Money and Church Buildings

A few weeks ago, I wrote a short series on money (parts 1, 2, 3, & 4), and one of the things I talked about was, what to do with it? I realize I’m in a somewhat unique situation in wondering what to do with extra money, but it will make more sense if you just read those original posts. However, I wrote all those posts (though the publishing overlapped) before our pastor made an announcement one Sunday that caught us all be surprise.

Our church meets in a public elementary school, which has been our meeting place for six years or so (I’m not entirely sure, we’ve only been members for about three years). Our current contract takes us through this August with a one year open to take us through the summer of 2019. Our pastor indicated that there was a new principle at the school was not interested in the option year or a contract renewal, and therefore we would need to be out the first week of August. Also, it wouldn’t really be August because renovations to the school were to take place over the summer, so, actually, we had until Memorial Day. This all came up in the middle of March.

We also rent some office/meeting space in an industrial area down the street. Providentially, the same week that we find out we are not longer to meet in the school, the landlords of our office space stop by one day and tell the staff that the space across the parking lot (roughly 17,000 square feet) will soon be available, you know, in case we are interested.

I skip through the meetings, drama, stress, rushing around that ensued over the next few weeks, but ultimately, we decided to go for it. The idea was to find our own space in the next two or three years, but, it appears, God had another plan. All that to say, it was going to take some money. The space was actually two spaces, one was an office/warehouse type use and the other was basically a call center/cubicle farm. Estimates for renovating the space came in at around $900,000. Now, we are a church of 300-350 people or so, or about 120-130 families, with probably about 80-85 of which are regularly attending, money giving members. Realistically, a pledge of $12-15K per family (average) isn’t terrible, that is, when you are fundraising for two or three years.

We had about six weeks. Not only did we need to ‘raise’ that money in six weeks, we also needed a little more than a third of it in cash, in May (by today, actually). Again, I’ll fast forward through the sleeplessness of the elders and staff team, the endless meetings, the tireless efforts of a few volunteers, and the arguments/debates/conversations about other possible cheaper options. Two weeks ago was what we called commitment Sunday, where everyone wrote down what they were committed to bring in up front cash and what they could give over the next year and yesterday was the culmination of that phase as people brought their first checks. Ultimately, we fell slightly short of the goal, but people committed to give roughly $862,000 over the next year. However, the we do have some reserve funds that we can easily commit to cover the gap, so the project moves forward.

Construction drawings have been produced and submitted and hopefully work will begin soon. The target date for us to have our first service will be the first Sunday of November. In the mean time, after a few great meetings with the school staff, we’ve worked out an agreement in which we will still meet at the school through October. Luckily, there are never any problems with contractors or construction timelines, right?

It was been a fascinating few months for out community. The discussion among people regarding money, giving, finance have been incredible and have grown and matured us as a body. The church community itself is not very old (maybe around 20 years) and has meet in a few random places over the years, with no specific place as home. Now, we will have an actual space, that is ours all day every day, and for the next 10 years. This will be longer than we’ve ever been in one place as a church. It is longer than we’ve ever been in one place as a family (our ten year anniversary is in three days). So, there is a lot of faith and trust that this is where God wants us (community and family) to be. It has changed the mindset of the community for what commitment looks like, with time (specifically long term thinking/goals) and obviously money. Some of the stories that have some from this have been incredible. Two quickly, one woman is retired and living on a pension, she has decided to take a job and give the entire entire salary over the next year (I could write a whole post on this story) and one of the build/design professionals we contacted was so impacted by our story that he actually gave our pastor $1,000 to go towards the building fund.

That was really the point of me writing this post, which has now rambled on longer than anticipated. We prayed that God would guide us in budgeting a giving out of what He has blessed us with, and now, giving to the building fund alone will be a largest budget category over the next year, followed by our mortgage, and then our regular giving. To be honest, it is kind of scary. It is a lot of money, and a huge commitment for us. We are sacrificing a few things here and there, mostly notably holding off on replacing an old car. You can actually hear Mrs. MMT discuss this here (she tells our story in an interview style interaction one morning with the pastor and one of the elders, who also shares a story) if you are interested, and you can even go to the main page here to see the entire timeline with updates as we received them as well as more stories of people discussing giving and commitment to the church.

This entire story has really reinforced to me the importance of how we handle money as Christians. I wrote about the importance of budgeting, because without it, we don’t have the flexibility to be able to give more when called upon. I realize many people struggle and their income just isn’t there to give what they’d like, but my focus is on those who have the means, but don’t pay enough attention. The amount of people I’ve heard from over the past few months who looked back through their spending (some for the first time) or made budgets for the first time, and were in shock over the amount of money they wasted on certain things has been surprising. I know many people don’t pay attention, but this is really some poor stewardship as a whole church community. People were finally looking, and coming to me saying, I can’t believe I spend $2,000 a year in cable, or I can’t believe I spent so much money on going out to eat. They were essentially finding hundreds of dollars a month in their budgets.

Obviously, this is something we as Christians should talk about more. Money should be much less of a taboo than it is, especially considering the amount of time Jesus spent discussing money. He is our example, and if we take that seriously, we are clearly failing. I think it is a topic I will try to write on more, here on this site.

Anyway, it is an exciting and scary time of us as a family here at MMT (the term of our lease will have sprout entering as a pre-schooler and leaving as a teenage) and for our church community. God has blessed us and given as an opportunity to pour much of that back in to our community, so I just wanted to write that our and share with the few of you who still read this. More updates to follow, I’m sure. It should be fun.

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