The Why Project: Mel McGowan Discusses a Unique Church Partnership

Church Loans

What happens when church growth and land meet vision and financing? It sounds like the perfect marriage of need and opportunity, and the result is changing how some churches are rethinking growth.

Crosspointe Church had a growing congregation and room to build, but they wanted to focus on new ways to reach their community. Enter the local YMCA. The organization was planning on developing a new building in the area. This resonated with one person in particular: Mel McGowan.

McGowan is the founder and chief creative officer of Visioneering Studios, a national real estate, architecture, and design firm. McGowan and the rest of Visioneering Studios had been working with Crosspointe for more than 10 years when the opportunity with the local YMCA presented itself. McGowan thought, “Why not partner together to do more than either organization could do alone?” McGowan and his team worked with both groups and eventually started “The Why Project.”

This partnership between Crosspointe and the YMCA will serve the community in a variety of ways. The YMCA will manage a recreation center that exceeds 60,000 square feet and features an outdoor pool. Crosspointe will manage a worship center, a concert venue, a coffee shop, walking trails, and youth areas that will double as space for the YMCA to provide childcare and camp programs.

Aside from starting Visioneering Studios, McGowan spent nearly a decade with the Walt Disney Company and has a Masters of Urban Planning from the College of Environmental Design of California Polytechnic Pomona. We had a chance to speak with him about The Why Project.

AGFinancial: What were your immediate thoughts when you heard about this project?
Mel McGowan: That God is definitely in charge! Having worked on the master plan for this site over a decade ago before the church occupied the land, I felt a confirmation that there was a “Master’s Plan” here. We’re humbled to be able to be part of articulation of God’s “good, acceptable, and perfect will” being done here “on Earth, as it is in Heaven.”

AGFS: How does a partnership like this between a church and a nonprofit benefit the community?
MM: Too often, churches build “Members Only Christian Country Clubs,” which provides a way of “doing life” (sports, school, worship, coffee/fellowship) with only other church members. A partnership like this serves not just the internal “faith-based community,” but the actual community. This is a triple bottom line, which serves the mission of both the church and the nonprofit, while also blessing the city!

AGFS: Jonathan Bow, the lead pastor at Crosspointe, said he often gets asked why his church would do this. What’s your response when someone asks, “Why?”
MM: I would ask “Why not?” Why go into debt and build multi-million dollar buildings that sit empty 6 days a week? Jesus didn’t command us to build more holy temple structures. I believe that a more humble calling is to dig more Jacob’s Wells, where the unchurched of today can enter into conversations with believers and taste living water, even when they are doing “normal” things like working out and having coffee. We need to create space in our lives and in our communities where we create a bridge, instead of church walls that separate the church and unchurched, the lost and the found, the Body of Christ and community.

AGFS: Churches and nonprofits like the YMCA often share a lot of goals: cutting down crime, helping people in need, and providing easy access to activities. Do you think this partnership will be a trendsetter for ministries and nonprofits?
MM: Absolutely. We are already working on similar partnerships in other cities. It just makes too much sense to “stay in the box.”

AGFS: How does this partnership benefit both Crosspointe and the YMCA?
MM: A free building for the church. Free land and parking for the YMCA. No brainer.

Photo courtesy of Visioneering Studios

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