Most of us have a kind of love/hate relationship with money! We know money is necessary for life in our culture, but we struggle to manage our financial resources in a manner that is balanced and healthy. This, by the way, is why we offer the “Financial Peace University” program to our church family!
But the same things are true for the church. While the church is not a business and must never become a business, the church must manage resources in a sound and responsible way.
For example: the leadership of FBCG must respect the annual budget approved every year by the congregation. Part of that respect is taking care not to spend more than we receive. When the national economy began to show signs of recession in 2008, and our leadership noticed a drop in giving to FBCG’s General Fund, we immediately took steps to cut our spending by 10%. This wise decision allowed us to continue our ministries without overspending our available funds.
Sound financial stewardship is especially important when it comes to facilities. FBCG now utilizes 2 campuses that include buildings and property worth nearly $13 million. We owe less than $1.38 million on our West Campus that was built in 2004 at a total cost of over $8 million.
When we were planning Phase 1 of the West Campus in about 2002, it was assumed that Phase 2 would include a worship center capable of seating some 2,000 people at one time. But much has happened in the years since to change that assumption.
First, a worship center of that size would cost in the neighborhood of $25 million to build. FBCG simply is not large enough to take on a project of that size and the debt that it would create.
Second, the growth of the Fox Valley has slowed dramatically. While FBCG is still growing, we are not growing at the rate we were growing a decade ago and therefore we do not believe we can or should attempt a building project of that size.
Third, fewer and fewer churches in North America are building very large worship centers. The primary reason seems to be because churches are unwilling to invest that much money in a room that is only used one day a week. Congregations are also much more hesitant to take on long-term debt than they were just 10-15 years ago. The economic climate today demands that churches build more flexible and multi-use space in order to maximize the stewardship of resources.
Over the past 8 years our leadership has gradually realized that it would not be good stewardship of our financial and material resources to attempt to build one campus big enough to handle all of our ministry needs. We now believe that God has given us two campuses that can both be used in a manner that allows us to fulfill the vision he has for FBCG and to do so in a fiscally responsible manner.
For example: market analysis shows that our East Campus is worth roughly $2 million to prospective buyers; but it would cost nearly $10 million to reproduce that square footage at the West Campus.
We have a beautiful sanctuary at the East Campus; it doesn’t make good fiscal sense to take on debt to rebuild a similar space at West Campus when we already have the space at East. The East Campus also has a nice chapel and a renovated Student Center. Rather than seek to rebuild that space somewhere else, it seems that the wiser thing is to seek to maximize the use of space that is both functional and paid for.
We envision FBCG using multiple campuses for the foreseeable future. We believe God would have us maximize our ministry while minimizing our debt by pursing both campuses as vital parts of our total ministry.
We are working with Aspen Group – our facility consultants for the past four years or so – on a plan to develop both East and West campuses as vital parts of our ministry vision. We will begin presenting these plans to the FBCG congregation early in 2013. When you see the plans several things will jump out at you!
- You will notice that the plans involve both east and west campuses
- You will notice that there is not a plan to build a worship center large enough to seat our entire congregation; instead you will see a continuation of “multiple venues” for worship
- You will notice that an effort has been made to balance space needs for adult worship, connecting and equipping; as well as for ministries as diverse as children’s, student and women’s ministries
- You will notice that the proposed cost is much less than previous concepts you may remember
We will be asking for your input, your questions, and, ultimately, for your support! As leaders we take very seriously Paul’s charge in Romans 12 as he taught about spiritual gifts:
“..if it is leadership let him govern diligently…”
We believe diligent leadership for FBCG will be planning to maximize facilities and ministry impact while minimizing debt. We look forward to sharing these plans in much more detail over the coming months!
Pastor Brian Coffey
Deep and Wide
One of my favorite songs as a child was, “Deep and Wide.” Maybe you remember it:
Deep and wide, deep and wide,
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.
Deep and wide, deep and wide,
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.
That’s all there was to it – but you could sing it all kinds of ways by dropping words out and just saying, “Deep and hmmmmmm, deep and hmmmmmm…” And I liked it because we always sang it with hand motions.
But, it occurs to me, “deep and wide” are also words that describe our vision for FBCG!
If you think of a meteor falling from the sky and striking the earth, you would assume that the size of the crater it leaves would be related to the size of the meteor; the deeper and wider the crater, the bigger the meteor.
I see the church as being kind of like God’s meteor – designed for maximum impact on the earth! But rather than its impact being measured by the size of a hole in the ground, it’s measured by its impact on people, and on the world.
The Book of Acts describes the growth of the early church this way:
“And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:47
That tells me Jesus wanted his church to grow wider! He loves to see more and more people drawn to himself through his church. He wants the crater made by his church to be ever expanding. Over this past year we baptized some 55 people, many of whom became followers of Jesus since connecting to FBCG! I dream of the day when we are baptizing 100 new believers every year, or more, because Jesus wants his church to grow wider!
But we also read in Ephesians,
“Then we will no longer be infants….blown here and there by every wind of teaching… Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ.”
That tells me Jesus wants his church to grow deeper! Once people come to faith in Christ and are connected to his body, the church, he wants them to grow up – spiritually speaking. And that means to grow deeper in his word, deeper in spiritual maturity, deeper in service.
When I look at FBCG, I see a church that is growing both deeper and wider at the same time! In the past couple of years we have had more people connecting to FBCG for the first time; and more people than ever digging deeper through Bible Study, small groups, service, and we have seen greater generosity than ever before. But I also see a church that must remain committed to doing the things that ensure we will continue to grow in both dimensions.
We all know that growing deeper is not easy! Growing deeper as a church means that we must be committed to not only teaching God’s word but encouraging the intentional development of the disciplines of spiritual growth in our church family: the study of God’s word, prayer, worship, generosity, fellowship and service.
But, then again, growing wider is not easy either! Growing wider as a church means constantly thinking beyond ourselves and about the wider community in which we live – and about the wider world we are called to reach and serve. Growing wider means figuring out how to both reach people and then make room for them in our programs, facilities and worship venues. Growing wider means arriving at a worship service and finding a newcomer sitting in “your seat”! Growing wider means stretching ourselves through initiatives like Serve the World in order to make greater and greater impact for Christ’s kingdom!
The last thing to say about “deep and wide” is that, when it comes to the church, we simply can’t settle for one without the other! To focus only on growing deeper is to be insulated from the world around us; to focus on only growing wider is to ignore whole dimensions of spiritual maturity.
May we, as individuals and as a church family, be committed to growing in both dimensions, deeper andwider, and all for the glory of Christ!
Pastor Brian Coffey
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Our home is full of baseball hats! All together our four sons have played on over 40 travel and school teams and have collected over 100 hats. So you might say I have become something of an expert on baseball hats!
You may or may not know that there are two primary kinds of baseball hats. There are “fitted hats” and “one-size-fits-all-hats.” Fitted hats are hats made to the exact circumference of a particular head – right down to an eighth of an inch. So when ordering a fitted hat you need to know your head size; whether that be 7 ¼ inches or 7 5/8 inches. But a “one-size-fits-all” hat has an adjustable plastic strap in the back that allows the hat to fit any size head.
It occurs to me that churches are kind of like baseball hats. When it comes to size, they aren’t all the same. There are small churches and there are large churches. There are things that smaller churches can do that big churches can’t do; and there are things that big churches can do that smaller churches can’t do.
For example: I grew up in churches that were generally around 200-300 people on any given Sunday morning. In those churches it was generally true that everyone knew everyone else and the pastor (my father) pretty much knew everyone personally. In smaller churches that is possible; in big churches it is not. In larger churches it’s important that everyone is known by someone, but no one can be known by everyone! Some people really like and respond to a church that is small enough where everyone can know everyone else. Other people prefer to be part of a church where they can be anonymous if they want to be.
On the other hand, the churches I grew up in didn’t have a full time staff member or pastor who led children’s ministries; or middle school ministries. We didn’t have student mission trips or even adult mission trips for that matter. Those smaller churches just didn’t have the financial or personnel resources to do that kind of thing. And some people really like being part of a bigger church that can provide ministry opportunities for children and students; and that can provide multiple worship options for their family.
So, when it comes to churches, one size does not fit all.
When I was preparing my year-end report for the Annual Meeting of our membership back in August, a several numbers jumped out at me.
First, I noticed that over the past year, our congregation gave over $200,000 away to individuals and families in need through our Benevolent Fund. That total would have been more than all our staff salaries in 1986.
Second, I noticed that over 200 of students and adults participated in short term mission trips in the past year. That number is equal to almost half of the average worship attendance of FBCG when I arrived as Youth Pastor in 1986.
Third, I saw that our Food Pantry ministry served an average of 225-250 families per month over the past year. In fact, our Food Pantry and Compassion in Action ministries are now making an impact that rivals the local Salvation Army!
By any measurement FBCG is now a large church. What started as 7 Swedish immigrants in 1894; and was a worship family of some 450 people in 1986 is now a church family of more than 4,000 people.
I am sometimes asked to explain how and why FBCG has grown over the past 20 years. My best answer includes the following:
- Our local community has also experienced significant growth over that time period
- FBCG has been blessed with wise spiritual leadership in both pastoral staff and lay leaders
- The FBCG congregation has consistently been willing to adapt and change in order to reach our community and world
- The Holy Spirit has empowered FBCG in ways that are impossible to quantify
- God has simply chosen to use FBCG in this local community and the world
I have also been asked, “How big should the church get?” or, “How big is too big?”
I usually answer this question by affirming that one size does not fit all when it comes to churches. Some people will thrive in smaller churches, some in larger churches. But it seems to me in the New Testament that Jesus wants his church to grow, both in numbers and in maturity, and that, ultimately, FBCG’s growth is up to him. The Book of Acts tells us:
And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)
Our job as leaders is to try to be faithful to his word and to identify and eliminate barriers that might keep his church from becoming what he wants it to be.
We believe God is calling FBCG to a unique season of kingdom impact; locally as well as globally. We believe God is calling us to make the gospel visible and tangible through “Serve the World.” We also believe that, in order to accomplish what he wants us to accomplish, we will also need to expand our hearts, our generosity and our facilities; in that order.
We’ll talk more about the relationship of facilities to ministry in the next entry!
Pastor Brian Coffey
What Makes Us One?
In 1909 car maker Henry Ford famously said, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”
Needless to say, our culture has moved from one choice in car colors to a seemingly endless variety of choices.
And, in a way, the same thing has happened to the church.
When I arrived at FBCG as Youth Pastor in 1986, we had one worship service, one style of worship music, one worship venue (sanctuary), one Sunday school hour, and one building.
Today, just over 26 years later, we worship in 6 services every weekend and those services take place over two days and in four different venues, using up to 4 different styles of music.
We operate two campuses and offer multiple equipping options at both campuses – not only on Sundays, but throughout the week. And if you miss a weekend – you can watch the sermon you missed on our website or keep up with our sermon series through the online devotional guide, “10 Minutes with God.”
Sometimes I miss the “old days!” It was simpler to understand, easier to lead, and it was comfortable. But our community has changed and our opportunities have grown, and God has called and enabled FBCG to adapt and change in order to more effectively reach both our community and the world.
As I look at and experience our church family these days, I think I can make two observations that are equally true.
- FBCG is not the same church it was when my wife and I arrived in 1986.
- FBCG is exactly the same church it was when we first began ministry here.
How can both be true?
It comes down to what truly makes us one.
In Ephesians 4:4-6 the Apostle Paul writes:
There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4-6
Paul is teaching the early believers, and us, that what makes the church one has nothing to do with buildings, campuses or worship venues. But our one-ness has everything to do with Christ. It is the Holy Spirit that dwells in our hearts by faith and shapes us into the body of Christ.
At our annual picnic/baptism in August (which this year included a food-pack event for the first time), I thought about Paul’s words. I saw hundreds and hundreds of people, representing multiple generations, multiple communities, and even multiple cultures, gathered from across two campuses and multiple worshiping communities, sharing both fellowship and service together, and unified in the Spirit and truth of Jesus Christ.
Week after week we affirm our commitment to reach, connect, equip and serve; and in recent days have launched our “Serve the World” initiative to make the gospel visible and tangible through local and global mission partners.
As I peer into the future God has for FBCG, I see us continuing to worship on different campuses and in different venues; I see us celebrating worship with different styles of music; I see us offering many different points of connection and many different opportunities for spiritual growth and service; but I see us as ONE.
We are one in the Spirit; we are one in purpose; we are one in Christ; we are one church! Thanks for being part of the FBCG family!
Pastor Brian Coffey