In January 2021, Hill City Church began an extensive building renovation on a historic church building in downtown Boise. The building is 110 years old. It required more than a fresh coat of paint. Instead of renovating while meeting somewhere else, we decided to move in and stay open during construction.
If you have ever remodeled a room in your house, you know how inconvenient it is to live in a construction zone. Now imagine remodeling half your home and having to host a party every weekend. Our church has been living in this reality for the last six months. It has been very challenging. Any rational person might ask the question, “Why?!?”
Initially, we had planned on continuing to rent our previous location throughout the renovation. If this had only been a handful of months, we probably would have gone that route. When it became clear that the renovation would last around a year, our leadership team decided to move in sooner rather than later.
(You can check out this announcement video to understand our rationale at the time)
Here are five reasons we stayed open during construction. The first three we anticipated ahead of time. The last two are unexpected benefits we learned along the way.
1. Financial Stewardship.
A fundraising campaign usually accompanies a building renovation. We named our fundraising campaign “Next 110” because we want to set up the space for the next 110 years of ministry. In this season, we can use all of the financial margin we can get. The quickest way to free up extra money for the renovation was to cut our lease and move into a paid-off building. This decision alone has allowed us to allocate thousands of dollars from the budget each month towards construction costs.
2. Reaching the Neighborhood.
Location matters. The local church is a people in a place. Even though our previous building was only 1.8 miles away, it is an entirely different neighborhood. In the last six months, we have already reached new people who never would have come to our other location. We have already partnered with neighboring organizations in several ways. We would be delaying our impact in our new neighborhood if we stayed put.
3. Project Management.
Although we hired a general contractor to oversee the construction, there are still plenty of decisions requiring my direct input. Having my office at the job site allows me to step away from my computer and decide at a moment’s notice. Proximity is both a blessing and a curse. If I need to buckle down and get something done, I often walk downtown to a coffee shop. More often than not, it is very convenient to be able to inspect the progress personally.
4. Learning the Space.
One unexpected benefit of staying open during construction is that I have been able to get to know the building. If you have ever moved houses, you know what this is like. If the power goes out, where is the breaker? How do you fill the baptistery? Which keys open what doors? It takes time to figure out where everything is. I’m glad to have the opportunity to figure these things out now. It’s also been fascinating to uncover certain features of a historic building. It seems like we learn something new about the space every week.
5. Growing in Contentment.
There’s no doubt that meeting in a construction zone is the more difficult option. Jesus rarely (if ever) calls us to choose the comfortable path. I have seen our congregation grow in contentment during this season. We’ve faced so much in a short time: toilets flooding, heat going out in winter, no air conditioning in summer, and more. People have been champions throughout the whole process. God is peeling away our typical American consumerism and replacing it with Kingdom contentment.
Some people might think we are crazy for staying open during construction. Maybe they are right. I know the cost is great, but I believe the opportunity is even greater.
What other benefits do you see from staying open during construction? Would you do it? Let me know in the comments below!
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