Monday Musings – July 8, 2013

Dear Friends,

I look forward to having us all together next Sunday, July 14, with worship at 10 am, a meeting with our architect at 11 am, and a meal (not potluck!) at noon.  This is a rare opportunity to have the whole church together.  I hope you’ll make every effort to be there.

I’d like to take this opportunity to address a question that has come to me more than once.  Why are we meeting with an architect and making plans to build when we are struggling to pay for basic maintenance on our existing building?

(1) This question sounds familiar.  It has come up in my ministry every time something big, new, and expensive has been proposed.  The same question was asked back in 1985 when I was newly appointed to Burley and the roof over my office leaked.  I kept my garbage can on top of my desk to catch the drip.  At the time a Building Committee was meeting.  The question was asked, Why? How will we pay for a new building when we can’t pay to fix the roof over the old one?  As it turned out, we did build a new building.  We moved in in 1989.  It cost $1.2 million. The debt was retired in 1990.  (I’m sure similar stories could be shared from the mid-90’s when this church decided it was time to build something big, new, and expensive!)

(2) In our situation here today, we already fixed our roof.  With the GPS building, we bought some time to assess future needs and to not hurry into something ill-advised or unaffordable.   We are looking long-term.  What the architect is helping us do is develop a master plan so we will know what we need to do and how it will all fit together into a whole that makes sense when the time comes when we need to act. That time is not now. (The architect, by the way, is being paid from donations that have been made over the years to our Building Fund.  This money is not available for building maintenance.)

(3) Successful churches (like successful businesses) are always thinking ahead.  What do we need to do now so that we will be ready for the future?  Much as we need to figure out a way to pay for door repairs, parking lot resealing, and other as yet unidentified maintenance, we don’t want to become fixated on the urgency of present needs.  We need to always be prayerfully and thoughtfully planning ahead.  We need to be poised to capture the ministry opportunities we trust God has in store for us.

(4) Churches that have a plan for the future that is exciting and compelling and worthy of support are the churches that attract donors.  It’s common to think in terms of our own financial situations and conclude that if we are not in a position to make a major gift, no one else probably is either, and therefore we should abandon the project.  The truth is, every church has people with significant resources, many of whom choose to live a very modest lifestyle.  A church that knows what it needs to do is a church that can compete with colleges and other worthy causes to attract major gifts.  Believe me, a lot of money can be raised when everybody, regardless of their financial situation, is inspired to give according to their God-given ability!

(5) When the time comes (and I repeat that time is not now — we are thinking long-term!), there is a tried and true formula that keeps churches from getting themselves into financial trouble.  Construction does not begin until you have at least one-third of the money needed in cash and another one-third in pledges.  Once you get there, the loans that might be needed to complete construction, can typically be repaid without undo stress and strain.  If we don’t get there, I would take that as a sign that we aren’t ready to begin.

These are a few of my thoughts on the subject.  I’d love to hear yours.  I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, beginning at 10:00 am!

In Christ,

John