An expansion project at New Site Baptist Church in Monett is approximately 70 percent complete, according to John Henry, associate pastor at the church. Henry said that the project is due to the continued growth of the congregation.
"We have three church services on Sunday and two Sunday School classes," Henry said. "We see between 500 to 600 people each Sunday morning."
In an effort to accommodate the growing church population, elders have opted to turn the multi-purpose gymnasium into a sanctuary for morning worship services. The new sanctuary will be able to seat about 450 people with plenty of nursery and toddler space just outside the door.
"We will have a secured area where parents can check their children into the nursery and then step right into their classrooms or church," Henry said. "The trend across the nation seems to be making the nursery areas more secure, and we think parents will be comforted knowing that their children are going to be safe."
The improvements at New Site began in late March, and church officials hope to have the renovations completed by December in time for their annual Christmas cantata.
"We have a new gymnasium area, which has two gym floors, so we can play more games at one time," Henry said. "We start Upward Bound, a Christian-based basketball program in November, and we will see probably 200 or more kids enrolled in that program. Practices start at the end of the year, and games will continue into the new year."
The church is a beehive of activity with regularly scheduled services on Sunday morning, evening and Wednesday night, and a host of other programs going on throughout the weekday evenings.
"There is usually someone or some group here until up in the evening every night," said Pastor Aaron Weible. "Whether it is a youth program, a seasonal or special event, we have something going on here pretty much every night of the week."
The church also offers bus transportation for youth interested in attending Sunday School and worship services.
"We also minister to Countryside Care twice a month and Lacoba Homes on a monthly basis," Weible said.
"We've had an explosion of growth in the past few years," said Henry. "Some years there has been more than others, but we still needed to find a way to make more space to minister to people."
New Site Baptist Church is reportedly the oldest church in Barry County.
"This is our 162nd year," Weible said. "The church was established in 1848. We relocated once from the Pulaskifield area and then again to our present location sometime around 1912 or 1914.
"The only time the church suspended services for any length of time was during the Civil War," he continued. "There were no services for four years. It was a dangerous time."
A nearby cemetery is testament to the early settlers of the area or those continuing their westward migration with headstones dating back to the 1850s.
"I believe the origin of the cemetery was some people traveling west had a child that died, and they buried it under an oak tree," Weible said. "That was the start of the New Site Cemetery."
Weible said there is a small history book containing the history of the church back to its origins, and that many people had contacted church officials regarding ancestral records of those who attended services or have been buried in the church cemetery.
With the church's rich history of tradition, Weible and the church elders continue to seek innovative ways to minister to the community.
"We have evening Bible Study and often it's difficult for parents to get off of work, get home, feed their families and make it to church," Henry said. "So we tell 'em, 'Come straight here, we'll feed you,' and we provide that meal for the members and their families so that they can make it to church."
Another outreach ministry the church is offering is Celebrate Recovery.
"This is a program for children, youth and adults," Weible said. "Hurts, habits and hangups. Adults in crisis don't often realize the impact that they have on their children and how it affects the whole family.
"This program is a Christ-centered support group for those with addiction issues, families in crisis, depression and other problems," Weible said. "It's not therapy. We aren't counselors. This is just a support group program separate from the church."
New Site Baptist Church is located at 190 Farm Road 1060, just off Highway 60 west of Monett. Sunday worship services are at 8:30 a.m., 9:45 a.m. and 11 a.m. Sunday school classes are held at 9:45 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sundays. Sunday evening services are at 6 p.m.Expansion at New Site Baptist Church of Monett is about 70 percent finished, according to John Henry, associate pastor. The entryway has been moved so elderly congregants and toddlers have the least distance to walk to their respective services upon entering the building.