Fast-growing church on south side undertaking $6M Franklin expansion

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Fast-growing Emmanuel Church on the south side is building a third campus, in Franklin, to serve its swelling membership.

The $6 million, 30,000-square-foot project is under construction on a 14.5-acre parcel in the Homesteads at Hillview development at the northwest quadrant of Interstate 65 and State Road 44. It should be finished by the end of the year.

Emmanual Church renderingThe Franklin church is expected to initially attract about 1,000 parishioners. (Image courtesy Emmanuel Church)

Leaders of Emmanuel expect their new church to attract about 1,000 parishioners, many of whom now worship at the existing two locations, one on the south side of Indianapolis and another in Greenwood. Emmanuel has established a temporary outpost by renting space at Franklin Middle School until the new church is completed.

Overall, about 4,400 people attend services at the three locations, including about 400 at the middle school site.

Joe Pittman, Emmanuel’s communications director, attributes the church’s growth to its mission of “trying to present the Bible in a practical way to make it relevant in peoples’ day-to-day lives,” he said.

Although Emmanuel has experienced substantial growth in recent years, the church has been around for decades. It was founded in 1977 by Jim Devney, with 17 attendees meeting at his home.

Emmanuel later moved to the Johnson County Sports Day Camp in Franklin, before landing in 1982 at its current Greenwood location at 1640 W. Stones Crossing Road near Indiana 135.

The nondenominational church remained content with one location until 2013, when Emmanuel launched its south-side location at 6602 S. Harding St. south of West Banta Road. The site draws about 600 weekly worshipers.

Church leaders soon decided it was again time to expand.

“We began to think about how we could better serve the people of Franklin,” senior pastor Danny Anderson said in a press release. “We wanted to make church closer and more easily accessible to them—ultimately giving them the opportunity to help us grow Emmanuel’s impact in their own back yard.”

Anderson joined Emmanuel as its high school pastor and assumed leadership in 2006, at the age of 28.

Emmanuel’s explosive growth earned it a place on Outreach Magazine’s 2017 list of 100 fastest-growing churches in America, ranking 68th, with a 12 percent increase in new members last year.

But according to a 2015 report by the Pew Research Center, mainline Protestant congregations such as Emmanuel are shrinking by about 1 million members annually in the United States, while conservative congregations are performing better.

In the Indianapolis area, at least a few other churches besides Emmanuel are bucking the trend and expanding into additional facilities.

Traders Point Christian Church in Whitestown spent $2 million to renovate the 35,300-square-foot neoclassical structure at the corner of 12th and Delaware streets, and in April began livestreaming services downtown.

With 26 percent growth last year, Traders Point ranked fifth on the Outreach Magazine list.

Another, Grace Church in Noblesville, spent $5 million in early 2016 to buy an office building in Nora. It eventually plans to offer church services there. The 66,000-square-foot, three-story building at 8450 N. Westfield Blvd. sits between East 86th Street and the Jordan YMCA, where Grace is temporarily holding services, according to its website.

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