Churches in South Carroll, like the commercial and residential areas, are experiencing growth spurts.

Elders Baptist broke ground last summer on a building that will triple its size.

"If we don't have the facilities, we can't serve the needs of the people," said the Rev. Kenneth R. "Kenny" Heath, Elders Baptist's pastor since 1992. "If you meet the needs, the people will come, find fulfillment and give of themselves."

The 35-year-old pastor says the $1.2 million project is "a little scary, but God's pockets do not have bottoms."

The Baptist church is one of several that must expand to meet the needs of growing congregations.

St. Paul's United Methodist in downtown Sykesville recently began extensive renovations to enlarge its sanctuary. St. Joseph Catholic Community on Liberty Road is conducting a building campaign for a larger church. And B'nai Israel is moving to a larger building on Main Street in Sykesville.

About 200 congregants attend Sunday services at Elders Baptist, nearly three times the number who attended when the church was founded in 1963.

"We see new people each week," Mr. Heath said. "We need to provide facilities and a ministry now and in the years ahead to an area which is undergoing tremendous growth."

The Eldersburg church raised about $160,000, enough for a down payment, from a stewardship campaign that called for a three-year commitment from the congregation.

"It's a big step of faith to depend on our own power and resources," Mr. Heath said. "We have a hefty mortgage and 200 people who believe the Lord can help us do this."

Established 32 years ago atop a hill overlooking Routes 32 and 26, the church has outgrown its building and uses two others on its four-acre property for meeting space and classrooms.

"Our Sunday school space can only accommodate about 60 people," Mr. Heath said. "The facilities in the other buildings are substandard. We are making do with sites which are old and in bad shape."

Mike Knight, the building committee chairman, said, "We need to be under one roof, and we are out of space to do that. With the new building, we can also focus on educational space."

The 9,600-square-foot, all-brick building "rides the ridge of the hill" and will be highly visible to travelers along Route 26, said Mr. Knight, a member of the church since 1982.

He said the church is reflecting a national trend back to religion.

"People are not just coming in the doors because this is a growth area," he said.

He said the congregation has "had a vision and need to build for years." When members began a search for a new pastor in 1991, they looked for a minister who could act on that vision.

"They told me before I got here that they were ready to start building," Mr. Heath said. "It's 10-year dream of the congregation."

The new design includes a wing on each side and about 100 more seats in the current sanctuary, where services have continued throughout the renovation. From the sanctuary and a widened foyer, a long corridor leads to offices for the pastor and staff members. Windows look onto a prayer garden.

The addition also includes a choir room, a music library, four children's classrooms and several rooms for youth activities.

"Youth is an area that we need to grow in," Mr. Heath said. "We have a good volunteer staff who are working hard to enhance our children's ministry."

When the new building opens in June, the main entrance will be off the parking lot in the rear. To the right of the entrance is another wing with four preschool rooms and a fellowship hall that could seat about 130 or be partitioned into several rooms.

"We will be able to have dinners, parties and church meetings," Mr. Heath said. "We can't have after-church get-togethers now."

The pastor, a husband and the father of two young children, also envisions a day care center in the preschool wing. "We want to give as much individual attention as possible to all groups," he said. "One size doesn't fit all."

Until the construction is complete, Mr. Heath is working in a construction trailer. He said the congregation is coping well with the inconveniences of a major building project.

"We don't look at bricks and wood, but what God is at work doing for us," said the pastor. "He is poising us to meet people's needs here and around the world."

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