How a small church can develop their property holistically to maximize their impact on the community

This article is based on an interview with David J. Elliott regarding his engagement with Salinas Vineyard Church

DJE: The Salinas Vineyard church are a wonderful group of people. They have a fellowship of  probably about one  hundred people in the church and the pastor Dave Dove has a strong vision to serve the community. He is also very active in prison ministry, in fact he is the California area director for the international organization, Prison Fellowship.. Dave invited me to look at his property to see if the church’s four and a half acre property could be used to serve the greater community. They were very interested in being a part of the community in the East Alisal area of Salinas to serve that low income neighborhood plagued and high crime area. They are right across the street from a middle school and they wanted to expand their  ministry to the students and families. The church runs a growing after school program. They  also partner with the local food bank to use the church facility to  distribute food and clothing. They house a rapidly growing spanish speaking congregation that has multiple worship services throughout the week. They are doing really wonderful things for the community. The church owns extra property on the back of the church and they asked me what is the best way to develop that property. It is a very desirable piece of property in a growing area and they had received several offers for the property for a housing development.  However, if they went that way it would just be development that ends up being gentrification, which overlooks the needs of the poor as they are driven to other places because of increased cost of housing. Rather, Pastor Dave Dove’s passion is to see this property used to serve the greater community and provide a long term home for the vital services they are currently offering as well the new services they wish to develop. They also needed to do this in a financially sustainable way. They are a small congregation, they are way over performing in their services and impact on the community. It is critical that they not be encumbered with a large debt, instead he wants to set them up for long term success for generations to come.  For this,  this is the Lord’s property and they want it to continue to serve the poor and vulnerable in their community for generations into the future.
My team and I came alongside them to figure out what further services the community needed most. Because they were so engaged with the community they already had a good sense of this, so that was an excellent starting point. From that process, the plan for Esperanza Viva was born. It has a tiny home village on the property to provide affordable housing. It has community services, such as dental and medical operations and serves the entire community. The space has been designed to house  a farmers market and/or a flea market. The new worship center will be multi use to be available for both congregations to as well as for community events. One of the organizations they house is a community youth orchestra and so the building has been designed for great acoustics for the musically inclined.  It will be one of the best used properties that I’ve ever seen. They are a beautiful example to other churches of what you can do with your facility; even if it’s an old-age building it can still be used to really bless the community.

We work with the church to ideally create a situation where there’s no debt on the property. This may sound impossible in California, but it is possible and we have done it before!

Q: How would you advise another church in a similar situation—a small congregation with really big dreams?
DJE: For another church that is interested in the kinds of things that the Salinas Vineyard Church is doing, the first step would  be to take a look at the assets that they have and the value of their property in order to assess the next best steps forward. When we look at a new church we want to see what the assets are worth so that ideally we can create a situation where there’s no debt on the property. This may sound impossible especially in California, but it is possible and we have done it before! This is one of my passions as an architect! I love to inspire them with what we have done before and also share scriptural references so we can  work together  with the goal of no-debt at the end of the project. This doesn;t have to be such a radical thing,  and there’s certainly a place for having loans on property, the bigger point is to be financially stable to empower the future. Working with this goal in mind with the Vineyard Church has been amazing!
It is important to develop a holistic vision for the development of the property and how it will be used, and this has to be financially sound. Financial sustainability is important to David J Elliot and Associates so our client is not overwhelmed when the project is finished. We want to help our clients develop a space that serves them on their mission and what they’re called to do long-term. We don’t want to just make the building look aesthetically pretty, our goal is holistic, building are just a means to an end. In the case of churches, or non profit ministries, our client may be interested in prison ministry or in addressing human trafficking, or homelessness. We want to help our client deliver on their vision and mission. When a church is looking to expand or find a new home then we connect the dots and help them with the missional strategy and how to find or develop the right  building to fit into the overall gameplan.
Q: How do you help connect churches with the resources that they need?
DJE: A lot of churches make terrible mistakes by creating something that will become a roadblock to their overall mission. When we first engage the client, we are going to think about all of the issues and make sure you get a space that will lend success to the vision and mission of the organization. We provide a holistic approach and help our clients avoid making big costly mistakes. David J Elliot and Associates is a service organization, we pride ourselves in being servants. We provide the expertise necessary for our clients to make wise decisions. We can be a turnkey solution if that is the best relationship, but we can also serve a smaller role, if that is what makes the most sense and provides the best solution for the client.
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17800 Cunha Lane
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