Facilities at Christ Covenant (Elder Update)
Many things take place in our building, from the Sunday services to weekly Bible studies, to the occasional wedding or funeral. All these events and more are important to the life of the church, but the overarching purpose of our facility is the advancement of God’s kingdom. This is a particularly helpful guidepost as we evaluate our current challenges with limited space. More than just being thankful that we have such a “good problem,” we want to evaluate our potential options, both near term and long-term, in light of what will best advance the kingdom.
Regarding our facilities challenges, in some ways, little has changed since our last update. We still have challenges with parking, large group meeting space and inside fellowship events. Our plan was to think about this challenge near term, mid-term, and long term. Here is an updated version of that thinking.
Since the last update, we’ve seen positive developments on the mortgage on this property. Because of the faithful giving of so many of you ($13K designated building fund giving in December 2015) and pending some reallocation of available reserve dollars, we are on track to retire the note on this building in just over 18 months, in October of 2017. This is great news, as it will enable us to avoid the $10-15K cost of refinancing the current note, which was due to happen at that same time.
We’re thankful for this situation, but it means that we have to think about how to steward the additional money we will save in light of the facilities challenges. These are dollars God has provided through His people and we want to steward them well considering how they will contribute to God’s kingdom advance. And in that regard, we have a few options that we would share with you:
Option 1: Stay here and move to two services. We could just stay put, tolerate the lack of parking and space, and just redeploy those additional dollars into ministry programs (i.e. more interns, more missions trips, etc.). This approach would likely necessitate a second worship service, which is something most do not want to do if it can be avoided for numerous reasons.
Option 2: Stay here and plan for another building (again, two services). We could start saving that money with an eye toward building an additional building on the remaining space on our property, something along the lines of a family life center that would offer space for big meetings, fellowships or meals. While it would be great to have that space, the obvious challenge is that we’d still have inadequate parking. Keep in mind that there’s a strong relationship between parking, the sanctuary space, and the rooms for other church activities like Sunday school. Meaning, if you solve for one, you create strain on the other. It’s like a three-legged stool—if you make only one leg longer you create an imbalance. Additional building on this site would also likely involve taking on new debt, and we want to emphasize the disposition of the leadership is to avoid debt if at all possible. And whatever decision we make as a congregation in this matter, we want to both exercise biblical wisdom and at the same time walk by faith in God’s provision.
Option 3: Move to a new property. We could start saving that money with an eye toward purchasing new property, with larger facilities, which of course would involve the sale of this one. This is something we’ve done before; in fact, it’s how we got to this building. This would enable us to address the parking and meeting space issues, but depending on the sellable value of this place and the cost of the next one, could also invite debt. Considerations in this option would be selecting a location not too far from where our folks live, and what type of building we’d get.
Those are the three options we’ve considered. The point of presenting them and their associated problems is to show that solving the space problem is not simple.
One huge challenge to our thinking as we wrestle with all of this is that we have visitors who come, and it’s not unusual to see them driving out before they ever come into the building because there’s no parking available. Continuously observing this opens up the question: “What do we consider to be the optimum size for our congregation?” Our thinking with regard to that issue continues to be challenged. Needless to say it is an important question and does affect facilities planning. Some points to consider in this regard are included in the Q & A below.
To be clear, we have no plans for any immediate major changes. However, we will take the following small steps right now:
First, we are about to create an overflow area in the youth room to create seating for about 70 additional people. An overflow isn’t ideal, and we'll have to work out bugs on things like sound and picture quality, but it will help us avoid going to two different service times and all of the challenges that come with that. It's a temporary solution. We will give more details as soon as a clear plan is in place.
Second, we are going to ask a small group of men and women (members of Christ Covenant) to serve on a team with the goals of 1) determining what the market says our current property could sell for and 2) what kind of new real estate in North Raleigh we might be able to get with the funds from the sale.
Keep in mind, the time horizon we're working with is October 2017 when Lord willing our loan is paid off. So we're not going to act hurriedly, but we do want to be thoughtful and methodical. Thankfully, we are blessed with men and women who are gifted in real estate and property matters, and we will definitely utilize those gifts.
We'll bring you more information on this topic as it becomes available, and we welcome your question and feedback.
Question and Answer
1. Are we headed toward a “mega church” model?
No. But we do see that some growth is desirable to potentially support some groups that we might not be well-positioned to support today (e.g. youth and college age). Therefore as we think about facilities we want to think in terms of a modestly larger group.
2. What do the elders think about the “optimum” size of our congregation?
We want to remember that whatever number we come up with, it is just a plan. And we know that even as we plan, it is God who directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9). With that in mind, we think our optimum size may very well be a little bigger than we are today. Our current worship attendance is 300 to 320 on average. But more folks keep coming and we see the number growing. We do think there is a natural ceiling to how many folks we can have here and still maintain a relational closeness between elders and members, which is our goal (we want to know each other, our needs, life events, family struggles; and we want members to have access to their leadership). We don’t know if 500 is the right number; it might need to be below that, but for now 500 is the maximum size we envision without compromising that pursuit of relational closeness.
3. What about planting more churches? Does this indicate a change in that direction?
This is not a replacement for church planting nor a departure from our desire to plant another church. But while we do not have the pieces in place to so another plant right now (leadership, families lined up to go, financing, etc.), we do have an overflow of folks to accommodate.
4. Can't we just send more folks to Christ Church Rolesville?
Christ Church Rolesville is our sister church, but they are no longer “our plant.” We are not opposed to folks going to CCR for the right reasons. But our understanding is that there aren’t a significant number of folks wanting to do that at this time.
5. Much of our growth has come from church transfer. Is that a concern to the leadership?
We desire to see more new members coming from an inflow of new believers, and we strongly discourage church hopping or church consumerism. But we recognize that there are often sound reasons for changing churches, which might include a desire to align with a body that shares the same theology on important things, convictions on ministry philosophy, or a desire for expositional preaching.