God-Sized Dreams

Community UMC in Irwin, Pennsylvania would seem like the perfect candidate for a loan. The congregation has a strong commitment to giving, low debt, and they were able to pay off their last loan 9 years early! Yet, when it was time to complete their second building phase, they struggled to find a commercial lender that would allow them to live into the God-sized dream they had.

They envisioned a $10 million building and renovation project to do what God had called them to do. Local lenders seemed to want them to dream on a smaller scale, but the church knew these projects would enhance their ability to serve their mission field.

Pastor Rich Phipps and administrative director heather dolhi give a tour through the construction site that is community Umc’s new building.

Pastor Rich Phipps and administrative director heather dolhi give a tour through the construction site that is community Umc’s new building.

After a painful process trying to obtain a loan from three different banks, Heather Dolhi, Administrative Director, learned about The United Methodist Development Fund (UMDF) – a United Methodist organization that not only offers loans and investment opportunities to churches, but also uses a significant portion of their net revenue to support the work of the church.

Then, everything changed.

Community transitioned from filling out papers that only seemed to focus on finances to discussing their ministry vision. “It was like someone finally understood us,” Heather said with a laugh. “They understood what it was like to be part of a church that has multiple committees, which take part in leadership. They understood that I could not make a unilateral decision and move forward. More importantly, they understood what we were trying to accomplish and why.”

MIKE KLEINSCHMIDT and marsha phipps leading worship at the contemporary worship service.

MIKE KLEINSCHMIDT and marsha phipps leading worship at the contemporary worship service.

The church wanted to renovate and double their size. They envisioned a dedicated space for families with children and youth, a worship center that would nearly triple the capacity of their growing congregation, a space to support their intentional discipleship pathway, and more. Spaces that had been pulling double-duty, like their community events center, would be able to return to their intended purposes. With this vision, their facilities would finally serve as an effective tool enabling them to fully live into their mission.   

They received the loan and secured an agreement where they would make interest only payments initially, allowing the congregation to grow into a new level of giving. Additionally, this loan structure allowed the church to keep mission as the greatest priority. For Community, that means reaching their unchurched neighbors first and foremost. “In our area, 80% of the people living here have not professed faith in Christ. This loan enables us to reach people one-by-one, and we believe we will make great gains for the Kingdom because of our UMDF loan.”

UMDF believed in Community’s God-sized dream. What’s yours?