Originally posted on Building God’s Way
“This building has been such an incredible blessing and tool to us. I’ve been a pastor for over 40 years and this is the first time I’ve ever had a building working for me and not against me. Every church I’ve ever been in, the facilities were always a limitation we were trying to overcome, rather than a tool that was helping us achieve our goals. Boy, what a difference it has made.” – Glenn Meredith, Senior Pastor, Brookhaven Church – McKinney, TX
When Brookhaven Church first began to plan the construction of their new worship facility in McKinney, TX, a unique vision started to emerge among ministry leadership. “We didn’t want to build a facility we would just use for a couple of hours on Sunday,” said Senior Pastor Glenn Meredith. “We wanted to build something that would be a service and a blessing for the community to use all week. We wanted people to look at us and see our church as a place they wanted to come to.”
Completed in July of 2018, Brookhaven’s new facility features not only state-of-the-art spaces that can be utilized for worship and fellowship, but also a 16,800 SF child care facility, complete with an interactive indoor play area and outdoor sports court and playground that are designed to serve the community and generate a sustainable income stream for the ministry.
Three years later, in spite of the COVID shut downs of 2020, enrollment at The Academy at Craig Ranch has grown to 190 children, most of whom are not members of the church. The Academy now has more kids attending than prior to COVID and is receiving new inquiries from parents on a daily basis. Church attendance at Brookhaven also grew rapidly after the completion of the new building, increasing from an average of 150 people in July 2018 to 500 in March 2020.
Within one year of opening the new building, the monthly income from the Academy was enough to cover the church’s mortgage payment. While the financial impact on the church has been significant, the community impact has been even greater. The new child care center has given the church the opportunity to reach out and minister to a whole new group of people in and around their neighborhood. Events at the Academy such as pre-school graduation ceremonies and holiday programs have drawn up to 200 adults, including parents and grandparents. The gospel message is woven into each program, with the children reciting bible verses and singing praise and worship songs. The church also distributed personalized bibles to every family in the Academy this spring and is launching 7 new outreach initiatives focused on ministering to the families of the Academy.
“I wanted the lost people of this community to look at our church and say, ‘Man, I’m so glad they’re here. Our community is better because they’re here.’ That’s why we started the Academy, because child care was such a huge need in this community,” said Meredith.
Outreach Lessons from the Ministry of Construction
Pastor Meredith credits the BGW Ministry of Construction Program for bringing about a renewed focus among church members toward community outreach. “One of the great values that BGW really made clear to us right up front was the importance of reaching out to the people who were actually building the facility. Our church really embraced that and all throughout the construction period we fed and served the workers on a regular basis. We also had a prayer request box on the job site that the workers participated in. That really changed our church. The act of serving people with the hope of sharing the Gospel has carried over from the moment we moved into the new building.”
The church has maintained its hospitality team from the Ministry of Construction outreach efforts and they continue to bless the daycare teachers and staff at the Academy by serving them weekly lunches and snacks as well as monthly dinners at church staff meetings.
The outdoor sports court and splash pad have allowed the church to connect with young adults and families in ways that they had not been able to in the past. “We now have a couple hundred young adults that on a rotating basis play basketball on the sports court at all hours of the day,” said Meredith. “I walk out there from time to time and the moment we step out there, you can see on their faces that they think we’re going to run them off. When I tell them, ‘I just want you to know that our church built this for you. We want to be a blessing to you and we’re so glad you’re here.’ You can see their faces just light up.”
Brookhaven Church is also planning to open an after school ministry as part of the Academy that will include music lessons, martial arts and sports. “My dream is that when a parent picks their child up at 5:30 from the after school program, their homework is done, they’ve had a snack, they’ve taken their music, martial arts or sports lessons and now they can focus on family time when they go home,” said Meredith. “Family schedules during the week have become chaotic and stressful. We look at this as another way of serving. Creating a place to simplify the lives of families in a quality Christian environment and hopefully have the opportunity to share Christ.
“We have a brand new High School that is opening in August right next door to us and we’ve already had discussions with the principal about how we can serve their teachers and staff. We also have about 1,000 new apartments that have been built in the area and we have a team that is now focused on ways that we can serve them.
“We believe that all of these community outreach efforts, from the Academy to the sports court to the apartment complex to the high school and after-school programs, give us the opportunity to earn the right to share the Gospel, and that value was instilled in us through BGW’s Ministry of Construction Program,” said Meredith.
Creating a Culture of Collaboration
When asked what advice he would give to other pastors and ministry leaders that are considering incorporating a professionally-managed child care center in their church facility, Pastor Meredith replied, “I would say it’s very critical to work at seeing this as one ministry. It shouldn’t be us and them, just us. Establish an environment and culture that is collaborative and that works together to help one another, rather than 2 different entities competing for the same space.”
Pastor Meredith learned this lesson the hard way many years ago when his former church partnered with a Christian School, allowing them to use their facility during the week. Over time, the school was using the building roughly 40 hours a week and the children’s ministry was only using it 4-5 hours a week. Children’s ministry leaders began to feel like they had lost ownership of the space and it created discouragement and a loss of vision for the ministry.
“We set up the Academy as a 501(c)3 organization and created a board of directors made up of mostly current and former church members, so the Academy is really us. The directors who run the day-to-day operations join us in our staff meetings every week and they are treated like part of our staff, even though they are a separate entity. This has worked really well, allowing us to discuss issues and coordinate the various transitions that have to happen between church and preschool use of the facility. Now the Academy is viewed by all of our staff as an extension of our ministry and an incredible asset and blessing. Our church is essentially operating 7 days a week, not just on Sundays with a separate Academy operating during the week. That intentionality from the church’s perspective has gone a long way toward creating this sense of oneness rather than separateness”.
“We Were Dead in the Water”
Brookhaven’s Path to Financial Sustainability
Brookhaven’s path to becoming a financially sustainable ministry was not always an easy one. In 2013, through a series of miraculous events, the Church had relocated to McKinney from the Dallas area about 20 miles south. They began meeting in a shopping center on a temporary basis while they worked through the process of building a facility on their new property. Pastor Meredith and his leadership team thought they would have no problem getting financing for the new building. They owned a several million dollar piece of property that was paid for, had no debt, a million dollars in the bank, and their church had been in existence for 40 years and had a good credit history.
“We thought we were a banker’s dream and we couldn’t have been more wrong,” said Meredith. “We couldn’t get a bank to even consider us. For 2 years, we had one closed door after another. Banks would tell us that our income was not sufficient to sustain the mortgage payment long term. We looked at every creative idea we could think of to create an additional income stream, from leasing our space to daycare, charter schools and even restaurant pads. Lenders told us we should stick to what we do best and still would not give us the financing we needed. We were dead in the water. We just couldn’t find a way.
“At that time, we were introduced to Building God’s Way and S&B Construction and they suggested we meet with their strategic partner, Nelson Eagle,” said Meredith. Nelson had organized and operated more than 30 faith-based child care centers and had helped numerous clients overcome operational difficulties and increase cash flow. Nelson had worked with The Baptist Foundation of New Mexico on a similar project in Denver and it had been so successful that they were looking for more projects to finance. “If it had not been for the track record that the Foundation had with another child care facility managed by Nelson Eagle and the financial potential it had, we would still be in a shopping center today. The Academy really made all of that possible for us.”
Nelson Eagle now provides consulting services to the Academy at Craig Ranch, overseeing the finances and assisting with the recruiting and hiring of staff directors. He was also instrumental in consulting with the architects at BGW to design the spaces for the best utilization from the beginning.
“It’s such a miracle that we are where we are, in the middle of this community that is just growing exponentially, and we know we had nothing to do with it,” said Meredith. “We know God just sovereignly picked us up and put us here for a reason. He has opened so many doors for this church and we can’t wait to see what else He has in store for us.”