year-old Caleb Gebhard as he anticipates the opening of Northridge Baptist Church's new youth space.

His only complaint is he has to wait to use it.

"It's nothing that we've had before," Gebhard said. "It's going to be great."

The Mitchell church finished construction on May 31 and will dedicate the addition later this summer. The only holdup on the center's completion is to carpet and furnish some of the rooms.

The project focused on adding space for the 70 members of the middle- and high-school youth ministry and the 120 children's ministry attendees. The church, located just south of Lake Mitchell, had been renting the Farm Credit Services of America building, south of Interstate 90, to house its youth ministry, while the children's ministry took place inside the church.

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With the addition of offices, classrooms, a youth sanctuary, a playroom, outdoor worship area and a hangout space, the youth and children will have a space to call their own.

"There were a lot of good memories, but it was just getting too small for us," said Rylie Eitemiller, a Northridge Youth attendee.

Eitemiller, 14, is happy to have a space where she and her contemporaries can worship freely. This experience has shown her that the congregation cares about the church's younger members and wants their programs to succeed.

"It makes me feel like the church is home," Eitemiller said.

Construction crews broke ground on the $2.02 million project in October, but planning for the space began in 2013. According to Lead Pastor Ben Payne, a team was created before construction to meet with the church's various ministries and find the best way to accommodate each of their needs.

Representatives of the ministries presented their wish lists, which were incorporated into a building plan.

Next came fundraising. Every household that has donated to the church was approached by the fundraising team. Payne said other members of the church were asked to donate as well, and the church took out a loan.

"We've sensed the hand of God as we've moved forward," Payne said.

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The congregation did not resist the project, and they didn't encounter issues during the construction, Payne said.

The idea behind the project, Payne said, was to create a place where the youth of the church could grow in their relationship with Jesus and other young people.

"We want it to be an irresistible place for them," he said. "We want children to beg their parents to be here."

The church will use the space for regularly scheduled programs, and Payne wants to add other activities, as well.

"It opens the door for other initiatives to help the community," Payne said.

Youth pastor Nate Holdeman said the building is a "huge blessing," but the emphasis should be placed elsewhere.

"We want people to be attracted to the people and the message, not the building." Holdeman said.

The newly constructed classrooms have been transformed into cave-like spaces with posters resembling a cave environment and a doorway with an entrance similar to a rock formation.

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The constructed ended just before Northridge's Vacation Bible School for children, which will run from June 5 to June 9 with the theme "Cave Quest."

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