Church Ministry Flourishes in an Entrepreneurial Events Center

The Genesis Project in Ogden, Utah, comprised of many first-generation Christians was challenged with raising funds. The marriage of their ministry with a profitable events center is paving the way for future growth.

MINISTRY SHOULD NEVER be equated with treading water financially, but for many churches, including The Genesis Project in Ogden, Utah, that's exactly what it has felt like at times.

"We were a low-resource, low-budget church of over 1,000 people in a rented facility that was stretching us financially," says The Genesis Project's senior pastor, Matt Roberts.

"There had to be a better way to meet our calling." Planted ten years ago in an area swelling with ex-church goers, The Genesis Project's vision to preach the Gospel to people who felt like God had given up on them was well received, so much so, that the amount of growth challenged the young church's infrastructure and fi nances.

"We were reaching people coming out of addiction and incarceration many of them first-generation Christians unaccustomed to tithing and giving," says Roberts. "But we didn't want people to feel like they had to pay to be a part of church."

In early 2014, this unique challenge prompted core leaders, who all worked full-time outside of ministry, to start thinking entrepreneurially about a sustainable, generationally motivated model for church.

The process led Roberts to reach out to longtime friend Daniel Cook, an architect and the founder of Building God's Way, LLC, a network of kingdom building services. For years, Cook had been burdened with how to help churches move into financially sustainable facilities to find a way for church buildings to pay for themselves and allow ministries to operate debt-free.

Even as The Genesis Project was looking for answers, Cook was transforming a 1950s Coca-Cola bottling plant into an events center, to be named HUB 801, as a model for sustainable ministry. Essentially, he wanted a church to inhabit the space and operate the business as a self-sustaining ministry operation. Cook looked for church partners, but no one in the Ogden area was quite ready for his big idea.

"I hoped churches would see it and get interested, but finally we just finished the facility and opened it as an events center," Cook says. But when he and Roberts spoke, everything clicked and a partnership was born.

According to Cook and Roberts, The Genesis Project, supported by investors, would step in as "owners and operators" of HUB 801 with the facility debt and overhead carried by the event center's revenue.

When the debt was paid off and investors received their return, The Genesis Project would own the facility outright. It took about six months to finalize the agreement, during which Building God's Way renovated a newer addition on the site to serve as the children's building. On January 1, 2015 the Genesis Project moved into HUB 801 and held its first service the following Sunday in the 900-seat grand ballroom and auditorium.

Today, during any given week, the 25,000 square-foot HUB 801 hosts 2,000+ people attending numerous events from weddings to government events and it's the most sought-after venue in the Ogden area, according to Roberts. "What most people notice," reveals Roberts, "is its 1940s brick warehouse character. People can't believe how beautiful and cool it is."

Little was done to the exterior, outside of repainting the brick and adding landscaping, leaving the plant's original Art Deco design intact. Even the nostalgic Coca-Cola murals were left in place, shares Cook. Through the main entrance is a 4,000 square-foot multi-purpose room. It is used as a lobby for the church, but also hosts small weddings and other events for HUB.

The Genesis Project reaches those who are disillusioned with church, while the HUB 801 provides a viable source of income to sustain their flourishing ministries in Ogden, Utah. "We were reaching people coming out of addiction and incarceration many of them first-generation Christians unaccustomed to tithing and giving." 801. Distressed brick walls, exposed structural systems and a domed ceiling combine for an "urban chic" experience.

On one side of the lobby/reception area is a large patio and on the other are 10 x 14' steel sliding doors that lead into the auditorium. Ten more of the immense steel-clad doors are used throughout the building. "It's very much a warehouse feel," says Cook. AVL GENEROUS Along the length of the ceiling are railroad trusses.

These structural beams were painted silver and outfitted with individually controlled LED lighting that now offer 14,000 color possibilities, allowing the room to be bathed in virtually any hue. In addition to its high ceilings, exposed brick and sheer capacity, the auditorium is equipped with about $400,000 of AVL equipment, including a line-array audio system, all- LED lighting, and a sophisticated video setup. "[The room] has capabilities that wouldn't be present in a typical events center," adds Roberts.

"We set it up like a high-end technical church because we wanted a church to be able to run it," says Cook.

On the backside of the auditorium is another large reception area and a multipurpose room. The facility also has three warming kitchens, fully upgraded and enlarged restrooms with floor-to-ceiling Travertine tile, a spacious bride's room, and a "Man Cave", replete with lounging space and a game table. The level of technology and other extra touches are all part of a commitment to excellence in hospitality that was foundational in the vision for HUB 801 and The Genesis Project's involvement.

Every week, 2,000 people come into our building and interact with our people and our space. Then they come back and visit the church and become members as a result," says Roberts.

The site is also home to HUB City Coffee Company, which is located across the street in HUB 801's parking lot. It functions as a public coffee shop, separate from the events center, but also offers 3,000 square feet of flexible space for the church.

Running HUB 801 is definitely a full-time job, but one that's shared by many. Each of The Genesis Project's five pastoral staff have a crossover position with the events center, such as facilities maintenance or technical direction.

"We don't need two separate teams because [all the requirements] are things churches already do," says Roberts. However, catering is outsourced and the actual hands-on event management is executed by paid staff, a decision leadership made to maintain a high level of excellence. But, volunteer teams from the church handle setup and tear down.

In fact, various ministries sign up for shifts and use the time for community building. "Working together is fertile ground for discipleship," says Roberts. When it comes to scheduling, the church's services and standing events receive priority and HUB 801 works around them.

The ultimate logistic, though, is the fact that the events hosted by HUB 801 completely cover the debt of the facility, including utilities. That frees The Genesis Project up to focus on ministry, not finances. "We don't have to worry as a church or ask, Can we afford that payment this month?'" says Roberts.

The success of The Genesis Project and HUB 801 alliance has propelled Cook and Roberts to share the model with churches all over the country. "At first, churches say they have no interest, but then they visit HUB 801 and see quickly that it frees them up financially to go and do what Jesus told us to do," says Cook.

Moreover, for The Genesis Project specifically, what started as a tool for financial stability has become much more. Today it is a means of exponentially sharing vision and acting on mission, with the added fruit of reusing space. "In the beginning there was a lot of conversation about financial sustainability, but now we know the ministry and the business function best when we view all of it as ministry.

Every event we take on is an opportunity to live out Jesus in front of our community," concludes Roberts.

Building God’s Way (BGW) is a nationwide architect that has designed more than 700 churches and Christian schools nationwide since 1998. BGW offers a broad network of other services to ministries and has aligned with the best church builders throughout the U.S. to deliver an integrated team approach. Founder Dan Cook is a visionary architect, developer and builder who has pioneered a number of innovative programs that have revolutionized the way churches and Christian schools are designed and built. BGW's revolutionary approach focuses on delivering the highest level of stewardship, God-honoring relationships and ministry on the construction job site. BGW contact information: 800-552-7137 x 1047 or email us at [email protected]

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