DENHAM SPRINGS -- With gold shovels in their hands, Bethany Church leaders broke ground on a new, state-of-the-art campus on Jan. 20, 2019.
Almost a year to the day, that new church is set to open.
Bethany Church, which boasts several sprawling campuses and nearly 10,000 congregation members statewide, will officially open the doors to its permanent Denham Springs campus on Sunday, Jan. 26.
There will be three services that day — one at 8:15 a.m., the second at 10 a.m., and the third at 11:45 a.m. — as the megachurch commemorates the opening of its new campus, located at 28115 Juban Road, just north of Interstate 12. Those will be the regular Sunday service times moving forward, said Cameron Wiggins, who will serve as pastor of the new campus.
“We’re excited,” Wiggins said as construction crews worked around him. “We’ve been pushing the limit to get in for this Sunday, which is awesome. But we’re ready. Everyone’s very excited about the new building.”
The church has been a long time coming.
Bethany Church officially launched its Livingston Parish campus in February 2014 inside the Walker High gymnasium, where two services have been held every Sunday since.
Wiggins, a North Carolina native who moved to Louisiana in the mid-2000s, said the church was launched to meet the growing demands of its Livingston Parish members, who were commuting to Baton Rouge and as far as Baker every Sunday for service.
Though the hope was to one day establish a permanent church, Wiggins said there was no concrete plans about when — if ever — that church would open.
“It was a leap,” Wiggins said.
And a lot of work.
For almost six years, Wiggins and a team of volunteers arrived at Walker High every Saturday to turn the gym into a sanctuary. They rolled out mats over the wood floors, arranged about 400 chairs over the tarps, and cleared out classrooms for nurseries.
Once the final service ended Sunday afternoon, they tore it all down and stowed it away until the next weekend, when they’d come back and do it all over again.
“Some weekends were faster than others,” Wiggins said with a laugh. “But we enlisted the help of a lot of volunteers to make it happen, and our team was awesome.”
There will no longer be the need to roll out mats, set up chairs, or clear out classrooms — this church is here to stay.
The new Denham Springs church is housed in a 20,000-square-foot facility, which is comprised of a main auditorium, a children’s auditorium, a nursery hallway, and other offices and classrooms.
There will be enough seating for 540 people in the main sanctuary, Wiggins said, and inside the sanctuary, church goers will find dozens of multi-colored lights and speakers hanging from the ceiling, a large projection screen situated at the back of the stage, and sound panels covering the walls.
The children’s auditorium — or the “BKids auditorium,” as the church calls it — has chairs, two restrooms, and two flat screens inside, as well as a sound booth. In the nearby nursery hall, there are eight classrooms filled with playground equipment, toys, games, televisions, rocking chairs, cribs, and more.
In front of the main auditorium is a lounge area, where people can take a seat on the couches and chairs or grab a cup of coffee as they watch the church service via a live stream.
This will mark the fourth campus for Bethany Church in the Greater Baton Rouge area, said Communications and Media Director Robert Wood. The church also opened a campus in Houma in 2017, and a campus on Canal Street in New Orleans is scheduled to open near the end of 2020, Wood said.
“We’re reaching outside of Baton Rouge and taking the opportunities to reach out to this great state,” Wood said.
The Denham Springs campus will have six full-time staff members as well as volunteers known as the “A-team,” Wiggins said. The church also has a small classroom set up for its “Next Steps” program, where new members can get connected with the church, the community, and Bible studies.
“We hope this new church will bring us closer to our members in Livingston Parish,” Wiggins said. “We want to reach this area more effectively. That’s the whole purpose behind the last six years.”