KEARNEY — Not too many years ago, basketballs were dribbled and volleyballs were pounded on the floor of the gym at what is now the sanctuary of First Baptist Church.

Now, with a stage and padded chairs in that space, the beats heard there will come from music.

“A couple of things excite me about the new space,” said Mark Liljehorn, the church’s worship director for 10 years.

“We are going to finally be in a space big enough to hold all of our congregation at one time,” he said. Just one worship service will be held there on Sundays, not the two offered weekly in the old building at 1616 W. 39th St. “To be able to worship together as one each and every week excites me. To hear that many voices strong and singing out excites me,” he said.

“The second thing that excites me is the opportunity to reach out to more and more new individuals. We have had many people come in on Sundays just to see what was going on in the old high school. I know we will have many more, and I trust that the Lord will work as he always does, allowing them to hear the message of salvation whether through song, sermon, or even conversations before and after the services.”

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Among other responsibilities, Liljehorn is the worship leader on the Praise Team, where he plays acoustic guitar and sings lead vocals. He also works with technicians to ensure that the lyrics and slides on the projection screens are correct.

He also helps organize special services and worship for special events, such as Christmas Eve and Easter services.

A 20-member choir sings on Sundays during the school year, but more singers join during the Lenten and Easter seasons, when the choir performs an Easter cantata. All choristers are age 16 and older.

Liljehorn selects music for services, but the new venue won’t alter that process.

“The new sanctuary will not affect the music I choose. I try to choose a blended mix of songs that include older hymn songs, more contemporary praise and worship style songs, and newer versions of hymns,” he said.

“A lot of hymns carry a solid message in their lyrics that cannot be ignored nor forgotten. At the same time, newer, contemporary style praise and worship songs have a place as well when I just want to sing a simple chorus of praise to our Lord,” he said.

When choosing instrumentation, he selects whatever he believes will fit the music. Some songs are accompanied by a single piano or guitar and vocals, while others include a full band.

“I challenge people to remove the barriers created by personal style preferences, and instead focus on simply spending time in worship, singing to our Lord and Creator,” he said.