First, A Little Background...
We always knew that we had to build a building. Powhatan is not Chesterfield or Henrico, where buildings that will hold large churches are numerous. The school system has the only buildings that will house PCC on a Sunday. While we've always enjoyed a great relationship with the school board, Dr. Meara, and the administration, we are keenly aware that our future is in their hands. We recognized that it was important to have a permanent facility that we could secure.
We dug deep, and many people sacrificed in ways that still bring me to tears. Many of you put off vacations, donated your family jewelry, went without a car you needed, ate out less and put up with countless inconveniences so that you could commit - not just once, but to TWO building fundraising campaigns. These two campaigns (we're half way into our second one now) will have raised $1.5million or more when it's all said and done.
Knowing that wasn't enough, God sent us a gem in Kim Wooten, who put her heart and soul into building a powerhouse fundraising team. Through their efforts, we have three major events each year - an auction, a golf tournament, and a concert - and we raise tens of thousands of dollars.
Corinne Campbell assembled a team of people who faithfully stand at a table every Sunday to sell Food Lion gift cards. PCC earns 5% and it costs those of us who buy them absolutely nothing, they spend just like cash. We're well on our way to breaking $20,000 raised through that effort.
Rose Livermon has quietly worked a yardsale every year and $10,000 has been raised through that effort. Honorariums and Memorial gifts have come. We have done everything we can reasonably think of to do. And we'd have likely been in great shape, if the economy hadn't fallen apart.
But a few months ago, it was obvious that, in spite of all this effort and all this sacrifice and all these hours and sweat and labor...we were still going to come up short.
This is very personal to me. God led me and a small group of folks to start PCC. We had been through fires and trials before. I knew He hadn't brought us this far for nothing. Burying my head in the sand wasn't an option. We had begged our people as much as we could. We'd appealed to their sense of obligation, spirituality, responsibility and insanity. I stepped back and said to God, "Lord, what do you want us to do?"
God doesn't speak to me audibly...and He didn't this time, either. But as clearly as I know anything, God let me know that He was going to show me the way. And I believe He has.
Some Pieces of the Puzzle
Along the way, as our building moved from paper to drawings to plans to architects, there were many people who came to me and said, "Hey, I'm ready to donate my time to build this building!" They were serious. And they were skilled. Electricians and plumbers and carpenters and tradespeople of every kind. But there was a problem. You simply can't build a 32,000 square foot building on nights and weekends. The building team, which was assembled at that time to select a builder, considered the idea and decided as a team that it simply wouldn't work. The building was too big, the risks were too high, it would take too long. Further, the bank would probably not extend the construction loan for that long and the General Contractor would add some stipulations. In the end, it would likely end up costing us a lot of headache, a lot of money, and some really hurt feelings.
But it kept nagging at me. 'We've got all these people willing to donate serious time...in their trade....to reduce the cost of our building. I wonder...I just wonder...if they would be willing to donate that same time, in their trade to build something else that we could make money on to help us pay for our building.' It would be apples and apples. So, I started floating the idea, and it started to get some traction. This went on for weeks. Until, one day....
A family in our church donated a lot to PCC for the purpose of us building a house to sell with donated labor, the proceeds of which would help pay for our building.
It Gets Better...
I know this family pretty well, and we started thinking beyond building the house labor free, but also with donated materials, too. And I had an idea: If there was a second house, I'll bet it would be incentive for contractors and vendors to make donations. We could say, 'Look, we're trying to raise money for the church. We'll buy the material for one house from you at market costs if you will donate the material for the other house for free.'
Some people thought I was nuts....but it's happening. A lot.
So, I called a banker I know and told him I wanted to personally borrow the money to build a house. After he finished laughing, he reminded me that this is the worst housing market in 30 years. I told him I knew, but that I wanted him to take a look at it anyway and to tell me I'm crazy after he reviewed my proposal.
He called me the next day very excited. He said that no banks were lending for housing starts, but that this was something they were interested in. They would like to do this deal with me. I made a deal with the family and personally bought the lot next door to the one the church would own.
Over and over again, we've been able to get donations for the church's house that we wouldn't have otherwise gotten if I hadn't bought that lot or if I hadn't gone out on the limb, took a big risk and built this house. Let me give you a few examples:
- We were able to get all of the windows for both houses for $50 each. Since I would normally have to pay $100 for a window, I agreed to pay for all of the windows in the cost of my house, meaning that there would be no cost in the windows of the church's house.
- We think we're going to be able to get 2 heat pumps (one for each house) for half price. If so, I'm going to pay for both of them in the cost of my house, and the church's heat pump will be free.
- The excavation work on the church's lot was done for free on the condition that, while the excavator was there, he could do my lot and get paid for it.
- We think we have a deal worked out with a lumber yard where all or a large portion of the framing package will be donated on the church's house if we buy the framing package on my house from them.
These are just a few examples. Over and over again, we've found that contractors and material suppliers were much more open to making a donation when they found out that the lot next door would be a paying customer. This was absolutely a win for the church.
It Gets Even Better....
Not only is the church benefiting in this way, but some folks are donating time and materials on my house, too. And when they do, every single nail, 2x4, and hour given goes straight to the church. For example, someone donated all of the nails for both jobs. I will write a check to PCC to cover what I would have spent on nails. Today, Dennis Green dug the footings for both houses. His time was donated, but I won't benefit from that. PCC will get the value of his donation when I pay our church what I would have spent for someone to dig the footings. That's what I've done in the past...that's what I'll do now.
What's It Add Up To?
These are starter homes. 1208 square feet each. They are exactly the same. They are in Cartersville. They are appraised at $165,000 each. When it's all said and done, the church might have $20,000 in its house. Even if it only sold for $120,000 (just for even numbers), we would make $100,000. That's before donated labor and material value from my house.
A Gift To Our People
I meet people every week who have recently lost their jobs. These are folks who feel devalued, want to contribute, want to constructively use their time while they're out of work. They often ask me if they can help. Recently, I realized that this was part of the plan God was working at our church. There are so many people who can't contribute money right now, but they can contribute time. This is not only a benefit to the church, it is a gift to them as well. It's a way for them to know that they really are valuable during this strange season of their lives...that they still can make a difference and a contribution to our church, even if they can't put a check in the basket. The value of that gift to our folks cannot be overstated.
Not everyone is happy
Not everyone is happy about this project. Some feel that it is a distraction. I agree. But I assure you that doing nothing was no option. God calls us to use our brains, to look around us, use our senses to process what's happening and what we see, to pray and seek counsel, and to take action. That's what leaders do. That's what we did. That's what I did. I wasn't going to stand by while D-Day got closer and closer, knowing the builder would walk in the door, hold out his hand for half a million dollars that we didn't have and we'd have to shrug our shoulders and look like idiots. Nobody had any other ideas.
Frankly, I feel a little like...a disciple. Standing at a distance, seeing no way that we can make this number that we have equal that number that we need...God comes along and holds up what what we do have, breaks it and multiplies it in ways that only He can and feeds the multitude. We brought what we had to the Master Multiplier...and that's what God has been doing. People said this wouldn't work...but the donations of labor and material are pouring in. This idea does work.
This story is about what God is doing among us when we set aside our traditional notions of what we should or should not be doing (or what the pastor should or should not be doing) and realize that we're just making it happen. That's what we do.
And, to be honest, it's feels...alive!
I'll deal with some questions that linger tomorrow or Monday. If you have some, ask them, OK? (if this is sloppy, I apologize. Gotta get back to work on tomorrow's stuff)