Monday, August 21, 2006

Answers About Moving to the Mall

I'm back! This has been the fastest summer of my life! I spent a great deal of time getting work done to prepare our church for the fall, squeezed in some writing, some vacation and a lot of time watering my garden!

This post is going to be Cedarbrook specific. So those of you that like to check in from out of town might find this entry totally irrelevant. Cedarbrook is moving from renting a movie theatre to leasing space in the local mall. I want to address a number of questions about that move. So here we go...

1. Why are we moving?
  • The biggest reason is to make more seats available. During the school year, we are often at capacity (200) and it's not very welcoming to come into a church that is full. The message is "We are happy the way we are. We don't need any more people." Since that is not true, we needed to find some place bigger. The malls banquet center can seat 400 comfortably, even more if necessary. That means we could grow as big as 1000 with two services on Sunday, more than double what we can do at the theatre.
  • The second reason is better children's facilities. We've been using the theatre hallway for our nursery from day one. It's adequate, but in the winter it's cold. Many people have chosen to not attend CB for this reason alone. At the mall, we will have a very large space that will be built with kids in mind. Parents will love it.
  • The mall also gives us more options. Right now our youth groups are renting two different facilities in town. We'll have enough room to house them in the mall if that's what the new youth pastor wants. Plus, we have the banquet center reserved for not only Sundays but holidays (Thanksgiving Eve, Good Friday, etc.). Up until now, we've always been limited to Sunday's only. Other groups (like Mom's) will be able to use it during the week. We've also worked it into the lease to rent the banquet center for as little as $25/hour if it's not previously booked. This will be great for other meetings we want to have.
  • Set up and take down will be easier. With our own retail space, we can store all of our equipment and just have to put it on carts to transport it across the hall into the banquet center vs. putting things in and out of a trailer. This will save both wear and tear on the equipment as well as the movers. We also have until 1pm to finish, so we can have longer services and not feel so rushed. Plus, the mall will let us set up on Saturday night if the banquet center is not booked. All in all, it's a good deal for us.
2. Where is the space and what does it cost?
  • We will be leasing the old Ben Franklin space, right next to the Bowling alley. This is very convenient to both the banquet center and the back entrance and the mall restrooms. We had originally wanted a smaller space but we feared running out of space and then having our rent double plus another renovation cost. It was cheaper to secure a bigger space from the beginning and do one renovation. (We looked at this space in the begining but thought it too expensive. Since then, they reduced it's size by adding a wall and so the rent was cheaper.)
  • We worked a backloaded lease that starts at $2500/month and works it's way up to $5200/month the last year. This allows our finances to grow as we grow. The monthly average over the three year lease is $4250. That's an all-inclusive price, including heat and electricity, common area expenses, parking lot upkeep and use of the banquet center. It may sound expensive, but this is an outstanding price.
3. Wouldn't it be better to take that money and invest it into a building now or at least save the money?

That's a good question. We have all thought this one through and in this case, it's better to lease for a few reasons...
  • It buys us time. It's like a young couple renting an apartment when they are first married to find out where their jobs will be and what size family they want before they buy a house. Buying too early can waste money because you might buy something that doesn't fit your needs. Cedarbrook is still learning who God wants us to be. Will we be a church of 1000? 1500? Will we be a church of 400 that starts other churches? We aren't sure yet and so we don't want to build too soon. We also aren't sure what ministries to build for because they seem to be added monthly!
  • It builds a support base. I'm friends with a number of pastors who are building right now. They are about double our size, around 800 on a Sunday. When they did their fundraising they were both able to raise just under one million dollars. Church buildings today run around three million and up. There's no way we could support that kind of price tag today. The mall will be an excellent interim venue for us to meet to grow to that 800 size before we talk about building.
  • It saves us money. The debt service on one million dollars alone would be $5,000/month. That's not principal or utilities for a building or salary for the necessary custodian, or upkeep on the building. Buildings are very very expensive and it would be very risky of us to venture into a building effort now before we have the revenue flow we need. Over three years we will only spend $150K on rent. In light of what a building will cost, that's a good deal, giving us the time we need to plan well for the future. Staying at the threatre isn't the answer because we would not grow in people and therefore financially. We'd just plateau.
  • It helps us focus on people not bricks. Because we aren't servicing a huge debt, we can hire staff and send people to New Orleans and rent buses for our youth group and offer Comedy Clubs at the Mabel Tainter, and on and on.... If we don't have the cash flow, all that will stop and our church life will suddenly become all about the building. No one wants that. A building is good, butat the right time.
4. When will we build then?
  • The best case scenario is that we grow quickly after the move to the mall and can then start planning to build the last year of our three year lease. This is a little optimistic but not impossible.
  • We want to pay off our land debt first. You'll be hearing more about how we plan to do that in the Fall after we get moved in to the mall.
5. What about the sound and sight concerns in the banquet center?
  • Sound and sight lines are the biggest challenge of the move. We've been in a premium space the past four years ( A little spoiled by church standards!). In some ways, it will feel like a step down, but we believe that we are geting back much more than we are giving up. We already have some ideas to improve the sound. And for sight lines, we hope to recruit a camera crew so images of people on stage can be projected on the screens (multiple) throughout the banquet center. We've prided ourselves on being innovative so I see these difficulties as challenges that we can overcome if we put our minds to it! We welcome your ideas to overcome these problems.
6. What kind of help do we need to pull this off?
Thanks for asking!!!!
  • We need carpenters to put up walls and sheetrockers to finish the walls and painter to paint the walls.
  • We need designers to help Children's Ministries create an attractive, dynamic space that people in the mall will be drawn too.
  • We need a new set up crew to help put up and take down chairs.
  • We need more children workers and teachers because they want to expand the classes.
  • We need sound, tech and camera people. We will train! This is a big part of offering an excellent Sunday experience.
These are the pressing needs right now.

I'll stop here although I'm sure you have more questions. You can either e-mail them to me directly or post your comment/question below. Keep coming back as I'll be adding more Q & A over the coming month.