3 Tips for Raising Church Building Project Funds During COVID
Live Oak Christian Church in Bluffton, South Carolina, dreamed of having a home of their own. Originally, the congregation met in a local school and later moved to the Bluffton School of Dance, but they had a bigger dream. They wanted to build, and that’s where the story takes an unexpected turn. They decided not to build a church.
Instead, leaning into the heart of their mission and the needs of the community, they planned to build the Live Oak Performing Arts Center (LOPAC) in the Cultural Arts District of Bluffton Village, the heart of the South Carolina Lowcountry.
Michael Beaumont, lead pastor at Live Oak, says that Live Oak’s vision has never been to build a building, but instead to build a church. “As a church, our mission is to ‘love God, love people, and bring the two together.’ We believe that providing space for the arts to thrive is a powerful way to live out our mission.”
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Pat Kase, project developer for Aspen Group, has been involved throughout the project. “Aspen did a heavy discovery process with this project, including a deep dive into the DNA of the organization,” he says. “We looked at their code, context, and calling. I think vision clarity is what stands out to me most in this project. Clarity of vision allows you to say no to some things, and it helps guide organizations to the right environment. We know that the right environment grows ministry and can help to grow the church.”
The right space to fulfill the mission
The resulting plans are for a 17,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility, featuring a fully functional performing arts stage, sloped floors, and 400-seats. This joint venture between Live Oak Christian Church and Main Street Youth Theatre (MSYT) will provide a home for the church and a dedicated space for the arts in the community. The project will be funded through investments from MSYT and the Live Oak congregation, in partnership with INJOY Stewardship Solutions.
Daniel Cort, Vice Chairman of MSYT notes, “What this means for MSYT is a home, one that allows us to control our schedule, build our culture and brand, and, most importantly, preserve our endowment, which would have eventually been depleted by the exorbitant costs of venue rental.
“What stands out most about this project is the unique fusion partnership of faith-based and arts-based organizations. Initially, we were nervous as to how this would be received by the community, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive. The community has embraced the concept as practical, creative, and as meeting an essential need for Bluffton’s growth.”
Building capital in the midst of COVID-19
In February 2020, Live Oak Christian Church and Main Street Youth Theater announced their joint venture to build a new performing arts center—Live Oak Performing Arts Center (LOPAC)—in their thriving Lowcountry community. Positive media coverage fueled initial momentum for the church and nonprofit’s combined $5 million capital campaign. And then COVID-19 hit.
The church’s One Home campaign was in a commitment phase on March 15 as quarantine closures began to sweep through the country. The church remains focused on the work ahead. So what now?
“Right now, we’re moving inches instead of miles,” says Beaumont. “But, we’re learning that the value of an inch is greater than the value of a mile.”
Same vision, new timeline
LOPAC is not alone in its challenge to raise funding for a building project during COVID-19. As many churches consider what their ministry plans for 2020 look like amid a pandemic, Beaumont offers these three tips for churches that are embarking on a building project in uncertain times:
Remain committed to the vision: “We’re committed to a project, not a timeline. I think for most of us, it is easier to accept God’s plan than it is His timing. God may say, ‘Go, but not quite yet. When you’re ready, you’ll go.’ We typically want things to be on our timeline. There is humbling nature to this entire season and process.”
“Our church family has continued to be generous,” Beaumont says. “People are ready to give to a vision. If you work hard to communicate, people can see the impact of the vision past their current circumstances. Right now, they are voicing continuous support."
Move forward with an adapted timeline: The pastor shares that the church is yielded to God’s timeline, and they realize this season was no surprise to Him. “We’re continuing to communicate what’s next with our congregation. We are still on track. It’s just not the fast track. The mission hasn’t changed. The vision hasn’t changed. The only thing that has changed is the timeline."
Know that the middle requires hard work: “We talked a lot about the hard work of ‘the middle,’” says Beaumont. “It’s like a marathon. In the beginning, your clothes are great, your shoes are tight, you are limber and fresh. Everybody loves the start of the race. I know the last few miles are the hardest because you can’t see the end yet, even though you know it's coming. The hardest work is in the middle when you're far from the starting line, and you can't remember what it was like to feel fresh, but you can’t see the end either. We’re in the hard work of the middle, but we remain committed.”
Beaumont says that Live Oak is grateful for its long-term relationship with Aspen Group. “Aspen has walked this out with us for five years now. They’ve invested in us. They’ve never pressured us to move forward. Aspen has always been about a collaborative nature to do what’s best and we’re grateful for that.”