Update from 6/10/18 – The Home Stretch (Kind of...)
In October 2017, our church voted unanimously to move forward on the purchase of the old Salvation Army on Green Springs Avenue. It was a testimony to the provision of the Lord and the power of the gospel that we were able to buy the building and begin the design process. The elders have been amazed continually at the generosity, faithfulness, and support of CFC.
The design process has been both clarifying and edifying. Creature, our builder and architect, has worked with us to provide a design that we think serves the congregation’s needs today and provides for our growth opportunities tomorrow. In particular, there was significant time spent during the months of March and April refining our direction and considering how the form of the building aligns with the functions we desire. That process of prayerful planning and discussions with Creature has resulted in the current set of plans approved by the elders. We are extremely excited about all aspects of the project, including the functionality it provides on Day 1, the efficient use of space Creature has designed, and the allowance for expansion in a non-disruptive way, as the Lord directs.
As of now, we have a contract in hand for $2.401MM for renovations to the building. We are prepared to sign that early this week so that renovations can proceed beyond the already-completed demolition. We are hopeful that we could be worshiping in the building by the beginning of 2019, assuming there are no delays on our end.
The issue before us now is the extent of the renovation budget. So, numbers time…. Counting both available cash on hand and available funds through our ServisFirst loan, we have $2.332MM for renovation. The good news is that we’ve already paid Creature $123k of the $2.401MM, so we only owe Creature $2.278MM of the $2.401MM. That means we have approximately $54k left over for furnishings and audio/visual equipment needs.
One other piece in our financial puzzle is the 2018 budget. As of May 2018, we are ahead on budget by $10k. Adjusting for seasonality (our largest giving month by far is December) and significant savings on utilities (we budgeted for those, but Creature actually pays those during construction) and interest (we assumed significantly higher interest payments than actual), we hope to end up with revenues exceeding expenses. That’s hard to project, of course, but we may have as much as a $100k surplus by year end. Only the Lord knows! In any event, we are assuming that the $54k and any 2018 surplus will be used for furnishings and A/V needs.
Available Renovation Funds $2.332MM
Renovation Costs Remaining -$2.278MM
Remaining Funds for AVF $54k
2018 CFC Budget Excess ?
Important but Unfunded Features
So, if we have enough money to do the project, why the communication to the church? Well, good question, and here’s the answer: while we can absolutely worship and fulfill the ministries of the church with the $2.4MM renovation budget, we think there are some really important, currently unfunded components that will serve the congregation and the community well, if we can pay for them now. Among these components are things like:
- Worship center acoustics
- Covered plaza walkway/entry
- Offices for the staff
- A playground area
- Parking lot upgrades
- Additional sidewalks
- Windows for the sanctuary
- Appliances for the kitchen
All total, these items represent approximately $300k of additional spending that the elders feel is important to our church. In earlier estimates, some of these items were included. But further inspection and demolition of the building revealed approximately $100k of necessary abatement—asbestos removal, lead paint removal, and the code-required replacement of a pump. Beyond that, we have slightly increased the scope in the design process, adding a couple of children’s classrooms and increasing the worship room space. We could reduce the size of the worship room, but that doesn’t actually drive down the cost significantly since the same sized wall is needed in both configurations. Having said all that, we are confident that that increased scope was a necessary move. For the last few months, we’ve averaged above 80 kids per week in CFC Kids. That is an increase from the time of the initial campaign, and we are trying to be proactive in light of this.
We have sought diligently to cut everything unnecessary in the budget. We know that our church doesn’t want opulence. We want a building that can serve as a base for ministry, not a palace for leisure. At the same time, we want that base to be fully operational and effective. To return to some of the upgrades, we feel it’s extremely important for staff cohesion and pastoral care that we have offices on site. Likewise, we want the space to be inviting to newcomers and children, so parking lot upgrades and a playground are priorities for us. We envision the plaza being a place for connecting with others both before and after church, and since deep relationships are essential for discipleship, that’s important in the design. Similar considerations guide our thinking on the other components above.
Obviously, we would like to add the features above in some order and in some capacity, and that involves additional giving or sacrifice in some way. But we want to communicate this before anything else: we are grateful to the Lord for His provision thus far and want to learn and practice contentment in this process. The Lord’s goodness and kindness is not tied to additional giving. He is good and does good, and we need to be discipled in this process. Think about it: would purchasing a new church building be worth it if we looked less like Jesus after the processthan before? The answer to that is a resounding “no”.
In addition, we know that there are many people who have given sacrificially to the building campaign who cannot give again. Please understand that this is not a “double-ask” for those individuals. If you prayed and the Lord led you to give a certain amount, we are grateful for your obedience and generosity. At the same, it seems wise to the elders to ask if there are any who didn’t give during the first campaign, who perhaps joined the church since the capital campaign in September, or any whose financial situation changed since then who would like to participate by giving a one-time gift or pledging gifts in some way.
In all this, we want to provide the same guidance we provide every Sunday morning:
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.(2 Cor. 9:7–8)
We are supremely confident in the Lord, whatever He wills and whatever He provides. He has been our help thus far (1 Sam. 7:12). He’ll help us tomorrow. He’s ever faithful.
Original Presentation to the Church
A Good Kind of Problem
Since CFC began in April 2012, the Lord has been kind to add many brothers and sisters to our congregation. What began as 60 covenant members in 2012 has now grown to 288 in 2017. That is to say nothing of the increase of children in our church—from a handful at IronTribe to as many as 70 or 80 kids on a Sunday now at Rosewood. Added to all this, we regularly see approximately 55-60 guests on a Sunday morning. And we’re thankful and awed by the responsibility of each and every one of these.
Obviously, not everyone is in town on every Sunday, but on some Sundays all those numbers add up to a very full room and a very full children’s area. Rosewood has been accommodating in our growth and Nick and Ryan have been creative in maximizing the space we are allotted. By adding our own folding chairs and moving the stage to the corner, we are able to seat approximately 322 in the worship room. But that’s pretty close to the maximum allowable. Likewise, our children’s ministry staff has been very thoughtful and imaginative in the kid’s area. We now have 8 classrooms for children (including one that meets in the middle of the room and one that meets in the hallway). If space in the worship room is pressing, even more pressing is adequate space for CFC Kids.
To put it simply, we are out of room to grow. We acknowledge that God may not add another single person to our fellowship—that’s His prerogative as Lord of the church. Having said that, it seems to the elders irresponsible to assume no future growth at all. We trust the Lord’s direction and provision for our church, whatever that is. At the same time, we want to be good stewards of the blessings He’s given and is currently giving.
In Search of a Solution
So, for approximately the last year and a half, our staff and agent, Jack Little, have been conducting a building search. That process has been frustrating at times but always informative. We’ve learned the difficulties associated with finding a church building. We need a building in our target area that is large enough (but not too large!), cheap enough, accessible enough (e.g. parking, visibility, etc.), and flexible enough (e.g. rooms for kids, a place for fellowships, a large room, etc.). We’ve looked at schools, other churches, synagogues, plots of land, and quite a few for-sale buildings in the Homewood and Birmingham area. For most of the search, nothing we’ve seen has been a workable solution.
In January 2017, though, we began looking at the former Salvation Army thrift store located at 76 Green Springs Hwy in Homewood. Much of what we need in a building is found here. The building is 30,000 square feet; is convertible for our worship, ministry, and administrative needs; and has adequate parking, including the option to lease additional parking in the future, if needed.
Added to all this, this building is in a part of Homewood that we have long considered a good location for a church. That is not to say that there are no other churches in the area (we are in Alabama, after all!). It is to say that we feel there is significant need and opportunity in this particular part of town. In addition, we like the fact that we would have increased visibility in a part of town with greater racial and socioeconomic diversity. We have prayed since the start of CFC that God would make us more diverse. Moving to this location would not make that happen automatically. Only God can really bring this about. But, the elders feel that this location would be more conducive to a diverse church than our current place of worship. We are also incredibly excited about the various ministry opportunities this would facilitate. We would love to use any building we have to bless and serve the neighbors around us.
Sensing God’s leadership regarding this particular location, we placed the building under contract for a due diligence phase. We also contracted with Myrick Gurosky & Associates (MG+A) to provide some preliminary feedback on it. Their report was extremely helpful and, in the end, positive. Having extensive experience on church buildings and renovations, we value their insight and opinion. In their estimation, the Salvation Army is a very promising facility for us based on need, potential cost, and future growth possibilities. They recommend proceeding with a purchase and renovation.
In short, the elders agree with that judgment. Having fasted and prayed and begged the Lord for unity, wisdom, and evident provision, we think the Salvation Army building is a location worthy of serious and further consideration. We believe it can provide us with new and exciting ministry opportunities and meet the current and future space needs of CFC, so far as we know them today. By God’s grace, we are united in recommending to the congregation that we move forward unless the Lord closes the door.
The remaining question, of course, is, does this fit within our budget? Can we afford the monthly payments and ongoing cost? To the best of our knowledge, we think the answer is, yes, assuming very modest growth and continual giving along the current trajectory. In addition, we are seeking to pay for the building and not cut one penny from our global mission budget. To be clear, we would not even consider this move if it meant significantly reducing support for our global partners. Our prayer is that a move like this would not throttle mission giving but would fuel mission going. As more people cherish the gospel and hear about God’s love for the nations, we pray more people will want to go and join those we’ve already sent. We want to be in a place to support even more missionaries, not less.
To summarize, we believe the Salvation Army building is affordable for our church from a budgetary standpoint if we receive sufficient additional pledges (at least $500k over 3 years). If that is the Lord’s direction for our church, we believe He’ll provide the resources and overcome any remaining obstacles. If it’s not the right direction, we don’t believe He will provide, and we are already asking for contentment and further provision if that’s the case. Above all, we want to please the Lord. It’s His church. He has purchased us with His blood and He provides for us by His Spirit. In what better hands could we be?
What We’re Asking You to Do
Since we view the purchase as contingent upon the pledges, we would need to complete the pledge process in the next month (receive pledges by October 8th so that we can move forward with the purchase by the end of our Oct. 15th due diligence date). So, we are asking every member to pray about sacrificially giving to this initiative. That may be a one-time gift. It may be an increase of $50 or $100 per month. It may be less than that. And that’s okay. We want to be abundantly clear that the guidance we are giving is the same guidance we say together from the Word every single Sunday:
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
We have no desire to strong-arm our congregation into giving. We have no desire to resort to slick marketing or carefully crafted fundraising strategies. We have no desire to court “big givers” or to shame “small givers.” In fact, our staff has no idea who gives what and we intend to keep it that way. We simply want to encourage every member to seek the Lord and obey Him. That’s infinitely more important than any building or meeting location.
So, after we’ve heard from the congregation via card or online form and if we have enough in pledges, the elders would pray about making a motion to proceed with the purchase and renovation. If that motion were made and approved by a congregational vote, we would then move to closing and begin the process of converting the Salvation Army building to our new worship location. And, if all the renovation process went relatively smoothly, we expect we would be in that building sometime in the fall of 2018, Lord willing.
A closing word: buildings aren’t inherently bad or good. They can be used for God’s glory, serving as a launching pad for ministry for one generation and generations to come. They can, of course, also be used for our comfort or our pride. We want the former. We want to invest in such a way that we’re not serving ourselves but serving the Lord. We don’t want to obtain an extravagant building that has everything we can imagine. We want a place to worship and preach the only gospel that saves, a place to disciple one another and our kids, a place to fellowship and welcome others, a place from which we can do ministry, a place from which we can bless our community and our neighbors, a place from which we can send missionaries, and, in all this, a place were we can bless God for ages to come. Perhaps this is the place God desires for us. Perhaps it’s not. We trust God either way. He is good, and His mercy endures forever.