Monday, November 12, 2007

Church Sells Building, Commits $1.55 Million to Church Planting

SAN JOSE, CA (November 12, 2007) - New Life Covenant Church, one of the oldest congregations in the Evangelical Covenant Church, will donate $1.55 million toward church planting efforts in the Pacific Southwest Conference.

The church’s plan was announced this week, following the sale of the congregation’s longtime home at 790 Coe Avenue. It marked another step in the revitalization of this historic congregation, formerly known as First Covenant church.

Like many small, older churches, First Covenant was facing daunting questions and an uncertain future. Founded in 1892, the church reached a high point in the 1960s, attracting 450 people to worship on Sunday mornings. By 2004, that number had shrunk to 90 and was continuing to decline with no possibility of change in sight.

For a while, says pastor Kevin Budd, the church asked, “How do we survive?” But when the congregation began to ask, “What can we do for the kingdom?”—things began to change.

Over the past year, the church changed its name, moved from its former facility, and began meeting in a nearby public school. When their building was sold, the church netted more than $3 million, after all of its debts were paid. About $300,000 will be donated to compassion ministries, and another $1.55 million will be set aside for a future construction project. The rest—nearly 45 percent of the total—will fund new church plants.

The funds will help pay for new plants around San Jose and around the conference.

In keeping with the Covenant policy, the money will not be given to the Pacific Southwest Conference all at once but will be designated for specific projects, Budd says.

Gary Walter, executive minister of the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism, expressed thanks for New Life Covenant’s gift to the denomination. “This is a church looking at the totality of its assets and options and taking bold steps,” Walter says. “They would have been more comfortable to do nothing, but complacency never gets mission moving forward.”

Conference Superintendent Evelyn Johnson also thanked New Life Covenant for its generosity. “I affirm the church,” she said, “for reinventing itself to minister more effectively in the changing context and being intentional about multiplication in this process.”

Budd says that New Life has already seen signs of renewal. A significant contributor to the decline was a lack of parking as more and more people drove to church, Budd says. The 40 parking spaces were inadequate for the 24,000-square-foot building. By moving their services to the school two miles away, the congregation has started to attract new attenders. Budd says he hopes the congregation’s decision will inspire others to support church planting.

Steve Dawson, president of National Covenant Properties, is excited about the church’s decision. “This is a church that recognized they wanted to start a new vision for the future but also had a broader view of the kingdom of God.”