The Yellow Box Community Christian Church in Naperville has built out; now it can reach out.
The church decided about three years ago that it needed more space to make crowded worship services more comfortable. But Campus Pastor Shawn Williams said expansion plans weren't designed solely with Yellow Box attendees in mind.
The church now is inviting community groups to use a new auditorium, a renovated gym, classrooms and meeting spaces improved in an $8 million expansion.
"Our heart as a community has never been inward-focused," Williams said. "We want to be a church that exists for the sake of our community."
The church at 1635 Emerson Lane in Naperville added a 1,200-seat auditorium that can play host to Sunday services, concerts or conventions. It also renovated a gym into a teen space, expanded its Yellow Box cafe, rebranded its basement "kid city" to feature cartoons of iconic Naperville sites such as the Millennium Carillon and created new gathering spaces on two floors.
Leaders from Naperville businesses, governmental organizations and charities toured the new spaces Wednesday in advance of a Sept. 14 grand opening.
"We are always looking for places to gather. This gives us another venue," said IdaLynn Wenhold, executive director of the Naperville nonprofit KidsMatter, which runs the city's Collaborative Youth Team. "Having all those conveniences wrapped up in a very inviting place ... is perfect."
Julie Rothenfluh, executive director of the Naperville Public Library, said she'll put the new Yellow Box spaces on her list of meeting places she suggests when the library can't meet a user's needs.
"You have a wide range of sizes and spaces as well, which is great," she said.
Williams said the church will be "honored to host" many community gatherings for free, such as two forums U.S. Rep. Bill Foster's office held there about the heroin problem. But organizers of some large events, for which the church will need to have staff members present or incur other costs, will be asked to pay a fee.
The 18,000-square-foot addition brings the church building to 80,000 total square feet. The project also added 100 more parking spots so 510 are available on the property.
Roughly 2,000 people generally attend Yellow Box services each weekend, and Williams said the addition will allow attendance to grow to 3,500. It also offers a formal classroom for the church's mission of teaching members to start new churches in other locations.
"We love to train and equip and develop leaders," Williams said. "This space gives us the opportunity to send people out to be difference-makers in all kinds of ways."