WHAT MAKES US SPECIAL
According to the Glenmary Research Institute and its book “Religious Congregations & Membership: 2000,” Hamilton County has one of the lowest numbers of churches per 10,000 people in Tennessee. With 12 churches per 10,000 people, it is tied with Knox, Madison, Rutherford and Williamson counties and ranks ahead of only Davidson, Montgomery, Shelby and Sumner counties.
Chattanooga’s largest churches
Here are the largest churches, based on membership, of 12 religious bodies in Hamilton County. The list is based on the largest number of individual congregations in a five-county Chattanooga metropolitan area, as reported in the book “Religious Congregations and Membership in the United States 2000.”
ASSEMBLIES OF GOD — Calvary East Ridge, 146 members (2009); Bethel Temple, 160 (2007).
BRAINERD UNITED METHODIST
CHURCH OF CHRIST — East Brainerd, 900-1,000 members (2007 estimate).
CHURCH OF GOD — City Church, 1,096 members (2009).
CHURCH OF GOD OF PROPHECY — Hickory Valley Fellowship, 167 members (2009).
CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE — Grace, 279 members (2009).
CUMBERLAND PRESBYTERIAN — First, Chattanooga, 597 members (2009).
EPISCOPAL — St. Paul’s, 1,927 members (2008).
PRESBYTERIAN (CHURCH IN AMERICA) — First, Chattanooga, 1,642 members (2008).
PRESBYTERIAN (USA) — Rivermont, 528 members (2008).
ROMAN CATHOLIC — Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 3,420 members (2009).
SOUTHERN BAPTIST — Abba’s House (Hixson Central Baptist), 6,819 members (2008).
UNITED METHODIST — Christ, 3,770 members (2009).
Building a family life center is not like erecting a field of dreams, said Dr. John Wyatt. Just because you build it, they won’t necessarily come.
However, because First Baptist Church of Fort Oglethorpe planned ahead when it built such a center in 2009, the congregation is reaping the benefits.
“We want to involve people as much as possible,” Dr. Wyatt said. “I’m optimistic that the future (there) will be good.”
The economic downturn put the brakes on local congregations considering recreational expansions over the past year, but three large churches did complete additions in 2009 through which they hope to further reach out to the public.
In addition to First Baptist of Fort Oglethorpe’s 17,625-square-foot center, Orchard Knob Baptist built a 24,000-square-foot Christian education and resource center and Brainerd Hills Baptist erected a 16,200-square-foot education complex.
Dr. Wyatt said the country’s burgeoning obesity problem was on the congregation’s mind in wanting to offer its new facilities to the public.
“(The problem is) rampant in our land,” he said, “so we hoped to have a great deal of participation.”
Since the center — called The Link — opened in September 2009, its niche has become volleyball, Dr. Wyatt said. A league in which the church partners with the North Georgia Family YMCA “is doing well,” he said.
Walking is popular on the three nights a week the center is open, he said, and activities on one of the nights include basketball, ladder golf and badminton.
Dr. Wyatt said much of the credit for the success goes to youth and activities director Adam West, who helps organize and facilitate the programming.
“You have to have a program, someone responsible and someone marketing it,” he said.
The Christian education and resource center at Orchard Knob Baptist already is well utilized for classes, according to congregation officials, but “they’re gearing up for more community involvement.”
When the building was dedicated in June 2009, the Rev. Harold K. Lester said future activities there might include tutoring, AWANA and Crown Financial Ministries programs as well as Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.
The addition, he said, “will better allow the church to serve both the congregation and the wider Chattanooga community with ministries and classes designed to enhance everyday living.”
The three-level educational complex at Brainerd Hills Baptist includes a suite of offices and preschool classrooms on the first floor and adult classrooms on the second floor, but it is the youth classrooms, state-of-the-art worship space for 160 to 180 people, game room and canteen on the third floor that spurred plans for the building.
The congregation has some 70 youths in grades 6-12.
“It’s a place to be proud of,” said senior pastor Dr. C. Richard Mason. “It positions us to reach other kids. That’s the whole idea.”
Other key factors, officials said, are 15 classrooms, a large glass reception area and an elevator providing access to all floors for people of every ability.
“We’ve grown steadily for years,” Dr. Mason said. “We spent a great deal of time analyzing what to do. This broadens our ability for ministry.”