A ren­dering of College Bap­tist’s new addition. Courtesy | Ben Cuthbert

College Baptist Church is on its way to adding a new section to its building for the first time in more than 150 years by kick-starting a fundraising cam­paign to raise $700,000 last Sunday. 

Church leaders said they hope to use the new space to accom­modate the needs of the con­gre­gation and com­munity for hand­i­capped-acces­sible facil­ities, and to increase the oppor­tu­nities for training and fellowship.

College Baptist will name the new addition the 4:12 Center, a ref­erence to Eph­esians 4:12: “To equip the saints for the work of min­istry, for building up the body of Christ,” according to church leaders. 

The center will include a new fel­lowship hall, a kitchen, two class­rooms, a con­ference room, a  nursery, bath­rooms, and office spaces for church staff, according to plans on the Church website. 

According to College Baptist Pastor Ben Cuthbert, the idea of an addition to the church dates back nearly a century. 

There are archi­tec­tural drawings for an addition to College Baptist that date back to around the 1930s that hang on the wall; there’s always been a vision for the building itself to be larger than it is,” Cuthbert said. 

Rod Stewart, a member of the College Baptist building com­mittee and a regular attendee of the church since 1973, said the church has long needed the addition.

“Even as a student I picked up at the time that people had rec­og­nized this was a lecture hall– a preaching church, not a con­gre­gation church,” Stewart said.

College Baptist began to seri­ously con­sider an addition in 2005, according to Cuthbert. Under former pastor Jason Mekelburg, who joined College Baptist in 2006, Cuthbert said that idea only grew. 

“The church was in a place where they rec­og­nized some of those inad­e­quacies in a sig­nif­icant sort of way, so my pre­de­cessor, under his lead­ership, there was birthed this idea for an addition that they dubbed the 4:12 Center,” Cuthbert said. 

After another decade of drafting plans and attempting to kick­start the project, Pastor Mekelburg died in 2016, so the project stalled while the church searched for a new pastor. The church even­tually hired Cuthbert in the summer of 2017. Fol­lowing Mekelburg’s vision, the project moved forward as the church approved a con­tract with Storey Brook Devel­opment to help create the plans cur­rently in use for the center, Cuthbert said. 

Cuthbert also said the current plans for the 4:12 Center include new hand­i­capped-acces­sible bathrooms.

“Our building only has one main floor restroom; it’s inad­e­quate to do the min­istry that God’s called us to do,” Cuthbert said. “We can’t welcome new people if we aren’t handicapped-accessible.” 

Stewart said the new center will provide more edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­nities at the church.

“It’s pro­viding an overall facility that helps us support and do poten­tially more classroom training and sem­inars,” Stewart said.

Stewart said he hopes to see mis­sions training, espe­cially after returning from a medical mission trip in Peru. 

“I would like to see prepa­ration for the mission field. I think we could be par­tic­u­larly posi­tioned in the mis­sions angle to train for going to another culture, a dif­ferent people, a dif­ferent approach to life,” Stewart said.

Both Cuthbert and Stewart high­lighted the focus on college stu­dents with the center as well, men­tioning in par­ticular the pos­si­bility for speaking events.

“We can’t always open our facility as often as we would like to for stu­dents, we haven’t been able to take advantage of oppor­tu­nities to raise up the next gen­er­ation of pastors and mis­sion­aries and we would love to have a facility that might allow us to host con­fer­ences or special speakers or lec­tures from time to time,” Cuthbert said. 

College Baptist Church approved the launch of a Capital Cam­paign to raise $700,000 under the lead­ership of Bill Gray, a member of the Mission Board at College Baptist and the Pres­ident of Mar­keting at Hillsdale College.

“There’s a big number to hit, $700,000, and so it’s going to take a lot of prayer from lots of dif­ferent people,” Gray said. “The cam­paign will run from probably mid-to-late March through May, and the goal at the end of that cam­paign will be to have com­mit­ments from folks to support the project over the course of three years.”

According to Gray, one of the biggest needs for the project in the next year is gen­erosity from the church. 

“The chal­lenge is going to be encour­aging the con­gre­gation to be gen­erous and to trust as a con­gre­gation that the funds will arrive that we need,” Gray said. “My hope and prayer is that all of this comes together to where we can move forward and break ground. Hope­fully, you know, in the next year or so.”

Stu­dents inter­ested in donating money to the 4:12 Center can either des­ignate their offering at College Baptist as for the building addition, or can give through the College Baptist website, des­ig­nating building addition. Addi­tionally, stu­dents can par­tic­ipate in the upcoming capital cam­paign by com­pleting pledge cards before leaving for the summer, Gray said.

According to Stewart, this is an oppor­tunity for stu­dents as well, even if they only give smaller amounts. 

Since its inception, College Baptist Church has been an integral part of Hillsdale College, spending its first 10 years in the college chapel before moving to its current location. Ronald Reagan spoke at College Baptist when he first visited Hillsdale in 1977, and the sanc­tuary has hosted many con­vo­ca­tions over the years. Stewart, Cuthbert and Gray hope to con­tinue the church’s integral role in the com­munity through the 4:12 Center and the new oppor­tu­nities it provides.