The ceremony hadn’t even started yet and it was quite apparent — this day was all about the children. One by one, tiny hands were snatching candy from the bed of a toy dump truck resting near the stage. Just a few feet away, a little boy was sucking on a lollipop and clinging to his father’s lapel. He was pointing skyward as a drone hovered overhead. In front of them, two little girls giggled as they exchanged bright yellow, plastic hardhats. And a toddler was playing with a green toy shovel as his mother took photos with her smartphone. As Pathway Church in Chippewa Township was about to embark on a multimillion-dollar construction project, the kids had already beaten them to it. Yes, they were certainly ALL IN.
“Children aren’t just the future of our church, they’re a big part of our church now,” said Susie Best, director of Children’s Ministry at Pathway. On a breezy, sun-drenched Sunday afternoon, hundreds of people gathered in Pathway’s north parking lot to witness an historic event in the life of the congregation, whose ripple effect will likely be felt throughout Beaver County. It was the groundbreaking for a $7.5 million expansion project, which will be highlighted by a new 22,000 square-foot children’s wing. The structure will feature an indoor play land, classrooms, a multipurpose room, and a first for a county church — an area dedicated to children with special needs. The building expansion is only a part of the church’s ALL IN initiative, which will also supply $150,000 to its Give Joy to the World fund, which shares the gift of clean water to needy regions in Africa, and also the hope of salvation to the village of Orkarkar, a remote community in Kenya.
“This building isn’t just for children here now,” Susie added. “It’s also for children we’ve yet to meet.”
She hopes the community will take advantage of the play land and other amenities. Susie was joined on stage by Jeff McNicol, senior pastor at Pathway, and Tim Songster, president of COSCO & Associates, a design/build firm undertaking the project. With a Bobcat E55 excavator to his left, and a drone circling 150 feet overhead to capture video footage for the church’s website, Pastor Jeff shared how the event was the culmination of five years of prayer and seeking God’s guidance. “Our prayer from Day One has been, ‘God, lead us,’ ” he said. “And so many things have come together in the past few years, it’s clear they’re from the hand of God.” He encouraged the congregation to continue praying as construction begins. “Pray as you drive by and see work being done — but please keep your eyes open when you do,” he quipped.
Construction on the children’s wing is expected to take between a year and 18 months to complete. When that portion is finished, work will begin in the student ministry area, then on renovations to the church’s café and office space. While Pastor Jeff emphasized prayer in his remarks, Songster asked for patience. “Please be patient,” he stressed. “It’s going to get ugly here before it gets real pretty.” As Songster continued, a gust of wind blew the toy dump truck off its stand and it crashed onto the blacktop. “Workman’s comp,” he joked, drawing laughter from the crowd. Pastor Jeff then instructed all to assemble along the perimeter of the building area, which was outlined by yellow caution tape. With hoots, hollers, applause and shouts of “hallelujah,” the ground was broken.
Those handling the golden shovels were:
John Marx closed the festivities with a prayer, then those in attendance crowded together in an attempt to take Beaver County’s “biggest selfie.” Songster’s firm has designed and built more than 1,000 churches throughout the nation. He predicted the impact of Pathway’s expansion will extend far beyond the congregation. “There will be a lot of families fed because of this project,” he said, pointing out that more than 600 workers will have a hand in the process. “This expansion not only will create an incredible environment for kids to learn and grow, but every demographic will get something. Everybody wins.”