Church swap: New homes await Estacada congregations
Three local churches have exchanged multi-million dollar buildings in the hope of benefiting the Estacada community
For all the bad press the Christian church has gotten in the past decade, a little-known story right here in Estacada could stand as an example of how things work when they're done well.
By the time the dust had settled, one church dissolved and two others had inherited multi-million-dollar buildings - without spending a dime.
The generosity was more than most could imagine.
Estacada Christian Church
With roots that could be traced back nearly 100 years, Estacada Christian Church (ECC) bounced all over town, with the congregation eventually settled at 29101 S.E. Eagle Creek Road in 1990.
With a new building, the church could hold up to 400 people every Sunday, a capacity that was nearly reached in the early 2000s.
The congregation's numbers slowly began to decline in the past 10 years, dwindling to 100 this past year. Then came the head pastor's resignation in May 2011.
While the congregation was still able to pay to keep the lights on and the building open, the budget didn't allow for much else - a sign that change was needed.
'Tithes and offerings are meant to pay for outreach into the community and the spread of the gospel, not to keep the lights on,' ECC Elder Justin James said. 'We had to think about what we were there to do and direct our finances toward that.'
So ECC faced two options: find a pastor and plan for the future, or dissolve the church and move on.
'We just didn't look at it as financially sound to go in the direction of finding a pastor,' James said.
So within weeks of the pastor's resignation, the church elders decided to close the doors, and the congregation dissolved last summer.
'People wondered why they should stop attending our church as long as we were paying our bills,' James said. 'But when viewed in a vision of what we stand for and what we feel we're here to do, this was the only option.
'This allowed Estacada Christian Church to go beyond where we could have as we were sitting.'
The leadership's next job was to figure out what to do with the building - appraised at approximately $4 million. Along with the sanctuary, it features a beautiful fellowship hall, a gym and an extended wing of classrooms.
In search of the right organization to use the building, ECC reached out to Estacada First Baptist Church and the Rev. Brent Dodrill. They saw First Baptist as not only a church that was growing and in need of more space, but a church that was pretty similar theologically.
'We didn't see why, as churches in a small community, we had so many similar churches,' James said. 'We had facilities that were useful to a large group and congregation and didn't see why that wouldn't benefit the Estacada community.'
Estacada First Baptist Church
'Are you serious?'
'What's the catch?'
'What needs to be done that we're not seeing?'
Those were the responses James recalls getting from Dodrill when they initially spoke about the space in August.
'We were a little overwhelmed and amazed,' Dodrill said. 'We felt very blessed because this was a very forward-thinking and generous thing.
'They realized it was time for them to bless somebody else and to use that building for the glory of God.'
So just two months after they first spoke in August, the paperwork was signed in October and the building officially became property of Estacada First Baptist Church.
'Everything in the new building other than the sanctuary was more usable for us,' Dodrill said. 'We have a growing children's ministry, and we hope that the added space will allow us it to grow even more, because we believe children and family ministry is a high priority.'
Now the leaders of Estacada First Baptist Church had a decision to make.
While they moved locations, they were leaving behind a building that wasn't exactly rundown. The worship center and sanctuary were just three years old after a fire destroyed the old one, and the construction for that project totaled around $1 million.
So Dodrill called a friend of his, the Rev. Jim Bennett from Estacada Assembly of God, to see what he thought about the prospect of relocating.
'It was almost like, how could we not give our building away since we had been so blessed?' Dodrill said. 'We wanted to pass the blessing along.
'In our thinking, I got to know Pastor Jim very well, and I appreciate his vision and love for the community,' he said. 'Their church is growing also, so all of these factors led us to believe they could step into our building without being overwhelmed.'
At the moment, the plan is for Estacada First Baptist Church to hold its first meeting in the new building on Easter Sunday, April 8. At that time, the congregation will finish the move from one building to another throughout April, and then Estacada Assembly of God will move sometime around May.
'We just hope we can communicate that we ought to be about serving and giving and seeing the Kingdom of God grow in any number of ways,' Dodrill said. 'It's not just in our congregation, but I'm really hoping and praying that people will see the churches of Estacada are all in this together for the good of the community.'
Estacada Assembly of God
'Wow. This kind of stuff doesn't happen.'
That was Bennett's reaction to hearing that he too was receiving a new building, valued at approximately $2 million.
'This was a real miracle happening,' he said. 'The idea that churches would work together in this fashion is a great example of what the church community should really be about.'
Bennett's church was in desperate need of a new building. Its attendance centers around 75-80 visitors each week, but that is up about 33 percent from where it was two years ago.
'This gives us expandable room for our children and youth ministries,' he said.
Unlike Dodrill and James, Bennett hasn't identified an organization that is in need of his old building. Fortunately, that hasn't kept him from dreaming.
'We want this to be something that is geared toward the community, the gift that keeps giving,' he said. 'Our general consensus is that it would be used for families and children in Estacada.'