Congregational Letter

Dear friends:

As you know, we are preparing for a virtual Town Hall meeting on Monday, October 12th. This will be followed by a virtual Congregational Meeting on October 26th at 7:00 pm, at which time we’ll vote on the offer we have received from MetroGroup Development to purchase our West Campus property.

If the congregation votes to sell the West Campus, I also want to acknowledge that I know that it will be hard on some of our members. Our church buildings are special to us. We celebrate births, grieve the loss of loved ones, laugh and cry and grow together within their walls. I hope we can all be sensitive to this fact in the weeks and months to come. Let’s be kind to each other.

We have tried to anticipate as many questions as possible in order to have an efficient meeting in a few weeks. In this message I want to share the details and decision-making that got us here.

Who is making this recommendation?

In February 2020, our church voted to convene a special task force to receive purchase offers for the West Campus on behalf of the church. Task force members include Leadership Council Chairman Chuck Reeder, Trustee Bruce Wetmore, Trustee George Liebel, and Lay Leader Danny Davis. Sharon Saige and I served on the task force as ex-officio members.

The task force was given the following mandate:

To receive offers for the West Campus church property for market value (at least), with preference given to buyers open to a partnership allowing FUMC to continue its presence on the property.

What is the appraised value of the West Campus property?

The appraised value as of 6/20/19 was $3,555,000. The appraisal report is available to view here.

What are the terms of the offer being presented?

A letter of intent from the potential buyer, MetroGroup Development, is available by calling the church office.

What process did the task force use?

The task force decided to use the firm of Avison Young to assist with marketing to, and vetting of, potential buyers. Avison Young is a global commercial real estate firm with an office in Boca Raton at Lynn Financial Center. Additionally, we received legal advice from John Cappeller of Cappeller Law in Boca Raton.

Click here for a detailed timeline on the task force’s activities outlining actions, offers received, and the committee’s final recommendation.

How did the task force decide to move ahead with the offer before us now, and what offers were rejected?

In total we received 10 offers: 3 from churches and 7 from real estate investors and businesses.

We decided to reject offers with unfavorable or undesirable terms. We also felt it important to find a buyer able to work quickly through the due diligence period. (Due diligence in this context means a standard period in a real estate transaction allowing the buyer to check out all assets and requirements of the property in order to understand repairs, environmental concerns, zoning laws, insurance requirements, and other matters before the transaction is completed. If substantial concerns arise during the due diligence period, the potential buyer has the right to terminate their offer.) Finally, we decided to reject offers below market value.

Seven (7) offers received were below market value. Unfortunately, all offers that could have allowed a continuing partnership with FUMC were significantly under market value and included unworkable requests. One church, for example, wanted to require those that attend the West Campus to merge with their church. Another church requested a 10-year, interest-free balloon payment without any details as to security or source of fund for the original deposit, which we don’t have the means to support.

Three (3) offers were above market value (including the one we selected).

The highest offer we received was not selected because the buyer requested a due diligence period of 18-24 months without significant at-risk deposits.

We decided to accept MetroGroup’s offer for several reasons. They are an established developer with a good reputation. They submitted an above-market offer noncontingent on full governmental approvals, and they requested a 120-day due diligence period that indicates a willingness to work quickly. The due diligence period starts after the approval of the sale by both FUMC and our district, and a fully executed purchase and sale agreement.

If the sale goes through, what does MetroGroup plan do with the property?

This has not yet been announced, though we do know it will likely be a retail project. Whatever the property becomes, it must conform to the existing zoning and preserve the existing wetlands. MetroGroup’s past and present clients include national and regional retailers such as Tractor Supply Co, Cumberland Farms, Chase, CVS, WaWa and others.

If we vote to sell the property, then how long will we be able to continue church operations on the property?

If all goes as planned, we predict the deal will close in March/April of next year. We would need to transition away from the property by approximately June 2021.

After the property is sold, what will happen to those that attend the West Campus who aren’t able to come east?

Five years ago we created a vision statement for our church that has been our North Star in terms of direction. That document expires at the end of 2020, so we recently convened a strategic planning task force to work with our pastors to pray, strategize, and discern goals for our next five years.

Members of the task force come from both the east and west campuses. The survey we distributed a few weeks ago is part of that process, and we’ll continue to seek the input of church members in the months to come.

One aspect of the task force’s mandate is also to provide direction about how FUMC looks after our anticipated transition from two physical campuses to one. We are considering several options, including the possibility of renting a space on Sunday mornings to allow worship out west to continue. Though we have yet to formulate specifics, we are committed to maintaining a presence in West Boca.

Our mission as the church of Jesus Christ is certainly to take care of each other in our own congregation during this transition. Our overall mission is to continue to share God’s love with our entire Boca Raton community.

Note that our financial realities are still very much a concern. FUMC has spent more than we have taken in for more than a decade now, and our reserves are lower than they should be. All planning for the future assumes that we will operate within budget, which should be more manageable with one campus. (Note that according to the Book of Discipline, we cannot use the money from the sale of property for our operating budget. We will, however, be able to use the interest accrued from that money to fund operations.)

Since our current vision statement runs out at the end of this year, the task force will be working quickly to provide recommendations, which will be shared with leadership for approval, by December 2020.

Still have questions?

In order for us to hear from as many people as possible, we will be taking questions before the meeting. Not everyone is comfortable raising a hand and speaking up in front of a crowd: this method gives everyone a chance to be heard.

Please email questions by October 24th to Questions@FUMCBocaRaton.org.

Conclusion

I would like to say a big THANK YOU to the task force team for the many hours of meetings and emails, especially with COVID precautions, as it was even more work than anticipated. Also, I would like to thank Claire, Sharon, Becky, and Michele for sharing their time and talents.

So why do I believe this is the best decision for the future of FUMC? In short, the last six months have made it clearer than ever to me what is truly important as the church of Jesus Christ: the future of the church is within people, not within walls.

Since we went into quarantine in March, we’ve operated as a church with NO physical campus! And yet we have loved and prayed for each other from a distance. We’ve been meeting online and in small groups for worship, study, connection and community.

We join many other congregations, from a variety of denominations, who are realizing that the future of the American church is in finding ways to connect to and interact with people in our local communities, not in maintaining physical structures. The future of the church is in seeking opportunities to engage new people in new places, not in convincing people to come to our property on Sunday mornings. By supporting this recommendation that has been approved unanimously by our Leadership Council, we will be moving into a future that can be more focused on reaching new people.

This is an exciting time to be the church of Jesus Christ!

Please be in prayer about our upcoming church meeting on Monday, October 26th. Pray specifically that God challenges us to not simply maintain the status quo but instead for FUMC to thrive at sharing the love of Jesus Christ in new spaces.

In God’s Amazing Grace,

Pastor Marcus, Senior Pastor