Congregants of Village of Faith Baptist Church are in a celebratory mood.

The church broke ground on its new expansion at 4 p.m. March 28, and church leaders said it would benefit Village of Faith Baptist in many ways.

“For one thing, the church will have an expanded lobby,” said Kevin Pledger, worship and associate pastor for Village of Faith Baptist. “We currently have a small lobby at the moment, and the expansion will mean more room for our congregants and others to gather before entering the sanctuary.”

The church also is planning to add two classrooms for Bible studies, small groups and other activities, as well as extra storage facilities. Additionally, the church is building a full-size commercial kitchen. Pledger said adding the new kitchen will allow Village of Faith Baptist to do more events for the church community.

“Prior to the pandemic, we would have one to two church dinners a year inside the sanctuary, which we convert into a fellowship hall for community gatherings,” he said. “With the addition of the kitchen, as well as more storage space for tables and chairs, it will be much easier for us to … host additional meals, guest speakers, fellowship gatherings and more.”

Pledger said if all goes well, the new addition will be ready for use by the end of the year.

Like many houses of worship in and around The Villages, Village of Faith Baptist was forced to shut its doors for several months last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“For the first weeks, worship pretty much consisted of broadcasting with an iPhone on a tripod,” Pledger said with a laugh. “But people started to notice. We had 185 people in attendance for our last pre-pandemic gathering in early March. Our first virtual service on Facebook received 1,850 views.”

Virtual worship now averages about 400 to 450 views a week, with another 120 or so physically attending services regularly. Pledger said given Village of Faith Baptist’s location, about 60% of its congregants are Villagers, with others traveling from as far as Lake Panasoffkee for services.

And while the church skews a bit older, Pledger noted that Village of Faith Baptist is looking to become more multigenerational.

“With The Villages expanding and greater job opportunities for younger families on the horizon, we want those families to know that Village of Faith Baptist is there for them,” he said. “We are hoping to relaunch our ‘Children’s Church’ program in the coming months for our younger congregants, and we may look into starting a program for teens if the demand is there.”

Village of Faith Baptist, 8653 County Road 127 in Wildwood, is just off East County Road 462.” Pledger knows that Villagers and others have dozens of options for their faith needs, but said there’s something unique about the church.

“The Villages calls itself Florida’s Friendliest Hometown, and we like to think Village of Faith to be Florida’s friendliest church,” he said. “The majority of the people that come to our doors have told us that. This church makes (them) feel welcome.”

And Village of Faith Baptist is truly a family affair, with Kevin’s father, Ron Pledger, serving as the church’s senior pastor.

“I am just thrilled about this expansion,” Ron Pledger said. “It is God’s plan for us to build this part and help this church grow.”

To learn more about Village of Faith Baptist Church, visit vofpeople.com.