Last week’s blog, co-written with Chris Manrodt, focused on God’s work in and through us as a church body. We are the church—not any building or piece of property. Church buildings are only tools for facilitating corporate worship as well as ministry programs. In this blog we want to discuss a few topics as we consider how our current Hazelwood facility and our Harvest Property relate to our vision for the future.
Our Hazelwood Facility
Our current facility is a blessing from the Lord. The Lord has used it for housing our ministries and worship services for many years for which we are grateful. However, portions of it remain quite dated and are in need of renovation.
We have already communicated with you about updates to the lobby and additional parking that is needed. Other needs include: updating the worship center, replacing the roof on the gym and worship center, remodeling most of the Sunday school rooms in the lower and main levels which remain in their initial condition from the 1950's and 60’s, installing new signage inside and outside the building, and numerous other needs.
We have witnessed great accomplishments through the updated Activity Center and the completion of the new Youth Center addition, both of which are enhancing our ministries. Of course the BIG QUESTION is: Do we continue to update our Hazelwood facility or simply wait until we one day move to the Harvest Property?
Our Harvest Property
Our original plan when we purchased this property 11 years ago was that this property would accommodate growth that was being experienced at the Hazelwood facility. Since that time there have also been discussing about the possibility of a partnership with Elim Care (the retirement and elder care organization that is affiliated with the EFCA) on our property. Many faithful givers have shared graciously in the purchase and continued payment of our debt on the property. We are grateful we have served the community through the Harvest Gardens ministry while we wait on the Lord and consider the BIG QUESTION that still remains:
Will we one day ever build on this property?
While we have grown modestly in recent years, we have not experienced rapid growth and are not at the size to support a brand new facility. Even so, we are not planning to grow beyond 800 to 1,000 people simply for the sake of growing in number. As elders and pastors we have considerable caution that relocating at the cost of $15–$20 million dollars raises some serious questions about stewardship and causes us to evaluate whether we could ever afford to move.
With these points in mind, we have rekindled our conversations with Elim Care. While we have maintained a casual connection with Elim over the years, we have recently been discussing with them more specifically their interest in purchasing some or even all of the Harvest property. As leaders it is becoming more and more a conviction that at least some of the property be sold to Elim and that we join with them in ministry as an outreach to a retirement population.
If we sold some of the Harvest property it could free us up from our debt and then allow us to raise funds focused on updating the current facility. If First Free were to experience unexpected significant growth, we would contemplate additional venues or church plants, all with the intent that we continue to develop and train leaders to go out and serve the Maplewood community.
Perhaps the Lord provided the Harvest property for these purposes and not for a complete relocation from the Hazelwood facility. Please be in prayer for our Elders as they consider the Hazelwood and Harvest properties and interact with us at future Town Hall meetings and the congregational meeting on August 16.
Missed part 1 of this two part series? Check it out here.