At the end of this month, I will step down from the board of the non-profit I started four years ago. It’s time for me to quit. It’s time for me to turn over this organization and the community center we built to others whose gifts in fundraising, management, and programming exceed mine.
We started Chatham Cares, Inc. in 2005 in order to develop plans and funding for a community center in our county seat town. In the past four years we started a Boys and Girls Club in Chatham; designed a 16,000-square-foot building; rallied public support; received a $3-million grant to construct and furnish it; and, opened the building to rave reviews in June, 2008. I enjoyed every minute of it!
But, the building is built, the programs are running smoothly under the capable leadership of Director Lori Slayton, and it’s time for me to move on to other projects.
Here are some questions I asked myself as I was making the decision to step down:
- Have we finished this phase? I was interested in making sure the building design, construction, and furnishings were functional, beautiful, and flexible. We accomplished that, but now the project is beginning another phase of sustaining programs and recruiting supporters.
- Am I the best person for the next phase, or will different gifts be needed? Fundraising is a big thing for us now, and I’m not a good person to do that. My position as pastor in a small town with a limited number of potential donors conflicts with my own church needs. Plus, programming, board management, and day-to-day details are not my strong suit. I enjoyed being the public face of this effort, but I’m not a good detail guy.
- Do I enjoy what I’m doing now? I loved the design and building phase. I don’t enjoy the management phase. I don’t like negotiating contracts, dealing with vendors, and solving recurring problems. Some folks do, I don’t.
- Will my presence help or hinder the future of this project? Tough one to answer because, of course, we all think that we’re the best person to carry on the project we started. But honestly, not always. Different needs call for different gifts. The future of this project is about more than any one individual. My honest answer was that someone else was needed to take the center to the next level.
From a church standpoint, this will give me more time to work with our growing Sunday School class, visit our own members, and reconnect with other pastors in the area. Don’t get me wrong — this was an emotional decision for me. I invested four years of my life and energy in a project that I believed in. But this will be a good step for Chatham Cares.
Two years ago I wrote a post titled, Don’t Quit! about leaving pastoral ministry. I’ve learned it’s also important to know when to quit. Now is the time.
Have any of you faced similar decisions? How did you make your decision to quit or stay? I’d be interested to hear from you.
Last week The Community Center at Chatham opened to the public after three years of planning, praying, and building. Reaction to the building was amazing, and ranged from “Wow” to “Now we can have exercise classes here.” Everything about this project went extremely well, and moved quickly. But, I did learn some things in the process, and here’s what I’ve gleaned so far:
- Be prepared for criticism. When we were awarded $3-million to build the community center, I thought everyone would be thrilled. Most were, but some very vocal opponents were quick with their criticism. Be prepared for criticism when you undertake any community-wide project.
- Get all the help you can. We hired a top-notch architectural and engineering firm, a good contractor, and our board made a lot of decisions. One person could not have pulled this off, and I called on the expertise of board members, design professionals, and others every step of the way. The best money we spent was to pay the architectural firm to manage the project and review all materials the contractor used. Some suggested we manage the project ourselves, which would have saved us thousands of dollars. But, it might have cost us tens-of-thousands of dollars in bad decisions.
- Know how you will use the building before you design it. One of my favorite movie lines is from Field of Dreams when Ray Kinsella hears the voice tell him, “If you build it, they will come.” That’s a great line, but building it isn’t enough. You have to know why you’re building it. In our case we knew the Boys and Girls Club would be the anchor program, so we designed the building to be managed by two people with clear sight lines into all rooms. Form does indeed follow function.
- Develop use policies prior to opening. We’re behind on this, but we’re catching up fast. We were so focused on building the building that we lagged behind on use policies. Fortunately, we’re closed for a couple of weeks to put in the gym floor, so we’ll catch up before we re-open.
- Think about staffing and funding. We decided that we could not run the building with volunteers alone, so we hired an interim director and will add part-time staff later. But we will use lots of volunteers to round out our staffing. We’re also raising money (we raised $26,000 at our gala grand opening dinner); we believe operating expenses will run $8-10,000 per month. That’s a lot of money to raise, but we plan a combination of individual and corporate donations, grants, user fees, and rental fees. I’ll let you know how this works as we move forward.
Someone asked me several weeks ago if I would do this all over again. The answer is “Yes” because the Center has already exceeded our expectations. But, I did learn some things, and next time it will be easier. I hope.
Our new community center opened last week to rave reviews! Over 125 people attended the opening ceremony on Monday, May 19. Over 320 attended our Grand Opening Gala on Thursday, May 22. After 3 years of dreaming, planning, building, and preparing our new $3-million state-of-the-art community center is open for business. Click here for a slide show of opening day.
I just realize that I haven’t posted anything here since April 29. That is the longest time between posts since I started writing this blog almost 2-years ago. But, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Two funerals within 4-days, and all that goes with them. Thankfully, both were dear sweet ladies who lived to be 89 and 105, respectively.
The second thing keeping me busy is the community center. Our open house is Monday, May 19, and we have a fundraising dinner on Thursday, May 22, with Coach Frank Beamer of the Virginia Tech Hokies football program as our guest speaker. We hope to have over 300 people there, and raise a good part of our operating budget for the coming year. Here’s the newspaper ad we’ll run next week:
Don’t give up on me. I’ll get back into a regular routine once the community center is open…I hope!
Christianity Today just posted my article, “Learn To Partner,” on their website. The print version appeared in Leadership’s spring 2007 issue. If you don’t subscribe to Leadership, or haven’t read the article, it’s the story of what we are doing here in Chatham. Hope you find it helpful.