For the past several years, through the MAPP (Ministry Assessment and Planning Process), Unbinding Your Heart studies, Five Questions surveys, small group discussions, and lots of prayer, Chatham United Methodist Church has been in a discernment process regarding our facility. We see ourselves as a Matthew 25 Church, in mission and ministry to our community by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and lonely, and welcoming the stranger. Our vision is “creating a welcome, open environment where all people can come to know and experience God, grow in Christ, and minister to people in our community and world.” We want a facility for ministry that helps fan the flames of the Spirit here, and so we have been working to identify the areas of our church’s building that facilitate ministry, as well as areas that put up obstacles to our welcome. The past year, a small team of church members (representing a diversity of age ranges, experience, and areas of involvement and ministry) has been working closely with The Aspen Group (a design-build firm based in Frankfort, IL that specializes in church facilities) to maximize ministry and minimize obstacles to church growth.

In January of 2015, 82% of the church voted to pursue a renovation project for Chatham United Methodist Church, designed by the Aspen Group, and estimated at $1.9 million (including architectural/design work). The project was designed to fulfill the Five Goals originally indicated by a 2014 congregational survey: Accessibility, Flow, Kitchen, Meeting Space/Classrooms, and Safety. The vote was understood to be contingent upon the satisfactory results of a capital campaign, to be conducted in February and March, with the understanding that we would need to raise 2/3 of the cost of the project in a three- year campaign. Further costs could be raised in a subsequent campaign (or half- campaign), as needed, to pay off the renovation and any necessary loans.

The REACH! Transforming Together campaign saw generous – even sacrificial – gifts from this faithful congregation. We raised $750,000 in pledges: a tremendous accomplishment for our church, yet about half of what we would need committed in order to complete the entire project. Since June, the Advisory Team has been hard at work with Aspen Group to re-size the project to fit our budget. It has been a creative and hopeful process. We have been excited by the opportunities that are still available to us, even at a reduced price. At the same time, we have understood that some options are no longer available, and we’ve had to prioritize our needs.

The current revision addresses our top five priorities, just as before. But we have made some changes in the plan to reduce the overall cost, to limit the scope of Aspen’s responsibility, to allow our own Board of Trustees to have authority over parts of the project and enable volunteers to participate in renovation, and to shift some improvements to a potential “Phase Two” or later stage of development. We feel we have discerned the best possible proposal for this point in time and for the budget we have available. Our hope is to share with you our decision-making process and rationale, to give you as complete an understanding as possible as you prepare for a vote.

Reminder: At the time of the publishing of this document, we are at a “Pause Point” in our process with Aspen Group. We have paid out 20% of the fee necessary to complete the design phase. We are holding the line at this amount, and this point in the process, until we have enough affirmation from the congregation to move ahead.

We thank you sincerely for your prayers and encouragement during this season of discernment, and for taking the time to read this document. It was composed by members of the Aspen Advisory Team with much thought and prayer.


The biggest change is the preservation of the two-story Education Wing at the west end of the building. The original drawing filled in the basement to bring the whole facility to one level; the new drawing maintains the split-level floor-plan and adds an elevator/lift (which will stop on all three floors)
The “elevator” is really a LULA lift, which is expected to transport two persons at a time. A LULA costs significantly less than a full-size elevator (approx. $41,000 vs. approx. $150,000) and requires less frequent inspections. The LULA will work perfectly to help persons with limited disability, or carrying heavy burdens, to either the upper or lower level to access ministry. It is not intended for caskets, table/chairs racks, or other large- transport motion. We saved approximately $700,000 by retaining the split level with cement-block (fire-resistant) walls.
We call the large, open gathering area inside the front doors “the hub,” because it serves as a hub of activity and traffic for our ministries. All areas of the building are accessible from the hub, and by its large, open character, it provides a spacious welcome to all persons: members and visitors, alike. The hub also offers us a place to showcase our “missions of the month” and collect items; it helps those outside the church know what’s going on inside! That’s right in line with our church’s mission and vision: “Creating a welcome, open environment.” We will address sound/acoustics issues between the hub and the fellowship hall as the plan develops.
The Trustees have studied the advantages and disadvantages of the balcony for several years now, and the renovation plan approved by the church in January finally proposes its removal. While adjustments will need to be made once the balcony is removed (read on), we feel the advantages of this plan outweigh the disadvantages of keeping the balcony, specifically:

  • Sound/noise/visual problems: Noise from the front door, narthex and staircase carry up and over the open balcony into the sanctuary and chancel. The sound- system is not well-located above the sanctuary, as technicians cannot hear what the congregation hears, to adjust the sound. The current position of balcony seating makes full visual access to the sanctuary impossible to all but the front row of pews.
  • Safety issues: Trustees identified a fall-hazard several years ago, particularly for children, associated with the low railing which little ones love to lean and peer over. Also, the balcony is not handicap-accessible.
  • Traffic flow issues: The staircase in the narthex is a major obstacle to the open-hub flow we desire. Removing the staircase alone will not suffice, as the balcony requires a two-point access/egress (two escape routes in case of fire).

In addition to eliminating these issues, there are other benefits to be gained by removing the balcony in this renovation:

  • Fire wall is built to the ceiling separating sanctuary from narthex/hub, which potentially eliminates cost for sprinkler system (*Sprinkler system costs about $100K- 115K to install, plus maintenance; Fire wall costs less than half that amount.)
  • Sound booth is moved to main level for improved worship experience.
  • Existing exposed wood beam & ceiling is seen from narthex / hub for a warmer environment.

For balcony removal to be successful, the following adjustments will need to be made:

  • Stage lighting needs to be hung or replaced with updated remote controlled options
  • Photography & video will need to find a new vantage point; again, remote-controlled options are an excellent alternative
  • Due to fire code, glass in the interior sanctuary doors to the hub needs to be updated to 30-minute fire glass
  • Overflow sanctuary seating will need to be accommodated in the fellowship hall
  • Shut-off valve located above the current “library” must be accessible – perhaps with a pull-down stair into the AV/Cry Room area.
We liked that plan, too. But we have to prioritize our spending. “New square footage” (meaning, new construction in an area that does not currently host a foundation) is significantly more expensive than building on top of the current courtyard foundation. Here are the specifics: The cost of a completed (finished) office area on the patio would be around $350,000. But the additional square footage in the patio area could also trigger additional new code requirements that could affect the overall construction costs. The cost of building a shell on the existing patio of 1,520 sq. ft., including the floor slab, foundation wall, exterior wall and roof would cost $145,000. This plan assumes that Aspen would frame the office suite and volunteers would finish it, at additional cost. The completed offices in the current courtyard of 950 sq. ft. would cost less than $220,000 since foundations and exterior walls are already in place. The courtyard offices will require only roof and concrete floor and interior walls. The courtyard offices would be completely finished and the location of the general office/reception area would be directly visible from the front door. In the future if it was desired to have the offices located in the patio area the walls in the courtyard area could be reconfigured for meeting rooms, classrooms or other uses.
The “workroom” in the proposed office area is smaller than room 200 which is currently used as the workroom. It is estimated at about 268 square feet (16’x17’). But, if there is need for an occasional larger work area the fellowship hall is just around the corner. There also will be other areas in the education wing that could be used. As for staff offices, the staff has been surveyed, and feel the proposed office spaces (93. 95, 97 and 155 square feet) will be sufficient, given the various storage options now available with the new design, and the understanding that some re-alignment/re-distribution of space will be necessary.
The new design includes about 30% more storage than we currently have in the “new” building (Sanctuary/Fellowship Hall wing). Main-level new storage is proposed for the back triangle of the kitchen (this area is half of a 23.75 x 23.75 square, or 281 square feet, and includes outside access). Our greatest need is main-level storage (for main-level usage). For upper- and lower-level usage, additional storage areas are being proposed on the upper (47 SF) and lower (49 SF) next to the LULA landing.
We are definitely invested in improving the kitchen. Aspen Group has, at our request, engaged a kitchen consultant to recommend an affordable path to bringing our kitchen up-to-code for our Matthew 25 ministries. The consultant is meeting with a small committee of Chatham UMC regular kitchen-users (including Ginny Fahs, Jeanette Hampson, Nick Stabler, Sadie Jones, Jan Miller and Belinda Green). The goals for the kitchen are to have it upgraded to commercial quality so we can feed the hungry of the community and continue our church fellowship. We may be able to do some of the physical work ourselves, or contract the work independently, once we have a good plan. The kitchen committee is excited to meet with the consultant and see what items on our wish list can be accommodated. We are looking forward to the new range hood (vented properly), plumbing, countertops, floors and storage.
The Advisory Committee and the Trustees are serious about inspecting the current roof membranes to determine the condition, the remaining life, and what options are available to the church. The flat roof surface of the education wing was installed in 1997 and the fellowship hall in 1998 and both are beyond the warranty period. At the time of this printing, four different companies are examining and offering estimates on the roof. By the time of the church conference vote, we should have a proposal and estimated cost for any potential work on the roofs.
We have designated $700,000 for the remodeling projects entrusted to the Aspen Group, which are mostly centered in the “hub” zone. Architecture/design and permitting costs are generally about 10-15% of the whole project; our design contract with Aspen is for $99,500. That leaves about $200,000 for us – Advisory Team and Trustees Committee – to prioritize remaining projects, including roofs, kitchen, and any other improvements such as furnishings, paint, and carpet in the education wing, new audio-visual for the sanctuary, etc. When the decision on the roofs have been made and if bids are needed for the work, then the funds will be reviewed and made part of the REACH project that will be voted on by the church membership.
Both the Generis and Aspen Advisory teams feel very strongly that we made the right choice in hiring these professionals to help us move forward. Conversations about upgrading and updating our facilities have been circulating for 25 years; concept drawings created by Bud Kirk from 20 years ago and left on a shelf are as far as we ever got on our own. While professional consultants are a real financial commitment, “going it alone” has proved unsuccessful for decades. Aspen and Generis have put their expertise and experience to work for us, using their knowledge, research, skills and vocation to move us farther than we have ever been before.

Here is what it has cost us so far:

GENERIS: $3,000 – Generosity Audit
This was a preliminary study, intended to provide us an estimate of how much money could be raised in one campaign. The results of the study suggested that Chatham UMC would be able to raise between $750K and $1.2M. We were hoping for the top end of that range, but we came in exactly at the bottom number.

$27,500 – Consultant
We engaged the services of Rev. Dr. Craig Loscalzo to see us through a three-year campaign. Craig met with the Generis team regularly, helped us plan large-group and small-group gatherings and produce the campaign booklet, came to preach in worship twice and attended our major gatherings, including the church conference vote in January. Craig is still a member of our “staff,” communi- cating regularly with Pastor Sara and continuing to guide the process with his generosity expertise. (You might be interested to know: Craig even pledged to the campaign!)

ASPEN: $37,700 – Feasibility Study
This was the eight-month process we journeyed together (Jun-Jan), meeting with the Aspen Advisory Team monthly (or more) to develop plans that fit our mission, vision and purpose. Project Developer Jed Davis and Ar- chitect Derek DeGroot have been on-site throughout the year, meeting with small and large groups in the congregation, addressing the whole church, attending the church conference meeting, and staying in contact with the leads of the Advisory Team. *Note: The above expenses were covered through the Future Building Fund, a merging of three future-oriented accounts managed by the Chatham UMC Endowment Committee, and designated for such a time and purpose as this. The Generosity Audit and Aspen Feasibility Study were funded by “grants” from this fund; the Generis Consultant fees were given a “loan” from this same fund, which has since been repaid by monies re- ceived through the capital campaign.

$99, 500 – Design/Architectural Process
This is where we are now. Aspen (with Special Projects Director Joe Lapaglia) is designing for us a renovation plan to reflect our vision, meet our priorities and stay within our budget. They are focusing on the “hub” area as the primary arena of their work, but are engaging their team members to help us design ministry areas that we may be able to finish, ourselves (e.g. Kitchen, Classroom upgrades, etc.).

As per the Design Agreement, we have paid Aspen $20,000 from the Capital Campaign income, to bring us to the point of this booklet. We are now at a “Pause Point,” to make any necessary changes to bring the congregation on board. Once we have sufficient support from the congregation, we will lift the Pause, Aspen will continue their design work on our behalf, and we will resume the contract.

We believe so! This is an exciting time for our church, as we look toward the future, and recognize that the Church of Jesus Christ exists not just for the comfort of its members, but for the welcome, transformation and redemption of the world. Anything we can do to widen our welcome and help our church grow into the future, will be a blessing to those who come after us.
Once everybody has had a chance to study this booklet and get their questions answered, their concerns heard, and their feedback considered, we will conduct a ‘straw poll’ of the congregation on Sunday, Sept. 20 during each service, just to get a sense of where we are. If the poll shows we are ready to move ahead, we will lift the Pause Point, resume our design work with Aspen, and work toward a construction plan we can all celebrate! A church conference will be held when the church is ready, to approve the project with the guaranteed price and the financing package. We will publicize the date of the church conference aggressively, so that everyone knows when it’s time to vote.
Members of the Aspen Advisory Team include Terry Burke, Julie Miller, Phil Fahs, Jim Logan, Mikey Ford, Jeanette Hampson, Bill Gillespie, Chuck Herr, Michael Ferguson, Joel Eaton, Dave & Belinda Green, and Pastor Sara.




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