Keeping pace with the demands of a fast-growing Dallas–Fort Worth suburb isn't easy. But St. John Lutheran Church in Mansfield has employed a smart strategy. Over the past three decades, they have taken out several low-interest loans with the Texas District Church Extension Fund (CEF) so that the church could continually expand to serve both a larger congregation and a preponderance of young families.
In fact, CEF partnered with St. John right from the beginning. In 1989, a loan from CEF funded the oldest part of the church's campus: the old chapel, fellowship hall, original kitchen, and several classrooms. A decade later, a second CEF loan made possible the expansion of classroom and office space.
Most recently, in 2009, St. John completed a third CEF-funded project. This time they constructed their current worship center, a gym and adjoining classrooms, a nursery, and new kitchen and cafe areas.
Monty Hobbs, whose family has been part of St. John's congregation for eight years, recalls what a difference these expansions have made to the ministry: "[My wife] Christiane and I first visited St. John a few months after our wedding in 2006. I seem to remember it being a Wednesday evening service in the old chapel. The space was busting at the seams, packed and filled to capacity. I'm guessing the space could maybe hold 200 people if the ushers packed them in right."
"Fast forward four years when we joined St John on the same Sunday that [our daughter] Johanna was baptized," Hobbs continues. "Sunday services were then held in the current worship center where the capacity is easily more than three times as large as the Chapel. There have been many Sundays in recent years where more people were taught God's word in one of our Sunday morning services than could be reached in almost a month using the old Chapel."
Beyond the immediate reach of the worship space, St. John also connects with the community through its preschool – serving 153 children aged 18 months to 4 years – and through "non-church" use of its facilities, such as Mansfield Wind Symphony performances in the worship space and occasional Boy Scout meetings in the gym. The abundant facilities space that St. John has built have helped establish it as a community gathering place and as a place to connect with God.
"The new classrooms are an answered prayer for the preschool," says Nannette Lenz, Director of Preschool Ministry at St. John. "Before the new rooms were built, we had four classes in portable buildings behind our main building. Now we are all under one roof. This is a huge blessing for the families and staff when it comes to safety. We also added a brand new classroom which allows us to reach even more families in our area and teach their children about Jesus. We are blessed!"
Having served as St. John's treasurer from 2014–2016, Hobbs knows the advantages of working with Texas District CEF. He notes that CEF has multiple advantages over other lenders:
- Competitive interest rates
- Low cost loans (little to no cost to establish the loan)
- Covenant-lite terms (no requirements for annual audits, no minimum financial ratios, etc.)
- Compared to a conventional bank "business" loan, Texas CEF acts more like a silent partner. A secured partner, certainly, but a partner in the very best sense of the term.
It is that sense of partnership that means the most to Hobbs. "The Church that built the chapel under the water tower on Debbie Lane almost 30 years ago has grown as Mansfield has grown," he says. "And Texas CEF has been a steady and helping hand at each stage of its growth."