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St. Timothy's on the Northern Shore United Methodist Church - Mandeville - Louisiana
By: Jennifer-Walker Journey

Things were going well for St. Timothy's on the Northern Shore United Methodist Church in Mandeville, Louisiana, in the early 2000s. The church was enjoying considerable growth and was looking to expand. There were several needs on the agenda, including a larger sanctuary, expanded parking, and a two-story education wing. But the first order of business would be to build a building for youth ministry, one where junior high and high school students could come for fellowship and worship in an environment that catered solely to them.

Church leadership set out to find an architect firm with experience in building churches and found WPH - Architects for Ministry, a firm out Penndel, Pennsylvania, that is devoted exclusively to serving Christian churches and ministries through master planning and architecture.

WPH President Todd R. Phillippi met with church leadership and designed a master plan that could be built in two or three phases. The first phase would involve the youth center. The other phases would add a 2,200-seat worship center, convert the existing sanctuary to an adult education center, and expand parking.

In 2005, St. Timothy was ready to move forward with the building plans when tragedy struck. That August, Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast, and its heavy winds downed trees on the campus of St. Timothy's, causing damage to the church buildings. Crews were needed to cut the trees and clean the debris. St. Timothy's had no water or electricity for more than a week. Yet, the church's focus was not fixing the damage it sustained but reaching out to the most needy people in the community. St. Timothy's opened its doors to dozens of groups who came to Louisiana to assist with the massive cleanup and rebuilding of the area. At one time, there were more than 500 people housed in St. Timothy's. The church also made its building available to other churches more heavily damaged so they could hold worship services.

The church's healthy membership of about 3,000 also suffered, as much of the population moved away. With a third fewer members and damages that needed repairing, St. Timothy's had no choice but to abandon the new building project until it could recover.

Surprisingly, recovery came faster than anyone had expected. One year later, St. Timothy's had welcomed enough new members to make up for those who had left. Financially, the church was ready to move forward with the first phase of the master plan – building the youth center. The design was refined and permits were applied for, and, by March 2008, the church was finally ready to begin actively building.

St. Timothy's youth pastor Andy Durbin had a vision for the youth center to be both casual and inviting for times of fellowship, but also spiritual for moments of worship. That idea guided Phillippi in the design of the 11,000-square-foot building. When visitors first enter the youth center, they walk into a large, open foyer complete with a café, DJ booth, and rock-climbing wall – the perfect place for social gatherings. The area can be made more intimate by sliding large glass windows/walls to make smaller classrooms.

As one moves through the main lobby area into a 450-seat worship area/theater, mood lighting helps create a more quite, spiritual setting to encourage spiritual connection. The worship area/theater, lobby and classrooms are all equipped with a comprehensive audio, video, and lighting system.

To keep the construction costs in check, Phillippi used a pre-engineered steel superstructure with a standing seam, metal roof for the building's infrastructure. The walls were built with convention construction to blend with the existing building on campus. A covered promenade connects the youth center to the rest of the campus. The exterior was designed with complementary materials, such as stucco, shingle, and brick.
The building also was designed to accommodate large groups – with showers and an emergency generator – in the event the church would have to, once again, serve as a shelter for volunteer groups in times of disaster.

The interior was designed around a single theme, based on Isaiah 40:3: "In the desert, prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God." The "walking down the highway of life" theme plays an instrumental role in the center, from a large, backlit cross-shaped stained-glass window above the entrance that depicts a teen walking down a road, to Bible verses inside relating to paths and roads to encourage the youth to journey with God.

Keeping in theme, St. Timothy's named the center "The Highway."

Less than a year after the church began actively building the youth center, in January 2009, St. Timothy's opened the doors of The Highway Student Ministry Center. The construction cost rang in at $1.56 million.

The Highway is up and running, and youth are making good use of the building through weekly youth activities, small group meetings, Sunday evening gatherings, and monthly "dodgeball," also known as "intense fellowship meetings."

St. Timothy's is already focusing on the future, hoping to begin the next phase of the plan soon.

WPH – Architects for Ministry, based in Penndel, Pennsylvania, began as John Whitehead and Associates in 1985. Today, WPH continues to expand both geographically and in scope of services offered, www.churcharchitects.com








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