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Another Article on the Old Church

John on December 29, 2008 at 8:41 pm

This one from the OC Register:

The plans for Seabreeze Church’s first permanent home in two decades seemed to be running smoothly.

In October, the church celebrated the grand opening of its new financially conservative and environmentally friendly campus and the fact that the congregation had grown from 700 to 850 in the last year.

That’s simply not true. The congregation had grown from about 750 to 850 by October of 2007. Then the firings took place and over 150 people left. By October of 2008 when the grand opening took place, the church was still down in numbers. Church leaders are bragging about this year’s Christmas Eve turnout, which was reportedly 700. In 2007, when I was still there, we had 1,050 for the same service. That’s a big drop. The article continues:

What wasn’t on the schedule was a credit crunch that forced church officials to re-jigger a $5 million loan they used to build their dream campus. That financial fallout follows a nationwide trend of religious institutions with big expansion problems facing a credit crisis and decreased giving.

The church had always planned to refinance its loan. I know they had an audit in preparation for this refi and spoke to several lenders about it. However, by that point so many people had left that the giving was down about 20%. The church wasn’t meeting its budget. I’m sure that played a role in multiple lenders deciding not to offer a refi to a church already deeply in debt.

“We see this as an example (that) even with the best planning there are things that are outside of our control,” said administration pastor John Stoffel.

The best of planning?! Really, John. How were you able to say that with a straight face? Seriously, you’re better than that. You shouldn’t be flaking for the man who put the church in this terrible position.

The plans were already devised to cut costs before the economic downtown, but when church officials saw that they would not be able to refinance their loans and church giving dropped, they called their lender for help.

The Evangelical Christian Credit Union allowed the church to reduce its monthly payment by about $7,000 a month by switching to an interest-only mortgage.

Note: Giving dropped and no one is specifying why. The reader is left to assume it was the bad economy. It wasn’t. The new loan will surely help, but the church has been down more than $7,000 a week for the entire year, so $7,000 a month is just scratching the surface.

“It certainly seems to be that every church, to some degree, is struggling with the financial reality that the country is facing,” Stoffel said.

Yes, but the truth is the church would be doing fine if nearly 200 people hadn’t left earlier this year.

Seabreeze, which has not missed a payment and is not in foreclosure, had completed a 10,000-square-foot auditorium and 10,000-square-foot children’s building at their new Gothard Street location in October.

This is because they took a $200K personal loan from a member (they took a couple actually, but one in particular came from someone who left the church two months later). The church has refused to repay the money after multiple requests. Bottom line: They’ve not missed a payment because an ex-member’s home is keeping them afloat. I’m not surprised that little factoid didn’t make it into the article, but I do begin to wonder if this reporter asked any questions.

Construction plans were designed to reduce expenses, but with the economic downturn the church had to redo their budget.

“We do that so that we can continue to do the mission God has calls us to,” Stoffel said.

I’m guessing that was supposed to be “called us to.” In any case, it’s sad to see someone I considered a friend in this position. It’s not his fault, but he should know better by now. It’s wasn’t the economy, it was the leadership that did this to our church.

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