In March of 2004 the Council of Baptist Church Planters voted to start a subsidiary corporation named ChurchCare. This organization would be responsible for managing the existing revolving loan fund and also to minister to churches contemplating dissolution. Some of the initial goals were:
- to help struggling churches move through the process of closure by providing counsel with regard to legal procedures and provide management of the remaining affairs of the church;
- to provide a non-profit corporation that could receive the ownership of assets, market the property, and distribute the net proceeds as directed by the dissolution resolution;
- to provide credible accounting for all assets and the detailed reporting of all income and expenses to the remaining members of the church family; and
- to provide a means to distribute funds back into church planting ministry.
In January of 2005 ChurchCare was incorporated as a non-profit 501c3 corporation in the state of Ohio. At that time, the Council of Baptist Church Planters appointed a board of four men: Dan Hargrave, an administrator with BCP, Roger Ridley, a missionary church planter on the Council of BCP, David Lietch, an attorney in Elria, OH, and David Whipple, a businessman and Council member of BCP. David Whipple was appointed to chair the board.
I remember the early discussions about ChurchCare. How do we proceed? How do we promote an agency that helps close churches? Some of the early humor called our ministry “Baptist Church Liquidators” and the director, the “Dr. Kervorkian of churches.” We really had no idea what God would have in store for ChurchCare. Our early mental pictures were that of small, old, inner-city churches with dwindling, aging congregations that needed to close.
What God had in store for us caused us to reset our expectations. In September of 2005 Baptist Church Planters was contacted by the former pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Endwell, NY. Berean was a Regular Baptist Church in fellowship with the Empire State Fellowship and the GARBC. The church had been in decline for about five years. The church had tried many different ministries and outreaches, but nothing seemed to bring permanent growth. On October 5, 2005, the remaining ten members voted to dissolve and asked ChurchCare to manage the dissolution. This was a major decision for the church. The members were overwhelmed with emotion and a sense of guilt over failure. Even though ChurchCare was new and had no experience, we helped the church to work through the process and to recognize that God was evidently leading and in control. I was impressed with the relief on the faces of the members once the vote was taken. A tremendous burden had been lifted, and it seemed as if God had somehow indicated His approval of their action.
Berean was not the small old facility that we had had in our minds. The church would easily handle over 200 people. The facilities were clean and well-maintained. The location was excellent. Berean was located on a busy main street with a high school across the street and another large church next door. The site included plenty of paved parking and had great visual impact. The church owned a three-bedroom parsonage located about a mile from the church. This, too, was a well-maintained property in a desirable neighborhood. The replacement cost of the facilities would easily approach one million dollars.
God had just given ChurchCare a precious piece of His property. The sense of accountability was felt by all of us at ChurchCare. We needed to be careful and not mess up. We needed to set a standard and precedent that would work in other situations. The importance of maintaining the testimony of Berean Baptist Church, ChurchCare, Baptist Church Planters, the Empire State Fellowship, the GARBC, and most importantly, the Lord we serve, weighed heavily in all our decisions.
We began slowly and deliberately. An attorney was retained to start the process of dissolving Berean and transferring the assets to ChurchCare. This process can take several months in New York State. We finally received the approval of the supreme court of New York on December 22, 2005. During these three months of waiting for the court order, ChurchCare maintained the properties and prepared them for sale. In this case we had several parties interested in the property. We could not act on any offers until the court approved the petition.
In January we started to receive inquiries on the property. Several church groups and the school had shown interest. As we began to sort through the prospects, it became evident that one church group was extremely passionate about the property. They sought permission to have a prayer meeting in the building and brought the majority of their congregation to see the property. The Russian Ukranian Baptist Church had been in existence for about 15 years. The group had a membership of 120 people. They had used many different facilities over the years, including First Baptist of Maine, NY, and First Baptist in Johnson City, NY. They were anxious for their own facility. They felt certain that this was the facility that God wanted them to have. They admitted that they had little money and no sponsor.
When I met the group at the church and saw the families and their passion for Christ, my heart said to just give them the whole place with all the contents. My mind said that we had an obligation to the members of Berean to do the best we could to preserve the assets. The question was if we could be more than fair with the young church and still preserve some assets for church planting and fulfill the desires of the Berean Church. As discussions progressed and the Russians did their homework, it became evident what the sale price was going to be. The school, even though they were not interested, had used a square foot value. Other churches and businesses were doing similar calculations. We had set a price of $475,000 on the church property for the initial listing. All the offers were coming in between $300,000 and $380,000. On January 30, 2006, we accepted the offer of $380,000 from the Russian Ukranian Baptist Church and closed on the property in time for them to have an Easter celebration in their new facility.
God provided a buyer for the parsonage in April of 2006. The net amount of the sale of both properties was $468,027.82. This was a start for ChurchCare that was beyond our wildest imagination.
The joy had only begun. God had provided a property and two buyers, and now we got to use the assets to bring joy and blessing to many other people. One of our slogans at ChurchCare is “The closing of one church may be the beginning of many churches.” This truly was the case with Berean. First, the property was sold to a church needing a facility. They received a tremendous property at a great price. The testimony of the Gospel continues at the same location. Also we dispersed funds to missionaries and agencies that would surprise them and bless them. Berean designated the assets to be distributed as follows:
- 10% to a Bible translation project with Evangelical Baptist Missions in Mali West Africa
- 20% to Baptist Church Planters
- 20% to the Revolving Loan Fund of ChurchCare
- 50% to establish a grant fund administered by ChurchCare for planting churches in New York State.
The funds designated for grants to church plants in New York were administered by ChurchCare in a similar manner as loans from our Revolving Loan Fund. The churches had to apply, and the board approved the request. The story continues as three church plants received the funds and were able to complete their projects.
Emmanuel Baptist Church in Hamlin, NY, had purchased property and was preparing to build a new building. This church plant under the leadership of John and Brenda Stitzel, missionaries with Baptist Church Planters, had completed their plans and contracted with Continental Baptist Mission to build the building. The Empire State Fellowship of Regular Baptist Churches and The Baptist Builders Club of the GARBC had provided grants totaling $30,000.00. ChurchCare provided a grant of $80,000.00 and also a loan from the Revolving Loan Fund of $125,000.00. In the fall of 2007 the building was completed and occupied. What a great testimony this church is in the community! What a great example of God using many individuals and churches and agencies to make it all come to fruition.
Another great example of God’s provision is the story of the Former Lighthouse Baptist Church in Wampsville, NY. This church was originally planted by Charles Little. Under the leadership of a former pastor, the church had moved away from its Baptist roots and dwindled to a few members. Missionary Steve Little with Baptist Church Planters was planting a church in the Canastota area within a few miles of the former Lighthouse Baptist Church. This new work was called Heritage Baptist Church. Heritage had purchased property and was preparing to build a building. ChurchCare had approved a grant of $110,000.00 toward the construction of a new building.
In the interim, they needed a larger space for their meetings, so Steve approached the leader of the group at Lighthouse about using their building. Eventually God moved in the hearts of the remaining members of Lighthouse to turn over the whole property to Heritage Baptist Church. They no longer needed the grant from ChurchCare for new construction. Now they needed the grant to remodel the original building and bring it back to code. ChurchCare approved the change in use, and Heritage Baptist Church dedicated their building in July of 2008.
The story is not yet complete. A grant of $15,000.00 was given to Bethel Baptist Church in Commack, Long Island. Bethel was able to make much needed repairs and improvements to their property. ChurchCare still has some funds yet to be disbursed from the grant designation.
The impact of the closure of one church that was actually not closed but sold to another church on these three church plants was significant. This is just one example of how ChurchCare has been able to provide a ministry to churches facing closure. The opportunity to significantly help a new church plant is an encouragement to people who otherwise may experience the sense of failure when closing a church.
Between 2005 and 2018 ChurchCare managed 27 church closures in 12 different states. As of 2018, the closure ministry of ChurchCare had preserved almost 3 million dollars. Many missionaries, agencies, and church plants have benefited from the Closure/Revolving Loan Ministry of ChurchCare. God continues to bless this ministry.
Over the years the ChurchCare board of directors has expanded to 10 men. The board of directors includes pastors, missionaries and business men. See the ChurchCare website for the current list of board members.
At the 2010 Board Meeting ChurchCare added ChurchCare Construction. Within days of the decision to begin a building ministry, the former Baptist Missionary Builders, a church building mission agency, contacted ChurchCare and asked if ChurchCare would accept the missionaries and the existing projects that had been approved. The Director of BMB was retiring, and the BMB Board asked if the two agencies could combine their church building efforts. ChurchCare had already identified a Director of Construction, and the transfer of missionaries and ongoing projects was a smooth transition. ChurchCare accepted the responsibility, and the missionaries were brought into the Baptist Church Planters’ family as missionary builders. Between 2010 and 2018 ChurchCare Construction managed twelve building projects. There are always several churches that have been through the approval process and are working to complete construction documents and/or financing. ChurchCare Construction is usually committed ahead for two years.
In 2018 ChurchCare added two new ministries. ChurchCare Financial Services and ChurchCare Disaster Reaction, both ministries, were started to meet needs identified by local churches.
The Disaster Reaction ministry was born from a disaster. The hurricane that struck the Houston, TX, area in 2017 left two churches and their families with buildings and homes that were impacted. Many churches and individuals wanted to help. The pastors needed help to coordinate the response of giving and volunteers. ChurchCare had experienced builders and administrators and was able to provide a timely on-site evaluation of the needs. The scope of work, the materials required, and the skills needed to rebuild are all part of the evaluation available to the pastor/missionary, church, donors and volunteers. The ChurchCare Disaster Reaction ministry allows the local pastor or missionary to focus on the needs of the flock while ChurchCare coordinates the rebuilding teams.
ChurchCare Financial Services also was established as a result of a request from a local church. Baptist Church Planters believes that churches plant churches. Baptist Church Planters facilitates churches and missionaries sent by churches to fulfill the Great Commission. The BCP Council requested ChurchCare to establish and manage a ministry that would provide financial services for churches who desire to manage their church plant and missionary but who may still need help with the managing the missionaries’ finances. ChurchCare developed financial policies and processes to help local churches “mother” their baby churches.
ChurchCare has a founding principle of “Ministering to Churches in Need.” ChurchCare will continue to live out this principle and respond to churches as God directs.