I never thought going through a catastrophic fire would be a part of the gig as the Worship and Creative Arts Pastor at Grace Point Church in San Antonio.
But it was.
Fathers Day 2016
There we were Father's Day 2016, minding our own business, sitting by the pool hanging out with the family.
All of a sudden, I start getting text messages about the church burning down.
Yikes. I know it's just a building, but it is pretty freaky to see all of your stuff destroyed.
The Student Building
So, where are we going to have services?
At first we thought, at least we have a nice $2 million student building that is not attached to the main building that is engulfed in flames.
Then we look over at that same building that is supposed to bail us out, and there is water flowing out of it for some reason. As it turns out, the water main burst and ended up flooding that building with about six inches of water.
Holy cow, the hits just keep on coming.
The Hardest Part
We had an incredible team at the time, with some highly capable people who were rip roaring and ready to go, but our hands were tied.
The fire department and the insurance company told us not to do anything. In the Worship and Creative Arts department, we talk a lot about the shark that's coming, the weekend. It's always coming and the only way to survive, is to stay ahead of it. We like to operate six to eight weeks out, so now we are back to less than a week and it's Monday and they are telling us not to make any moves.
It was really hard having a vision and being ready to activate, only to get the stop sign. Plus, time's a wastin', but luckily we had some of San Antonio's most amazing and technical minds step up to help.
Pastor Greg Berry and Caleb Saenz, worship leaders extraordinaire at Grace Point, stepped up to get the ins and outs of a temporary production system designed, and then up and rolling.
Adam Countryman, from Concordia Lutheran down the road, and one of the most amazing worship, production, and technical masters in the country, showed up with an audio system for us to use.
And then David Cheney, from DPC Event Services, set us up a stage and lights and video system.
I mention all of these folks, because of the importance of having a supportive network in your corner when the time comes.
There were so many other friends to step up and support and show love through their actions that I can't list them all.
God provides, usually through friends.
Insurance and Internal Struggles
Then the doldrums.
Fifteen months of displacement, departmental assumptions, poor communication, fluctuating timelines, dashed expectations, and adding a fourth Saturday service to accommodate everyone.
I think it might be worth each church reassessing their insurance coverage. Ours was woefully underestimated, years after the policy was in place. There was decent coverage for our up and running costs, but the coverage on the actual building was bonkers and backwards.
There was a bucket for structural things and a bucket for contents, materials that go in the building. The structural bucket was pretty big, but the contents bucket was way, way, way too small for a church of our size.
So a conversation with one of the guys that comes and looks at our burnt stuff would go like this: I would say this rack is structural," and he would counter, "If you flipped the building over would it fall out?" I would reply, "It would, but by that definition our lights would be structural, since they are attached," after which he'd say, "No they won't, because if you left, you would take it with you."
I would then be left saying, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, you can't change the definition on what's what just to suit you."
Multiply that by a bunch and you get yourself a stress headache.
Rebuilding a Church
I really loved it when it came to for the design phase for rebuilding Grace Point Church.
We were able to rethink our worship, lobby and office space. I was able to redesign our worship center to be more inclusive and hospitable.
Along with Ryan Brown, the student pastor, we totally redesigned the office space. Before the fire, our offices received no natural light and it was just kind of gross how unkempt and cobbled together everything was. Honestly, it was a huge turnoff for myself and anyone looking to join the team, knowing they would then spend a third of their life in there.
We went from grubby little hobbit holes to a combination of larger collaborative open spaces and smaller private places to get work done.
We used a free program called Homestyler that was pretty neat and helped us cast vision to all of the staff and contractors or what we were thinking.
We redesigned the Worship Center to have the best audio. Our other areas of ministry have been enviable systems in the past. Ten years ago, people would come from all around to marvel at the children's ministry and we wanted to employ the same principles with sound. We chose to not compromise on sound because it's how the Gospel was heard and we wanted the clearest most audibly clean experience for our people.
Our Worship and Creative Arts staff and volunteers worked well beyond the expected hours, and when no one else was around they saw to it to get this thing designed and off the ground. It was a tough experience, but an eye opening and interesting one nonetheless.
Still a lot of work needed to be done. Because of some major scheduling problems, the building wasn't ready but we went forward with the relaunch anyways. I kind of like the raw plywood look. The team put in some 18 hour days and we turned the system on, the day before service.
The process continues, but there are some great people in the Worship and Creative Arts department making progress, despite all of the setbacks with the budget, as well as scheduling issues.