The churches that get these projects right are the ones who see this as their mission. At least, that’s what our developers told us. Development of any kind is an endurance race. There may be little sprints from goal to goal, but it’s more of a marathon. Without good consistent leadership, especially lay leadership, projects may run into barrier after barrier.
Churches need developers who can help navigate feasibility studies, county boards, and proposal reviews. Developers need leaders who can navigate their congregations; churches that know their communities and act as good neighbors; people who can translate for denominational bodies and work within those foreign systems.
In our case, there is no question that APAH was the right developer for us. They were committed to affordable housing; they’d already finished one project with a church; and, their organization just got us. They understood the missional aspect of the discernment we’d done.
APAH put in a lot of hard work around our dreams and visions. They brought in architects and designers who built our dream church on paper. APAH met with us and helped flesh out the initial ideas around a ground lease. And, when that didn’t work out, they showed patience and perseverance as we navigated the presbytery and its interests in the project.
These projects live and die on the kinds of partnerships we build along the way. We had several church leaders who were knowledgeable about affordable housing and development helping steer the project. Other leaders, project managers, and lawyers from outside the church would provide their expertise along the way. Our relationship with APAH provided a steady hand throughout the twists and turns until the project was finished.
Nina Janopaul, President and CEO of APAH, talked about partnership as a way of listening to each other. Good partners can hear the words people use, but also read between the lines. They are adaptable and flexible in the face of obstacles. Most of all, they are consistent.
To make a project like this work it takes commitment from lay leaders and other people. This is especially important during chaotic times. Whether it is a zoning hurdle, a financing gap, or a slow-moving governing body, the partnership between the developer and leadership in the congregation is vital. The roadblocks you encounter can suck the life out of a project. Our relationships are what keep us creative as we chart new paths together.
To help your discernment process Nina Janopaul created a tool describing seven stages of congregational redevelopment. We were so appreciative of APAH’s work with us that we wanted to include it here.
You can access the document by following this link.