20 May 2016
In preparation for our meeting this coming Monday evening, I wanted to give
you a status update on where we are, how we got here, and what some of the
hurdles are that we are facing.
When we purchased this property in 2012 there was a two-year plan in
place for sustainability. We are now entering year FIVE. The Lord’s provision
has been truly remarkable to behold. Nevertheless, we are now at a financial
crisis that could determine our corporate future or the absence thereof. Here
are two solutions that have been discussed:
1) Lower the price of Alliance Dr. to increase the likelihood of a sale.
The decision was made NOT to pursue this option due to the belief
that the building is priced fairly and due to the fear that we will
unload our greatest asset at such a low price that our remaining
debt burden would be unsustainable. However, the church
already had a $500,000 debt burden prior to ever purchasing our
current property. We are leaving this property at the price it has
been since it went on the market.
2) Gather “investors” from within the community to purchase Calhoun
St. property to buy the church some time for Alliance Dr. to sell.
George Wooten believes he can get a group of individuals to
purchase that property. For example, 20 men would chip in
$10,000 each and “buy the church some time” to sell the larger,
vacant building. This is the option we are currently pursuing and
the proverbial basket in which we have placed all our eggs.
So, for now, we are leaving the price of Alliance Dr. at just under
$1,000,000 and trying to sell the smaller building in order to buy more time for
the larger building to sell. However, there are several problems still facing us
for which we seem, in my assessment, to not have a viable solution to and
which I am hoping your presence might help us address.
1) The church will be out of money in July.
In the event that we are unable to sell Calhoun St in the next 30-
60 days, we will no longer be able to pay our bills unless we either
make some serious internal changes or the Lord does the
miraculous with some of our property.
This is obviously an immediate need, and on that subject there is
no dispute. However, our leadership has been unable to come to
any agreement on a solution to this problem. This is the primary
reason for my getting in touch with you after our most recent
One solution (a terrible one, in my opinion) is to borrow money
against the one building we own free and clear. There is a banker
on our governing board, and he advised against it and expressed
doubt as to whether anyone would actually loan us the money.
Another solution (already mentioned above) was to get a group of
individuals to purchase that property. For example, 20 men would
chip in $10,000 each and “buy the church some time” to sell the
larger, vacant building.
On the subject of serious internal changes, I have on several
occasions broached the subject of my salary. At some point, there
simply may not be enough money to continue to compensate a fulltime pastor. Each time this short-term solution is brought up, I have been told not to worry about it and that it was not optional.
While I appreciate the sentiment and devotion from our board, it
may be the best option if no other changes are to be made.
Lastly, it has been discussed, though not at any real length, that
we could change the delivery format of our high school. Currently,
our high school is a traditional format of one teacher per grade.
While this enhances the educational experience of our students, it
is also the most expensive in terms of salary. It has been brought
up that we could change the format of our high school to more of a
“distance learning” format which would require only one teacher
(as a proctor) as opposed to four. (Just to give you an idea of
teacher-to-student ratio, we currently employ four full-time high
school teachers with a total of twenty-seven students.) This, to me,
seems to be a viable option though, for whatever reason, most
seem to view it as unfavorable.
2) There is no clear financial division between the church and the
One of the main problems is that no one can accurately assess the
financial health of either the church or the school as independent
entities. The finances are so intricately intertwined that when we
sit down to look over financial statements no one seems to be able
to get a clear understanding of exactly which areas need to be
When this has been presented as an issue, the rationalization for
its necessity is that the two must be intertwined until some
financial burden is alleviated due to the fact that the two
properties are consolidated on one loan. While this is true, it has
served to paralyze us in our ability to analyze and make financial
decisions related to the church and/or school.
I see this as an immediate need, as do some others within church
leadership, but it has likely not gained the necessary momentum
for at least two reasons. The first is that Sam (the comptroller and,
for decades, the church and school treasurer) and others do not
see it as feasible given our financial strain, and the second being
that no one has a grasp on exactly how they should be divided, as
there is no historical precedent for doing so here.
3) There is no clear and unifying vision for who we are and in which
direction we are moving.
In my opinion, this seems to be the root issue. In our decisionmaking process as a board, we have a very difficult time coming to agreement on any solution and I really believe that this is the
reason behind that problem.
For example, there has been very little willingness to cut or alter
the high school grades (9-12), even though there is agreement that
we do not do them well. On many levels it makes sense: financial
sense (how much money is it costing us?), organizational sense (is
a church our size equipped to adequately handle such a large
ministry?), and structural sense (is such a labor-intensive ministry
crippling us from laboring elsewhere?). When I begin to pry, the
answer that surfaces as to why we must continue to do it this way
is because “we want to minister to our kids.” This seems to be the
vision of many for our church, and was the stated vision by those
present in 1977 for starting the school in the first place.
In other words, we are unwilling to alter the structure because WE
(the decision-makers) want to have this ministry for OUR families.
So, the vision is for a ministry in which we are the primary
benefactors. Thus, we are unwilling to make tough, but necessary,
decisions about the church/school because it would negatively
impact our vision which, coincidentally, is ourselves.
When you get here Monday evening, you will undoubtedly hear
that the problem is the debt, or the giving of the congregation, or
the enrollment of the school, or any variety of issues. However, I
would ask you to gauge the room and see if you gather any sense
of unanimity on the question of “Who is the Lord calling us to be?”
Until we come to resolution on that question, I am afraid that we
will be paralyzed in even attempting to make a decision about
property, finances, staff, etc.
4) The nature of the relationship between the church and the school
The technically accurate answer is that our school is a ministry of
the church; it is not a legally separate organization. However, in
practice, it seems to be almost a parasitic relationship. The
church is the host and the school is the parasite, and it is almost
as though we must keep the host healthy for the sake of the
parasite. Many would be offended by that analogy, but in regards
to finances, consider this:
Part of the reason that the church is doing so poorly financially is
because last summer there was not enough money to pay the
school staff. So, $32,000 was taken from the church account and
given to the school as a “loan”. However, the school has not had
any surplus to be able to “pay” the church back. This is not a
small reason as to our current financial crunch.
Also, one of our buildings is being rented out by a start-up church.
They pay $1,000 per month to rent the facility. That money is
funneled into the school account, rather than the church account,
in order that the school might break even. Even with all those
factors, the school still may not break even through these summer
Organizationally, it makes sense to me to trim the school to K-5 or
K-8 in order that our practice might reflect our belief that the
school is, in fact, a ministry of our church and not the other way
around. However, again, that topic is one in which, when it is
brought up, passions are so fierce that objective dialogue and
analysis seems almost impossible.
Even if the Lord were to provide for all our financial needs, these questions
would still need to be addressed. Understanding that the financial need is the
most pressing and presenting issue, I still have many concerns about the
matters listed above. However, perhaps the Lord is using this financial crisis
to highlight these other areas that may not have been so noticeable otherwise.
I very much appreciate your help and willingness to come. My prayer is that
our leadership will be willing to hold everything before the Lord with an open
hand and not a closed fist. Like the rich, young ruler, I hope that we are
willing to let go of ANYTHING that might prevent us from fully following the
Lord and trusting Him.
Please let me know if you need anything from me in preparation for Monday
evening. See you at 6:00.
Praying for you,
Just a man trying to save his thoughts and correspondence