- Phone: (630) 852-0800
- Mailing Address: 929 Maple Ave Downers Grove, IL 60515
On August 5, 1851, a group of 17 Christians assembled for the purpose of organizing a Baptist church in Downers Grove, Illinois. They adopted articles of faith and a covenant and called G. F. Holt to be the first pastor. Meetings were held in a schoolhouse located on West Maple Avenue at Dunham Road.
By the spring of 1853 the membership had increased to 52, some of whom had been baptized in mid-winter in the Saint Joseph River. Land at 929 Maple Avenue was given to the church by Samuel Curtiss in January 1854 and a new church building, constructed by the men of the church at a cost of about $1,200 was dedicated.
Fire destroyed the church building in May 1871 and the membership, then numbering 90, launched another building program which resulted in the dedication of a new building, free of debt, in March of 1872. In 1906 this 34-year-old building was remodeled, including relocating the entrance and steeple from the front to the side. This church body took the name “First Baptist Church of Downers Grove” in 1902. Prior to that time, the group was called “The First Baptist Church and Society.”
The needs of a growing membership resulted in the construction in 1925 of the annex behind the church building which included a new gymnasium. A year later the parsonage at 5240 Washington Street was completed. To provide more rooms for Bible School expansion, the men of the church began in 1938 to excavate underneath the church building with pick, shovel and wheelbarrow. The rooms were finally completed 10 years later, through the persistence of a trustee, H. C. McMahan. The sanctuary of the 88-year-old building was remodeled in 1960 to provide a Bible School assembly room and adjacent classrooms.
As the membership grew, the seating capacity was often inadequate for the worship service congregations. A building program was launched to construct a larger sanctuary on the adjacent corner of Maple Avenue and Washington Street. Our own brother, Fred H. Greil, was appointed architect; ground was broken in March, 1956, with dedication of the new building on August 12, 1957.
A long-standing dream had been the erection of a new building to connect the existing edifices and provide modern facilities for Bible School and parlors for church gatherings. This was accomplished in September of 1969 with the dedication of the W. Hamilton Sinclair Education Building. Rev. Sinclair retired as Senior Pastor in 1975 after 45 years of service to this church. He was then appointed as Pastor Emeritus. Following Pastor Sinclair’s retirement, Pastor Philgreen served as senior pastor for 7 years. The church had a few interim pastors until in 1985, Donald E. Zimmerman was named the new senior pastor and he is still serving in that role today.
Enrollment began for a Christian pre-school in 1970. As the church and the community saw the need for a Christ-centered education for their children, the school grew, adding additional grades year by year. Now called “Downers Grove Christian School,” the student body numbers in excess of 150 in the pre-school through grade eight and serves both as a base for Christian education and as a missionary outreach to the surrounding communities.
As the oldest structures aged they became more and more functionally obsolete and expensive to maintain. The increasing number of members, regular attenders and school children also called for additional space. Accordingly, a building committee was established in 1994 to evaluate the needs, desirers and constraints associated with the operation of the ministries of First Baptist Church. This resulted in the retention of architect Paul G. Harding and Associates to prepare construction documents for the demolition and replacement of the 1925 annex with a 19,000 square foot multipurpose facility which included: a gymnasium, a state of the art kitchen, a nursery, a conference room, a fellowship hall, washrooms, storage and offices for the Downers Grove Christian School. Upgrades to the existing chapel constructed in 1872 were also included in the project. A three year fundraising campaign was initiated in 1996. This was followed by a six year fundraising campaign initiated in 1999 and it was during this fundraising effort that ground was broken in March of 2001 for the new building.
Construction was completed and the new building dedicated in May of 2003 at a total construction and program cost of just under $4 million. A mortgage and member loans were secured and a third fundraising campaign was conducted in 2007 to pay off the mortgage and the loans, which was accomplished in 2011.
Currently, First Baptist Church of Downers Grove is blessed to have a pastoral staff that includes our Senior Pastor, a Director of Worship and Music, a Youth Pastor, a Directory of Children's Ministries, an Administrative Pastor and over 20 support and school staff members who have dedicated their lives to continuing the Lord’s will in loving and serving the communities in and around Downers Grove. We would be delighted if you would join us as we continue to thrive in the 165 year life of First Baptist Church!