Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Using buildings as a ministry tool

Facilities were the first feature mentioned by denominational leaders when I inquired about BT in 2009. There were built strong and maintained well. They include four, three story, interconnected buildings, two smaller buildings, a playground, a two bedroom house, a garden and five parking lots on four corners of an intersection; 80,000 square feet on three acres. They are indeed a remarkable presence in the community.

Baptist Temple quickly outgrew its new building and had to build again. The new concrete structure, built in 1917 still stands today and has been designated an historic building.

From the beginning of it's history BT has been putting up new buildings, tearing down old ones, renovating, improving, repairing and expanding as it continued to meet both numerical growth and the changing needs of its ministry. Buildings are an important part of the ministry for most churches. It is exciting at first. Attendance and finances are growing and your building becomes a sign of prosperity. It seems easy to get people to invest in beautiful, modern facilities. However, when a church begins to decline, the building becomes a burden. Few people want to invest in a lost cause. First maintenance begins to take up a growing share of the budget. Next minor, then major, maintenance needs are deferred. The deterioration is visible from the street turning away potential newcomers and, soon, a seemingly irreversible downward spiral ends with the church shutting down.

In 2009 BT was in great shape. In needed some work but it was still an attractive facility. In the 1980's major renovations began to modernize most of the BT facilities, particularly the 1942 sanctuary and the 1930 children's building. To preserve the future and expand our ministry impact, renovation continued in the 21st Century, when over $500,000 dollars were raised to repair the roof and exterior walls and improve and expand the facility's ministry impact.

Included in these renovations was an old dry goods store that once belonged to the Brunneman family. It had been purchased by the church and wound up being a closet for things we weren't ready to throw way, yet. As part of the strengthening our community ministry focus, the building was cleaned up, remodeled and christened the Brunneman building (honoring Max Brunneman whose parents, children and grandchildren have all been a part of BT.) Here our Highland Park CAN (Community Assistance Network) provides a thrift store, food pantry and teaching garden serve our community.

The Fritz Building (once a Boy Scout Hall) was renovated to make it more appealing for community meetings and events. The Long Mission House was purchased in 2018 to house resident interns who will live and work in the community. Modern touches included WiFi, flat screen monitors and a solar array that declared our commitment to creation care.

The work to expand the ministry impact of our facilities continue as we renovate our playground to be inclusive and enable special needs children to play with their friends with typical abilities.