Grand churches, known as "mega churches" in places like Houston and Dallas, are marketing themselves with upscale features such as espresso counters and McDonald's. First Baptist Church in Nacogdoches is using a similar strategy. Its new four-million-dollar addition is designed to lure members in.
With its bright colors and cartoon characters, you'd think you were in a Walt Disney film as you walk the halls of "Kingdom Kidz". Oh, by the way, Disney artists designed the murals.
Children's Ministry Director Tracy McCowan explains, "We want it to be an exciting place and then, while they're here, we share the love of Christ with them. We want the kids when they leave to say, 'I want to go back'."
Satisfy the kids and you'll keep the parents. Clergy have known that for a long time, so why not market the concept? Associate Pastor Bobby Smith says, "There's no use in trying to cover it up. We want people to be in church."
A New Braunfel's visitor touring the facility is overwhelmed by the bright murals. "Wow, this is amazing, isn't it?" Mission accomplished. The goal is to 'wow' children and their parents from the moment they walk in the door. They're greeted by a large Jonah the whale. It's a slide down to the first floor."
Computerized security and pager systems are also being installed, all designed to safely protect children while at preschool or Sunday school.
Teachers also want to bring the Bible alive to little ones. "This area allows the kids to pretend like they're in the Bible, so this is kinda showing a young boy pretending to be John the Baptist," points out McCown.
Having the biggest and the best isn't what it's about, according to church leaders. Nor is taking members away from other churches, but they do want to attract those without a church home.
"Bigger is not always better, but we do believe that we're to give our best for the Lord and, so, if this is what we're able to do and this is the best we can do, then we're going to give him our best," said Smith.
Kingdom Kidz' grand opening is February 6th. Everyone is invited.
Next on the drawing board is a new sanctuary and education center. And, who knows, maybe even a Starbucks for the adults.