Woo Relocation Fund
The Woo has what I think is the all-time best story of a church finding a building to meet in. God seemed to, beyond any reasonable doubt, lead us to and provide for us a home at Pilgrim Church. We have been here 8 years at no cost. And though the Pilgrim Church could use our financial support, they have never asked us for it.
But we have noticed that the building needs some serious renovations, especially if we are going to be here for any length of time. The problems involve safety concerns, as well as aesthetics and functionality. As we looked into it, we were told that just getting the building up to snuff would cost $1,000,000. And if we were to try to make the space more appealing, functional, and energy efficient, we would be looking at a lot more.
We also came to the realization that our service time was not working for us anymore. It directly conflicts with many children's nap time. This has caused a lot of difficulties for the kids and their parents or guardians that come to our service. It also is a big reason why many people with kids don't come to The Woo.
Finally, we are a growing church. But to continue to grow, the responsibilities of leading the church need to be spread out to more of our people. That means more people need to have access to our church space without me (Lucas) and the other 2 permitted key holders being involved. Over the last few years, we have really stalled in our growth, in a good part due to the restrictions we have in using the Pilgrim building (as well as some weaknesses I have in delegating). (SCROLL DOWN TO READ MORE)
These elements are not addressable because we are not the owners of the Pilgrim Church. But even if we were, we would still have to move just because of the first problem. At our current state, we don't have the money or the time to invest in a major building renovation of that scope.
Why 875 Main St.?
The Woo has partnered with and donated a percentage of our income to the Main South CDC for a number of years. They are a super great organization that may do more than any of the other great Main South organizations (which we have many: Dismas House, Clark University, Stone Soup, C.H.L., R.E.C., Centro Las Americas, Straight Ahead Ministries, many churches, etc.) to improve the lives of people in our neighborhood. Being in the building with them is going to allow us to collaborate in many ways to serve our neighbors, and we've already begun planning with them for that.
This is also the only permanent place that we've looked at that is still in the heart of Main South and on Main St.
This new location is also by far the most affordable. Office spaces such as this in Worcester run around $12/sq ft and often have lots of restrictions as to what it can (or in our case, can not) be used for. They also often don't have parking. 875 Main St. needs the least amount of renovations out of every property we looked at, and costs less than half the price per square foot; and has more parking than we probably will ever need! It also has a great outdoor play area for our children and lots of space for classrooms and a "cry room" for parents to take their kids to while still being a part of the service. The lease also includes the CDC being responsible for all the maintenance on the existing building elements, trash removal and snow removal. And above all that, it is already up to code and completely handicap accessible.
To put how good of a deal this is into perspective, my friends at another Worcester church in a similar position to us, tell me that they are really excited about being able to rent a space for a few hours on Sunday morning at a monthly price that is double what we are paying for this space full time.
Why is it so expensive to renovate?
Though the building doesn't need a lot of work, the work that it does need includes moving some of the heating and cooling (yes, it has AC!) system and sprinkler system. It also needs some busting up of concrete block walls for us to create a large welcoming entrance and to expand our footprint into the Main South CDC's area. If we can, we would also like to make the space as multi-functional as possible. For instance, we would like to put sinks into the kids rooms for doing art projects and allowing the possibility of the building being a weekday daycare.
But really, this isn't expensive at all. Again, to put it in perspective: renovating the Pilgrim would cost at least a million dollars. Another Worcester pastor tells me they are planning to put $1.5 million into their building for just roof and parking lot repairs. And my good friends at the West Philly Vineyard Church, probably the most similar church to us in the world, just bought a similar size building and raised and put in an additional $600,000 into it - though they were actually planning on spending twice that if they were able to raise it.
What if we don't raise enough money?
My first thought is that I really hope that doesn't happen. But we do have options if it does.
We could get a loan for the work. Of course, that is not something we would like to do since we are already greatly increasing our monthly expenses by paying rent.
The other possibility is that we could only do some of the work that is needed and leave some for later. Unfortunately, the top priority job is also the most expensive. It also would be tough to do renovations to the space while we are in there. And it is likely that the work that we wouldn't get to do is the expanding into the Main South CDC area, which would really limit us our space.
What are the terms of the lease?
We signed a 5 year contract for $2,000 a month, with no yearly increase during that time. We also have been graciously given the first three months of the lease rent free. After 5 years, we can renew for another 5 years with only a 3% increase each year. We then can renew for 10 years twice with the same terms.
When will the new space be ready?
That's not certain yet. We've talked with some construction companies about moving in in March, but that seems pretty iffy. It's more likely that we'll be moving in early summer.
What will happen to the Pilgrim Congregation Church?
We have discussed with the Pilgrim Church all the reasons that we will be moving, and have begun discussing three potential options for their future:
1. They move with us and they have their own service in our space.
2. They stay at the Pilgrim Church building and I continue to be their pastor..
3. They replace us as tenants in their building with another church.
They are going to wait until after Christmas to discuss this with their whole church, but I think they are leaning towards the third option. Though I would have liked them to choose #1 or #2, so that I can stay involved with them, I actually think #3 is a great choice for them. They likely will find a church that can pay them rent, which would help them a lot. And seeing the building continue to be used for faith based initiatives is exciting for the Main South community.
How can I help?
Prayer is the biggest way, seriously! Please pray for this project and the people involved.
Money is the next biggest need. The money that we need for the renovations is probably not going to come from a one big donor. It's probably going to take a whole lot of people already struggling with money, feeling led by God to give in faith: giving in ways that they may not think are reasonible for their situation, and trusting God to support them. That is a scary thing! And yet, I have personally seen so many situations where people have willingly done that with a cheerful heart, and God has taken care of them. I have actually been one of those people, many times. So I believe it can work. I also believe this is a more than worthy mission to try it on. But just so you know, I (Lucas) will not know who in our church donates or pledges. I like to lead us by loving each of you unconditionally, and knowing who is giving and who isn't could affect that. I also don't want anyone to feel pressured by me to give: that wouldn't be doing this in the right spirit.
And if you are so inspired, you can help us raise money for this project by talking about it and/or sharing the video or this website with friends and family. The option also exists to do fundraising projects. If you want to talk more about that, please contact Edie at email@example.com.
We will also be looking for some volunteer help to do nonskilled manual labor. We also will need help painting some of the rooms and moving into the new space. As we discussed this with the construction contractors, we found out that it could be done safely and save us quite a bit of money. I will let everyone on our newsletter list and at church know about the days and times for this as we get into the work.
Now if you have professional skills and experience and can volunteer your services, we would love to have them! For example, one person in our church does tile work and offered to tile the bathrooms for free. That is going to greatly improve the quality of our bathrooms! Go to Contact Us to let us know how you would like to help!
What if we outgrow the new space?
That's a fair question. The space is good sized but not large. We will probably only fit, at most, about 200 chairs, which would fit 150 adults comfortably.
Their are some nice things about that being the case:
But the first step for our church if we are starting to feel tight is to do multiple Sunday services. We've done them in the past and they offer many benefits to our community.
We also discussed with the architects about how possible it is to expand the existing building. It is and wouldn't be very expensive. By just adding 16 feet off the back of the building, we could add another 100 chairs. And if we were allowed to have more of the Main South CDC space, we could be pretty comfortable here even if we quadrupled. You can see what that could look like here.
We also don't know what will happen with the Pilgrim Church. If the orginal leading we had to their building is any indication, we may actually end up back there after renovating the building.