At 206,000 square feet, the enormous building that has emerged along the north side of S.H. 114 in the past 18 months is hard to miss. Other than the name, there are no obvious signs on the building’s exterior that it is a place of worship, but it is indeed the new home of the more than 18,000 member Gateway Church, which hosted its first service November 13.
According to Deborah Mash, Gateway’s executive director of media ministries, the new facility is a result of outgrowing its current 60,000 square foot location at 2121 Southlake Boulevard, which is currently for sale.
“The new facility is a tool to make ministry happen. We are building an area for community inside and outside,” said Mash, referring to informal gathering areas strategically located throughout the campus. “We strongly believe spiritual growth happens through personal connections.”
Spacious and open, the interior was specifically designed to accommodate its large and rapidly-growing congregation. The first floor lobby, which encircles the 4,000 seat auditorium, encompasses a welcome center at each entrance, guest reception area, volunteer lounge, kitchen, nursing mothers’ room, bookstore, coffee bar and classrooms. Announcements, videos and live sermons are shown on the 41 monitors placed in both the lower and upper lobby areas.
“The lobby is done, but not overdone,” stated Mash, noting careful thought was put into every aspect of the building’s design. “We want to provide more opportunities for people to make connections.”
The state-of-the-art sanctuary, which will accommodate more than twice the seating capacity at the current location, incorporates features and technology comparable to a performance arts hall such as stadium seating on two levels, high definition monitors, acoustical panels, nearly 100 speakers, catwalks and an extensive lighting system. A staff of 25 manages the lighting, audio and video production for all events in the auditorium, along with 180 volunteers who operate cameras and lights.
Upstairs is a complete video production studio, manned by 20 staff members who coordinate live webcasting, broadcast sermons to other locations, and produce Pastor Robert Morris’ weekly television show.
But perhaps the most unexpected area of the new mega-church is the children’s area, aptly named God’s Amazement Park. Designed for fun, the amusement park theme is carried throughout the approximate 60,000 square foot, two-story wing. Bright colors, wall murals, video games, puppet theaters, toys and a roller coaster on the wall are just part of the eye-popping appeal. Designated classrooms for age groups from birth to sixth grade are housed in secure corridors with check-in stations at each entrance.
“We believe that when children want to come to church, they will bring mom and dad with them,” explains Mash.
Although one of the largest church construction projects in the U.S., the new campus was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. Funded by a capital campaign, dubbed “Project 114,” Mash reports they are 65 percent of the way through the building campaign and contributions are keeping pace. With 160 acres at the new Southlake campus, the church has plenty of room to grow, but no plans for future phases are being announced at this time. An official grand opening will be held after the holidays in January 2011.
Gateway Church was founded in 2000 by Pastor Robert Morris with 30 members meeting in a living room. Today, it has grown to more than 18,000 active members, meeting at three campuses, with 14 services each weekend. Gateway Church was named the 21st largest and 41st fastest-growing church in the U.S. by Outreach Magazine. From its new central campus in Southlake, the church plans to expand to multiple campuses throughout the metroplex and across the United States.
For more information about Gateway Church, go to www.gatewaypeople.com.