During this two year period, every contribution to God’s work through Harris Creek is a contribution to the “Our Turn” initiative. Every aspect of the ministry vision God is calling us towards will be funded through the budget. There will obviously be budgeted line items for accounting purposes to track expenses and giving directed towards the Sunwest Campus expansion aspect of the project. However, there will not be a separate budget that requires designated giving. Every gift made will go into the same fund. That means every weekend becomes an opportunity to celebrate and contribute towards what God is doing in and through Harris Creek as we leverage our resources for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
It is impossible to put a hard number on the cost of everything included in the “Our Turn” campaign when you take into account the London Training Institute and potentially staffing a new campus. However, what most people are really asking is, “How much is it going to cost to expand the Sunwest Campus?” At this stage of the project, our architects and builders estimate the project costing in the neighborhood of $6 million. We will have a hard number if we are able to move forward with the next stage of construction documents, but this is the most accurate estimate we can give based on square footage and current construction rates in Waco at this time.
I think every single person and organization would love to be debt-free, if possible. Yet, this is not always possible when it comes to the culture we live in if we want to accomplish long-term goals. That being said, Harris Creek’s leadership is committed to being wise when it comes to this subject and not over-extending our congregation when it comes to the debt-load we take on. This means we are committed to maintaining a healthy debt-to-income ratio. This is why we need to raise $2.9 million in cash over the next 24 months in order to move forward with the building project. It means we will limit taking on debt to assets that will appreciate over time. It means that we will have a clear and sustainable plan to repay the loans we assume. We believe a commitment of $2.9 million will allow us to finance the cost of the Sunwest Campus expansion in a way that we can manage the monthly payments from within our annual budget. In fact, the leap we are taking now is more financially conservative than the leap our church took to build our Sunwest Campus in 2007.
Assuming we reach our goal of $2.9 million and our annual budget remained the same, our debt service would go from being 10.6% of the budget to roughly 24% of our annual budget. While that may seem a little aggressive, it’s helpful to know that this isn’t unprecedented for our congregation. A much smaller congregation actually committed to a debt service payment that equaled 35% of the overall operating budget when we moved into our Sunwest Campus.
This is a question we hope we don’t have to deal with, but it truly would be time to go “back to the drawing board.” We would continue to look for options to add new campuses to our multi-site model. We’ve been active on this front for the last few years and have had a difficult time finding a facility in a location that makes sense. We also do not believe that adding a new campus would reduce the traffic at our Sunwest Campus. While it may displace a small percentage of our Sunwest Campus, studies show that any time a new campus is added, the original campus tends to grow, as well. There is good reason to believe this would be the case at our Sunwest Campus because Waco continues to grow that direction. A study done shows that Woodway and Hewitt will add over 4,000 new housing units/residences by 2022. So, we need to take measures to address growth at our Sunwest Campus either way. This is why this really is a “make or break” moment for our congregation, and we believe this project is absolutely essential.
We have not entered into a contract with any bank or financial institution at this time. We have, however, begun talking with a few banks that we have an existing relationship with in order to lay the groundwork and be able to move forward once the campaign is completed. We’ve had enough conversations to know what the lending environment is like and what we can expect when financing a loan of this size. We plan to enter into an agreement after we know how much money has been pledged and given through the “Our Turn” campaign.
We signed a pre-construction contract with K4 Construction, which is based here in Waco. We had an interview process with a couple of firms that we have existing relationships with, K4 being one of them. After the interview process conducted by a combination of staff and elders, we decided to go with K4 Construction for a variety of factors. We have not committed to them for the construction phase at this point, but the likelihood that we will is extremely high based on all of the time they have invested to date and the rapport we have developed with them.
Clearly there are cheaper options to make room for new growth, but cheaper doesn’t always mean better. First, getting a large group of people to move to a less convenient service like a Saturday or Sunday evening service has not been effective in the past. We’ve had a difficult time spreading our people out and getting people to move to a less convenient time on Sunday mornings. This doesn’t give us the confidence that going to the effort to create another service at a non-traditional time will actually work over the long haul. Second, while offering an alternative worship time might be cheaper up front, there is a cost on our staff and volunteers that is hard to measure. We held a Sunday night service for two years at The Palladium, and it wearing down our staff and volunteer base. Over the years we’ve learned that good stewardship not only includes how we manage our finances; it also includes taking into account the load we put on our staff and volunteers.
This number is based on working with a generosity firm called Generis and is based on our current giving data. The rule of thumb is that congregations can raise an additional 1.5 to 2 times its annual operating budget. Based on our current budget of $1,674,000 and the demographics of our giving units, this was the number Generis believed was well within reach for Harris Creek.
The short answer is, “no.” Most of the changes that would need to be made are structural changes like adding plumbing for more preschool space and possibly changing the layout of the current sanctuary. However, we do intend to make some modest changes to the existing building to make the space more conducive to the ministries taking over moving forward. This means making a few cosmetic changes like painting the sanctuary and possibly purchasing some furniture that would allow the environment to feel fresh.
First, the building gets used more than once a week on any given week at Harris Creek. We have Sunday and Wednesday night childcare, Parent’s Day Out, equipping labs, Youth Ministry and other events that use the entire building on a regular basis. By building a new sanctuary and welcome area, we will be able to utilize our current facility more effectively throughout the week, as well as on Sunday morning.
When it comes to using the sanctuary only once a week, we view the activity on our campuses as a “launchpad” that sends our people out into our city and into the world…as we’ve said throughout the campaign. It would be like asking, “Why build a football stadium for a team when it is only used six times a year?” Physical space matters and shapes us in a profound way.
Finally, the current sanctuary at our Sunwest Campus gets used more than just on Sunday mornings. We anticipate the new sanctuary would get even more use. The sanctuary is used off and on for weddings, funerals, Kids Ministry programs, community meetings, as well as church-wide community events like Chili Cook-off, Connections Dinners, Deacon Ordination, and our annual Imagine Banquet.
Our Sunwest Campus has 15 acres of undeveloped land that can be used to expand. Every seat added in worship means you have to account for a certain number of bathrooms and parking spaces based on the City of Waco’s construction codes. That being said, we couldn’t build a sanctuary that would seat much more than 1,000 people and still make room for parking and restrooms. We also wanted to create an environment that still felt intimate and did not require “eye-magnification” to see what was happening on stage, and that threshold is right around 1,000 people. While we possibly could add 200 or so more seats, we believe that there will not be a need for more than 3,000 seats (1,000 x 3 services) in worship at our Sunwest Campus as we will remain committed to our multi-site approach. Based on the remaining undeveloped acres on our existing property, to have any more than 3,000 people visit our campus on a Sunday morning would put the entire property over its physical capacity.
It’s important for generosity to be a part of every season of our lives. When we honor God first with our giving, He promises to be involved with every other aspect of finances. If you are in the process of paying off debt, we commend you, and you should continue to do so. But, the Bible does not teach that we withhold giving until we are debt-free. In fact, there are some people that would never be able to give if that was a prerequisite. If you are not actively paying off your debt, please consider attending one of our Financial Peace equipping classes in the future.
We are asking every person who calls Harris Creek home to make a two-year commitment. We will not be able to pull off all that is in front of us without every single person being committed to do whatever it takes to make this vision a reality. The danger is for some to think their amount is so small it won’t make a difference. This mentality cannot creep in if the goals are going to be met. We believe God will take our collective efforts given towards the “Our Turn” campaign and will use them to do more than we could ask or imagine.
Even in times of scarcity, God wants us to give because giving is directly linked to the conditions of our hearts. The widow who gave her last mite did not make a very big financial contribution, but Jesus said she gave the most significant gift of all. “Our Turn” is about every single person feeling the responsibility to come together, give generously, and trust God to do the rest.
Harris Creek has enjoyed the ability to invest in the lives of thousands of college students over the last five years. A key part of our spiritual development is learning to live generous lives and sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Although college students are notorious for living on tight budgets, this is the best time of your life to learn how to develop a Kingdom-minded approach to budgeting and managing your finances. With that being said, we are asking our college students to do two things: (1) We are asking our college Life Groups to commit to taking the 50 spots on the bottom of our giving matrix off the board through personal giving, and (2) We are also asking our college students to get their parents to commit to giving generously to this initiative, as well.
If you have never given financially to Harris Creek, there’s never been a better time to start than now! “Our Turn” is a “one fund” generosity initiative. It is different from a traditional capital campaign where you are asked to give an extra gift “over and above” your regular giving. Rather, “Our Turn” recognizes that everyone in the church is called to give generously and sacrificially. This is not an initiative merely for “high-capacity givers” – it is for all of us.
Our bylaws require a vote with our covenant members on any expenditures over $250,000. This expansion project clearly exceeds that number, and that is what we are voting on. Specifically, the vote on November 6 will be asking for congregational approval to spend up to $6.5 million for the expansion of our Sunwest Campus.