As uncomfortable as this project was for The Assembly and pastor Warren, their building project emerged beautifully.
For several years prior to joining The Assembly in 2004 as lead pastor, Shane Warren gained nationwide recognition as a church planter and restorer, teaching other pastors how to revitalize and resurrect their congregations. So, when The Assembly reached out, Warren agreed to visit the church and “feel it out.”
Soon after, he and his wife left a once-ailing church in Tennessee — where they’d been “used mightily” and thought they’d spend the rest of their lives — to lead the revitalization of The Assembly.
For a pastor who’d never overseen a project larger than $3 million, that was intimidating, but one challenged loomed even larger: gaining congregational buy-in to sell the nearly-100-year-old church and relocate to another part of town. At that point, communicating the vision — and keeping it in front of the people — became a top priority. For three years before the church broke ground, Warren spent time communicating the vision to his staff and board members. Then, he began meeting in homes and in small groups.
Before he ever made a move on this project, Pastor Warren met with influencers and people in the church — many of whom, He knew, had given their blood, sweat and tears to build a 96-year-old facility in one location.That was an incredible heritage. So, it was important that everybody be on the same page. At the same time, the community of West Monroe faced devastating storms and flooding. In 2016, a tornado caused millions of dollars in damage to two 600-foot towers at a television station the church owned. A recently purchased, 55,000-square-foot facility housing the church’s school, preschool and bible college — which recently underwent a $1-million renovation — was flooded with 4 feet of water, sustaining millions of dollars in damage.
All this was happening, of course, as Warren and his team were trying to get buy-in for the $15-million building project. Amazingly, without any outside help, the church raised $4 million in cash. This, in a community where the average household income is $35,000. More importantly, the unity of the church weathered the elements: in the end, the congregation unanimously voted to relocate.
The Assembly bought 23 acres in the middle of town — land that sells for almost $1 million per acre — for $1 million. The damaged church facilities (the TV station towers and educational space) were being repaired.With all this positive momentum, and with funding in order to start the massive project, Warren and the church felt confident. None foresaw what happened next several months later, when the project was put out to bid and came back about $6 million over budget.
Immediately, and with a focus on total transparency, Pastor went to the church board and critical influencers throughout the church. Not wanting them to ‘hear it from someone else,’ he told them all about the major struggle the church was facing, without exposing any failures from any business people in the church community.
One of the most critical components of navigating the sea change came from the church’s lender, when it suggested Warren reach out to three different church builders. The first — and last — firm he called was Broken Arrow, Okla.-based church builder, Churches by Daniels Construction.
Pastor Warren was looking for a design-build group that was reputable, that understood churches “Anybody can build a church building, but not everyone understands the heart of a pastor and the vision of the church’s layout.”
Vice President Rodney James immediately traveled to West Monroe to meet with Warren and the church board. A thorough evaluation of the plans was conducted, and opportunities to save the church significant money on the project were identified.
Part of that conversation included James asking Warren which church projects in the area he liked. It wasn’t an easy question. “There was a certain feel we were trying to accomplish; we wanted our campus to be unique,” he says. “He didn’t want a cookie cutter plan.”
When Warren cited a church project two hours away in Jackson, Miss., Rodney revealed that his firm built it. It certainly was a good sign. But, Pastor Warren also needed to feel confident that Rodney and the Churches by Daniels could help him navigate the difficult challenge of getting an executive board on the same page. He did.
After that first meeting, Pastor Warren wrote a deposit check to get the plan started before we even left the room,” Pastor Warren said. “We just knew that it was God’s answer to our problem.
In less than 45 days, revised plans were in hand — plans that would enable the church to get back on target and ‘run the ball.’ And they weren’t just an alternative; they were an improvement. Flow, for one, was a big concern. When you’re trying to move thousands of people in any given service, and you have multiple services in that location, it’s everything.
Beyond that, the church wanted a facility that breeds community. That meant creating a flow between spaces that was beneficial for every ministry without making people feel alienated from the church family. Of course, all this needed to be accomplished within budget — another major directive.
In the end, the revised plans maximized the church’s space in a way the original plans didn’t. Though more than 10,000 square feet was shaved off, every department was actually enlarged. Within 18 months — and despite the raininest six months in Louisiana’s history — the project was finished. It came in $200,000 under budget.
This new facility is 62,062 square feet. There is five sanctuaries, four cafes, children’s classes, an indoor playground, and new office space for the Pastor and his staff. Their combined weekly attendance is 3,000. Churches by Daniels was able to help Pastor Shane make his vision a reality. The result is even better than they dreamed. The Assembly – West Monroe, Louisiana