Frequently Asked Questions
What has been the process to get us to this point that we feel we need to build a new youth house, a new children’s playground, a more secure children’s wing, and greater handicap accessibility?
After flooding in our old A&O Youth House in 2015, it was discovered that there were no reinforcement bars in the basement of the A&O Youth House. A structural engineer had the house condemned for several months until the basement walls could be reinforced through a generous donation of a member of our church. During the months that the A&O House was condemned, we saw a dramatic decline in youth attendance during the months that the youth had to meet in the Parlor. On June 8, 2015 a special called Session meeting was held to discuss the structural concerns of our old A&O Youth House and its long list of needed repairs. The motion was made to form a Strategic Facilities Planning Team that was charged with the following mission “In consultation with every ministry of First Presbyterian Church, the Strategic Facilities Planning Team will develop a plan to determine the best utilization and development of our church’s facilities to help build generations for the kingdom of Christ.” A nine person Strategic Facilities Planning Team was formed that originally included only one staff person. The Strategic Facilities Planning Team spent two years interviewing every committee and ministry team in our church, compiling a list of perceived needs. After two years of interviewing the various ministries of our church, Jill Goodrich moved that the Strategic Facilities Planning Team recommend to Session that the church contract with the Generis Group for a feasibility study to see what our church could possibly raise for a Capital Campaign. Generis is a Capital Campaign consulting company, recommended by several ECO churches in our Presbytery. Terry Easterling seconded the motion, and the motion approved unanimously. After interviewing three different architectural firms (two local firms and one from Houston), the Strategic Facilities Planning Team also recommended that the Session hire Merriman Holt and Powell Architects to develop a master plan for our campus. Merriman Holt and Powell came highly recommended from other churches in ECO, and the vast majority of their work is with churches including several Presbyterian churches like First Presbyterian Church of Houston, First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta to name a few. On November 13, 2017, Session voted overwhelmingly with just one dissenting vote to hire Merriman Holt and Powell to work with our Strategic Facilities Planning Team to develop a Master Plan for our campus. The Session also voted unanimously to hire the Generis Group to do a feasibility study to determine how much our church could potentially raise for a Capital Campaign. As a part of this feasibility study, Jim Sheppard from the Generis Group met with twenty of our leading givers and gave them a list of perceived facility needs. Fourteen of the twenty people interviewed all agreed that the biggest facility need for our church right now is a larger new youth facility. Five people voted for a new fellowship hall, and one person voted for greater handicap accessibility. Based on these interviews and a study of past giving patterns, the feasibility report from Generis states that, “the giving range of the Congregation in a three-year capital campaign to be somewhere in the range of $3.5 million to $6.4 million. The midpoint of this range is about $5 million.” At the May 14, 2018 Session meeting, the feasibility study done by the Generis Group was presented and the Session voted to set the Capital Campaign budget to $5.5 million with $500,000 of the $5.5 million going toward missions. The motion was also made and unanimously approved that we hire Jim Sheppard from the Generis Group to help us raise the necessary funds for Phase 1 of our Capital Campaign. The Master Plan of our campus was also presented to the Session by architect Bill Merriman at the Session meeting on May 14, 2018. Building on the interviews that were done by the Strategic Facilities Planning Team, Bill and his firm interviewed several ministries within our church including the Youth and their parents to discern what the most pressing facility needs were. It was determined by these interviews and several previous conversations that the best way to continue the current momentum that our Youth ministry has and to maintain its strong community wide brand, the best thing to do is to build a new, larger A&O House that will be ADA compliant and will maintain the 'fraternity house' look that has been a draw for so many of our students and their unchurched and de-churched friends over the years. After hearing Bill Merriman’s presentation, the Session approved a town hall meeting to present this Master Plan to the rest of the Congregation on August 19, 2018, the first Sunday after school had already started, an historically high attendance Sunday for our church as families return after summer vacation. In September of 2018, after a positive response from those who attended the town hall meeting, the Strategic Facilities Planning Team moved forward and interviewed three different general contractors. After a second round of interviews with two general contractors, the Strategic Facilities Planning Team made the recommendation to the Board of Trustees that we hire Kelly Wood as our general contractor for Phase 1 of our building program, and we continue to work with Merriman Holt and Powell on the design and construction for Phase 1. The Board of Trustees approved this recommendation on October 3, 2018. On October 8, 2018, the Session voted unanimously to form a Capital Campaign Task Force to work with Jim Sheppard from Generis to help raise the $5.5 million needed for the campaign. The members of the Capital Campaign Task Force are elder David Mullin, Deaconess Lulu Cowan, elder Nancy Williams, elder Melody Alexander, pastor Howard Griffin, pastor Murray Gossett, pastor Dan Carter, pastor Kim Talley, Michal Ann Bell, Debbie Laur, and Lisa Dietz. At the same meeting, the Session voted unanimously to form a design team to work with Merriman Holt & Powell on the design of Phase 1 of the Capital Campaign. The design team includes Jill Goodrich, Karen Jordan, Susie O’Brien, Andrew Evans, Andrew Amstutz, Rhonda McCampbell, Brandon Smith, Kim Talley, Debbie Laur, and Anna McCay. At the Session meeting on November 12, 2018 the design team presented a list of priorities for Phase 1 including the following: New A&O House, Children’s Wing renovation, Children’s indoor playground, Children’s outdoor playground, north entrance extended with ramp and better handicap accessibility, senior parking lot (south lot finished out after the removal of the old A&O House), purchase of Van Buren, renovations of Sanctuary (balcony, new clearer stained glass covering, sanctuary lighting, tower foyer), arbor for courtyard off the Parlor, and a new storage building in the west lot. As a part of the Capital Campaign, we have had several Vision Gatherings where many people have made advance commitments to help us reach our goal. The Lord is clearly at work, and the city recently approved our purchase of our section of Van Buren. God is on the move, Hallelujah!
If we are not meeting our Operating Budget right now, how can we do a Capital Campaign?
By God’s grace, our faithful giving, and our staff’s diligent stewardship, Actual Revenue has exceeded Actual Expenses every year over the last eight years. Admittedly, we do not usually reach our budgetary goal until the last few weeks of December, but this is very common in a church that operates on a fiscal year that is tied to the calendar year. At the end of the year, we always remind our members to be faithful in completing the Pledge they made for that year toward our Operating Budget so that we will meet our December goals.
Over the last several years when Actual Revenue has exceeded Actual Expenses, extra funds have been transferred towards a Missions fund, a Building fund, a Program fund, and a Contingency fund for future use. While it is true that currently our year-to-date Actual Expenses are greater than Actual Revenue, that is not unusual for March. Every January, our Youth and College ministries take life-transforming ski trips that serve as great forms of outreach for these ministries. These trips cost a lot of money, so our expenses are very high in January. It takes some time before our Actual Revenue catches up with our Actual Expenses.
All giving to the GROW Across Generations campaign should be above and beyond our current giving to the annual Operating Budget of First Pres. As we read the Bible, we can see that there are times when the people of God were called to give above and beyond their annual tithe (10%) to God. These special offerings helped build the tabernacle and later the temple in the Old Testament. All of the giving to the GROW Across Generations campaign should be viewed as a special offering that goes above and beyond our annual ten percent tithe to First Presbyterian Church.
Why can’t we just renovate our old A&O House and make it bigger?
In order to renovate the current A&O House and make it large enough to comfortably hold the number of youth who are coming, we would have to tear the walls down to the studs, remove all of the asbestos, rewire the entire house, redo the plumbing, make it ADA compliant, and add an elevator.
After meeting with a structural engineer, two architects, our general contractor, and church members involved in the construction industry, it was determined that the wisest and most cost-effective thing to do for the long run is to build a new house. Other benefits of a new A&O House include improved energy efficiency, better insulation, an efficient HVAC system, better and more eco-friendly lighting, insulated windows, and a low maintenance and durable exterior, just to name a few.
If a large amount of the middle school and high school students who attend A&O on Wednesday nights are not First Pres kids, why are we building a house for other people’s kids?
Wednesday Nights at A&O have grown immensely. Our First Pres kids do a great job sharing the fun, family, belonging, and deep study of the Word they experience with their friends from school and social circles. It can be very difficult for a kid in today's world to enter a Neo-Gothic, traditional church building. The enemy tells them that they're not good enough and that they don't belong. We want them to know that there is a place for them at A&O and at First Pres. Granted, A&O kids don't always go to our church, but they are being changed through the love of Christ and a ministry of First Pres. If our mission is to make disciples, it's not simply about gaining new church members. It's also about effective, life-changing ministry. It's important to note that there are many examples of families who are now active members of First Pres only because of their kids' initial involvement in A&O. Just like many of the amazing ministries at First Pres, the reach of blessing usually extends far beyond our actual walls and membership list.
If we are intergenerational, why are the youth across the street?
Actually, we have purchased the part of Van Buren that currently separates the west parking lot with our main building for a very fair price. There will be easy walk-way access from the A&O House to the main building. We will certainly continue to build opportunities for all generations to learn from and serve together. The A&O house is simply the first step for many of our youth to come to know Jesus. It is a point of entry for many to a life of discipleship and to Christ's Church.
Also, when our current A&O house was temporarily condemned, the students met in the Parlor on Wednesday Nights. There was a marked decline in attendance for the duration of that change in meeting place. While we're not OF the world, we are IN the world with the kids we're trying to reach. Like it or not, the reality is that many kids in today's world are so lost and alone that we need to provide easy access and a place that looks fun and comfortable. We want to provide every opportunity for them to make coming to church, either on Wednesday night or Sunday morning or both, a positive experience and a high priority.
Why are you putting money into brick and mortar?
First of all, $500,000 of the campaign money is going directly to missions. It is instructive that the missionaries who are receiving the $500,000 want to spend a substantial amount of that money on bricks and mortar, for much the same reason we want to spend $5 million on bricks and mortar at FPC; because bricks and mortar are often necessary for effective evangelism and discipleship.
Do we need a new A&O and improved Children’s Ministry Space to effectively bring Christ to children and youth? Effective evangelism in our culture requires bricks and mortar. Would we attract youth and children to Christ if we held all our youth and children’s activities in Elwood Park? How many Wednesdays and Sundays each year would the weather allow that? Even if we had perfect weather, [lol], how many kids would come after the first month when the “new” wore off? It is obvious you need bricks and mortar.
So how much should we spend on bricks and mortar? The existing bricks and mortar are obsolete, falling apart, unsafe and too small for our existing and future needs. The A&O would have been permanently condemned and we wouldn’t even be having this discussion if a gracious member hadn’t bailed us out by doing extensive free repairs on the A&O foundation. We tried to bring the A&O kids into the parlor when the A&O was temporarily condemned. Unfortunately, that resulted in a major dropoff in A&O attendance because the kids want a place of their own like our existing A&O house.
A remodel of the A&O would cost more than the proposed new A&O and would leave us with the same space issues we already have. We could build a warehouse style steel building for cheaper than $1.7 million. But that would be unattractive and not honoring to God. Why did God have the Israelites build an ornate and beautiful temple if we are supposed to worship Him outdoors or in a warehouse? Why did the prophet Haggai tell the people that God was displeased that they were living in paneled houses while the temple was in ruins? Does that warning apply to us right now? I don’t think many of our members are living in houses made of wood that won’t hold paint anymore. Why have Christians throughout the ages, including our predecessors at FPC Amarillo, sacrificed so much to build beautiful places to worship God? Did not they too have the Holy Spirit? Would the adults at FPC want to worship God in Elwood Park or in a steel building rather than our beautiful worship spaces? I doubt it. A reasonable person can quibble about the scope and cost of the remodel of the children’s wing, the new green spaces, the new A&O, and the handicapped ramp, but it is not reasonable to say we shouldn’t be spending money on bricks and mortar.
Wouldn’t it be a better use of funds to give to missions rather than brick and mortar?
While funding programming and ministry is a huge priority of First Pres, we also recognize that our actual buildings and meeting places act as a base camp for our people to get filled up as they go out and show the love of Christ in their circles of influence.
We'll tithe on all funds contributed toward our GROW Across Generations Capital Campaign for the greater work of the Kingdom. This extra $500,000 will enable us to have a huge impact in Africa, Asia, South America, and also right here in the San Jacinto neighborhood. This money will provide a chance to be an even greater influence for Christ around the world than ever before in our history!
An investment in our Children's and Youth areas is actually a terrific way to have a growing influence on families here in Amarillo. Parents in our community expect high quality care and safety for their children. An improved Children’s area that is safer and more accommodating for our amazing Children's Ministry team to carry out their vision and an improved Youth facility manned with Christ-focused, caring adults who want to build important relationships with young people is a great investment that has far-reaching benefits.
It also will be exciting to be able to use the new A&O house to host mission groups traveling to and through Amarillo. The possibilities of how God might use this space are really endless.
If we don’t make our goal, what is the plan?
As a Presbyterian church, our decision-making process is always the same. Whether we make our goal, exceed our goal, or fall short of our goal, the Session will work with the design team to make a final determination on the precise scope of work and the order of projects based on what we have received in pledges.
How many more years before we do the next campaign – Phase 2?
We will not begin Phase 2 until we have completed and paid for all of Phase 1. Phase 1 is a three-year campaign. If we do Phase 1 well, our church should attract more youth, children, and their families to our church so that we will have a larger church membership to fund Phase 2. As a Presbyterian Church, it will ultimately be the decision of the Session working with the Stewardship committee and the Board of Trustees to determine when is the best time to begin Phase 2.