We are entering into an exciting time at Riverside as we examine the possibility of purchasing a self-owned space to steward in downtown Columbia. At the last Family Meeting, the elder team introduced a potential building location to the church body for prayerful consideration. Below are the minutes from that meeting, presented in an easy to read format. Out of respect for our fellow believers in the city, we have refrained from using any references to the particular location. At the bottom of this page you will find a contact form. If you would like any of the documents shared with the church during the family meeting, please fill out the form and we will be happy to send you the information you are looking for.
Different season, same vision
When it comes to a building, we should be reminded what our vision is as a church: We are a community of sinners saved by grace, thriving in relationship with each other and with our God, and sharing that grace with our city. What are the three purposes of small groups? We want to thrive in relationships with God, with each other, and we want to share that grace with our city. The language of our vision statement is that we want to thrive in relationships, not just have them. That has always been the vision of Riverside Community Church. Our large Sunday gatherings fulfill this mission as we thrive together in worship. We thrive together in our fellowship at events like family meetings. We thrive together in our planning, strategizing and preaching the gospel to impact our city. We also thrive well as our small groups in the city. That is a critical piece of who we are.
As we think about being on mission for the gospel within our city, there have been three things in particular that we have focused on over the last 5 years. Leadership development has been a big key for us. Whether it’s raising up interns, having guys pray about becoming church plant residents, our current church plant residents, small group leaders, ministry leaders, men’s cohort, and so on, these are all a big part of who we are as Riverside. We want to raise up leaders to multiply the mission. Secondly, we also want to have an evangelistic impact. We want to be a church that takes the gospel seriously. We know the only way that we will impact the city for lasting change is from regeneration through the gospel. We can do all kinds of great things; we can help mentor kids, feed the poor, give to the needy, but if there is not gospel transformation, there is not lasting transformation. So our gospel impact in the city has always been central for us. Thirdly, church planting. From the early days Riverside wanted to be a church plant that planted churches. By God’s grace we will be doing that this year. That is key to who we are.
All of this is to remind us that getting a physical building is not our goal. The goal of planting a church is not getting a building. A lot of people say “when are we going to get a building” as if though that is the point of planting a church. It is not! A building can’t define your mission, and it sure doesn’t end your mission; a building should advance your mission. Insofar as a building does that, it is a good thing. Insofar as a building stands in the way of mission, it is a bad thing. So a space must fit within and serve our mission, not define our mission.
So right now what is the function of the space we occupy? First, we use space for Sunday morning gatherings. That is very important because we are not just a church of small groups scattered throughout the city, but we are one church of small groups that gather and worship. Secondly, we have family gatherings for meetings and meals where we have to rent space from other churches. Thirdly, our special services such as our joint Good Friday service on April 3rd in the Congaree Room at the museum. All of these services require facilities every year that we have to use, find and rent. Fourth, we need space for leading. Where does our children’s ministry have space for developing curriculum, organizing volunteers, and making phone calls to connect with parents? Where does the finance team store important documents and files safely and securely? Where do the pastors have meetings? Where do the church planting residents have a home base? Where do our interns go to help communicate information to our church body? We need to have office space throughout the week as an important part of the mission. Fifth, we need space for leader training. There is the issue of where do the men meet for pastor training? Where do the cohorts meet? What about the women’s ministry events? Where do they meet? We have to find space large enough that is affordable to serve our women well.
It is important that if we are on mission in this city, that we have space as a part of that mission. There is no getting away from the fact that if we are going to own a geography of Columbia, we have to set down our stake somewhere. We have to set down roots and say “We’re here, and we’re all committed to this city.” We need the physical space as part of that process.
Ideally, we would have a downtown space that could be used for some of our ministry partners. Ezekiel Ministries, that we have partnered with for the One Run Columbia race and who we partner with in our mentoring at Allen-Benedict Court, would use a space that we offered tomorrow, if we had it to offer. Other ministries could use the space as well. Onsite training and teaching is not only important for in-house, but for our external training as well. One of the things that we have done this last year is something called Carolina Greenhouse. This is for leaders who are not a part of Riverside, but want to be trained and mentored as they plant churches or explore being a part of planting churches. They come from near and far to events on various topics relating to church planting. These are the kind of the events that we want to provide for the city of Columbia and the surrounding areas. We need to find space to train leaders outside of Riverside.
Lastly, we want a space to be affordable. It would be foolhardy to sign away on a deed that would severely impact us from financially from carrying out the mission that God has given us to this city and our global partners. We don’t want a space that would occupy a massive portion of our budget.
Those are some of the things that we are thinking on our philosophy of a building and the necessity of a building for us.
Cost-benefit analysis of our current space:
We currently meet on Sundays in the South Carolina State Museum. Though not controlling our own space is tenuous at times, one great thing is that we have a consistent place to meet for the last two years. Since we moved two years ago, from the Cason Group building on Marion St, where the church offices are currently located, we have grown much. We want to thank the Lord for providing a space for us to grow not only in our number, but also in depth with God, each other, and our city.
There are some positive things about being in the museum. It is an affordable space considering its location downtown. Most of the maintenance, utilities, and cleaning is handled by their staff. The museum is a visible, public location that is comfortable and easy to find for first time guests that may be timid going into a traditional church building. The physical building is appealing with its old mill style and the many exhibits. The best thing is the great parking garage! We never have to worry about the parking.
However, there are some costly things about being in the museum. We may not be able to stay there forever. Since last August, we have been on a month to month contract. As structures and staff change with the state museum, it can be difficult to navigate simply obtaining a contract. Very simply, it is possible that the state museum could tell us we are no longer allowed to rent from them with just a few weeks notice. If our contact at the museum left, we would be in a very tight spot, as she has been essential in fighting for us.
We have a physical space limitation. We can only fit about 160 chairs in the space and feel comfortable. We can fit around 200 chairs, but it simply feels cramped. We need the space so we have open seats and our guests feel welcomed.
There are some safety concerns. While we do pay a security officer, it isn’t the best situation. Thanks be to God that there have not been many incidents with kids, but as the museum pushes to be open earlier and earlier on Sunday mornings there is an increased chance that something could go wrong. The museum is a large space and children could wander off.
We get to set up and tear down every Sunday. Our volunteers have to get there early to set up and stay late to tear down. The only time the worship team has to practice is for one hour before the 9am service. It is amazing that God has provided such gifted musicians to be able to pull this off, but what a blessing it would be if they could practice during the week.
The museum can be a hospitality nightmare. Most of our hospitality has to be for directional reasons, not actually welcoming people into the Sunday gathering. The museum can also be very confusing for first time visitors. How many of you stood the wrong way on the elevator the first time? It would be great if our hospitality volunteers could spend their 10-15 seconds of connecting by welcoming people and introducing them to others, rather than simply pointing people in the correct direction so they don’t feel lost.
Lastly, we do not control the space and have major time constraints. One might think that after working with the museum for 2 years that many of the kinks would be worked out of the system. Each week there are various challenges from tables not being out and not enough chairs, to bathrooms not being cleaned and trash not taken out from the night before. A lot of time and effort is spent each week to get the space ready for our children’s ministry and corporate worship. We can only get in at 7am and have to be out by 1pm. When we have a Spirit-filled service that elicits a response in our hearts, we don’t have time to respond appropriately because we either have another service in 30 minutes or we have to tear down and store all of our equipment. Moving to a controllable space will allow us the freedom to worship as the Spirit leads as possible without us feeling the urgency to quench some things that could keep going.
Over all, you see that there are many costly challenges that we face each week by being at the museum. For sure, having a building will not eliminate weekly challenges and we will simply replace many of these issues with other issues, but the issues we have will be in our ability to control, if we own the space. There are some good things about being in the museum, but there are many challenges. Can we stay at the museum and be the church that God desires us to be? Sure. We can keep going, and we will keep going. Yet, if we moved into a controllable space without time constraints, we would be able to allow things to linger and for the Lord to be worshiped as He deserves week in and week out.
Cost-benefit for a new property:
There are some challenges to pursuing a property in the downtown Columbia area. The most obvious is that buildings cost money. A lot of money. Money that we don’t currently have. We would have to take on some debt as a church. (If you would like to know more about our debt philosophy and strategy please contact us below.) The good news is that this debt that we would take on would not change our budget much. (In fact, we would be able to give more to missions)
We would be responsible for the property. If a tree falls on a building or pipes freeze, that is on us to get fixed. Fixing things costs money. Right now, the museum pays for everything to be fixed in their building. If the lights aren’t working, they pay the electrician to fix them, not us. If a bathroom is out of order, they fix that.
The parking at the proposed property is not so great. There are a little over 20 spaces available. Every church downtown has parking issues, and we would join them. We have been a bit spoiled with a parking garage over the last 2 years. Would you want to walk in the rain a few blocks to get to church? Likely not, but that is an obstacle we would have to face.
The biggest challenge we may face is the risk of growing complacent. If our attitudes are to just get a building and all of our problems will go away, then we will fail in our mission in this city. We cannot just kick our feet back and say we aren’t serving anymore because we have a building now. While we do require a lot of volunteers on Sunday mornings for set up and tear down, we would still need members of our body all the more to be involved in other ministries. We would have to fight hard against becoming complacent not only in our serving, but in our mission.
There are major benefits of having a building. We would own the building! We wouldn’t have to worry about anyone kicking us out of the space and potentially not having a place to worship together, like could happen at the museum. The building holds about 300+ with a balcony. We would no longer have to have two services and could worship all together. If a service needed to be longer to sing in response to the message or we needed to hear more from God’s Word, we could easily have that happen without violating any contracts.
There is more room for our children’s ministry. The property has about 10-12 classrooms to teach our children about Jesus and his love for us and the city. We could divide up our children into classes that are better for their age development. We would have better space to continue serving the special needs community in Columbia through Wil’s World.
It’s pretty much turn-key. The building is currently functioning as a church, so there would not need to be a lot of up fitting or construction to make the space work for us. Because of this there would be less time and energy spent on trying to create a space to worship together on Sundays. We would have significantly less setup. The time and energy that volunteers spend in setting up could be used to serve in a different capacity that directly impacts someone’s life with the gospel. There is a sound system we wouldn’t have to set up each week, reducing the problems of audio feedback and not being able to hear. The worship team would be able to practice during the week so they can lead us in worship more confidently and not worry.
We would have a space 24/7. We could have bible studies for women during the week with childcare. We could invite business men and women to lunch functions to hear the gospel. We could partner with other ministries to impact our city for its benefit and God’s glory. We want to be a church planting church, and could use the space to host Acts 29 events and EFCA events that we are growing in. We would be in a community located downtown, closer to Allen-Benedict Court, to USC’s campus, to five-points. The possibilities are only bound by the vision and mission that God gives each of us.
Lastly, we would become a better church planting church. There is more space for us than our current location, but there are some parameters on how big we could get. This helps guide us in our church planting philosophy. As we grow and develop leaders the biggest we could get with two services would be around 500 people. If the Lord blesses us with growth and we are raising up other church planters and leaders, we would have a strong base to send out other church plants right here in this city, to be God’s people together, on mission to impact Columbia with the gospel. We are not buying a big space to become a big church. If we stick to our debt philosophy and our plan for paying down the building debt aggressively after 7 years, we would be able to give so much more to missions and church planting. For more information on how the numbers work out, please contact us below.
The timeline for a building
5/15/14: James and Landon first visit the building to discuss with current occupants.
2/5/15: Elders tour the property.
2/16/15: Elders voted unanimously to pursue this building by connecting with current occupants, running numbers, etc.
2/22/15: Elders voted unanimously to move forward toward a building purchase by presenting to the church congregation at the March 1st Family Meeting.
3/1/14: Share opportunity, vision, financials, and logistics with congregation at the Family Meeting – outline the process, call for special vote on 3/22/15.
3/2/15 – 3/15/15: Elders visit Small Groups to share more and answer questions, get feedback and pray.
3/17/15 (tentative): All of church congregation invited to the building for a walk through, discussion/Q&A and prayer meeting.
3/22/15: Vote in-between Sunday services to move forward in securing a loan to purchase the building. Along with this vote will be a time to pledge giving amounts.
During this entire period, the elders will be available to meet, talk or email about questions and concerns. Please feel free to use the form below to submit any questions or comments.
Pray with us
We need help. More than money, more than logistics, more than laboring, we desperately need you to pray with us as we embark on this journey together. Some of us look at a potential building and think of great possibilities, some wonder how a building will change us for the worst. We must remember that these are the Lord’s funds and it is his mission that we are serving.
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