$5 Million Bridge to Somewhere: Tie it to the Purpose

October 14, 2009 by

Let's Build a BridgeChurch building campaigns can be hard for congregations to swallow. But how about building a $5 million bridge to ease parking congestion for a church? That’s what North Point Community Church outside Atlanta, Ga., is doing with their Let’s Build a Bridge campaign. When I first saw it I literally thought it was a joke. As the opening copy explained:

Are you tired of sitting in the parking lot for twenty minutes after church? Do you hesitate to invite friends to church because of the complexity of getting on and off our campus? Have you ever skipped the closing song to beat the crowds to lunch?

Therefore North Point needs a $5 million, three-lane bridge that spans 1,000 feet of floodplain and wetlands. It’s no joke. As North Point pastor Andy Stanley explains, this has been nine years in the making.

Before anyone dumps all over North Point, complaining about $5 million going to a better use or pointing out the evils of megachurches or urging North Point to go multi-site (uh, they already are and also plant quite a few churches), it’s worth letting Stanley explain it:

Is it worth it? It all depends. If our mission is to be a church that’s perfectly designed for the people who already attend, then we don’t need a bridge. But if we want to continue to be a church unchurched people love to attend, then yes, it’s worth it. From my perspective, this is not a “nice to have” option. Honestly, I don’t want to raise money for, or give money to, something that’s not mission critical. I believe creating a second access point allows us to stay on mission. That is why we’ve been working on this for nine years.

Stanley makes his pitch by tying it to the church’s foundational purpose: Being a church that unchurched people want to attend. And for North Point that means making it easy to attend, which means not dealing with a colossal traffic jam.

If that’s your purpose, a $5 million bridge might make sense.

Unfortunately that explanation is buried in a PDF. There’s also a lengthy video where Stanley humorously explains the rationale. That fundamental explanation should be front and center. This bridge isn’t about parking, it’s about making it easy for unchurched people to come to church and hear about Jesus.

The application for your church should be pretty clear, as Todd Rhoades explains:

Andy does what any good leader does in ‘selling’ an idea… he makes it critical to the mission. Because, Andy fully admits, if it doesn’t help North Point fulfill their mission, then it is NOT worth it. If it DOES, then it’s worth every single penny.

Are you trying to ‘sell’ something to your church? A new building? A new program? A new staff member? Have you tied it to your vision? If not, no wonder no one is getting excited about it. No wonder everyone says ‘it’s too expensive’ or ‘should we really do THAT’. If it’s not, as Andy says, ‘mission critical’, then guess what… it’s probably not worth it.

You can make up your own mind about the necessity of a $5 million bridge. But there are two lessons for your church from this example:

1) If your church is doing something important, tie it to your church’s purpose. If it’s worth doing it should naturally fit with your purpose. Otherwise why are you doing it?

2) Put that explanation front and center.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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14 Responses to “$5 Million Bridge to Somewhere: Tie it to the Purpose”

  • Matt Algren
    October 14, 2009

    Wouldn’t it be cheaper and easier to move to a building that doesn’t need a $5 million dollar bridge?

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  • Neal Phillips
    October 14, 2009

    A building for more than 20,000 church attenders for under $5 million is not a reality anywhere near Atlanta. I “believe the best” in Andy’s vision for his church. I’m sure he’s prayed once or twice about the decision.

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  • Sean Salter
    October 15, 2009

    It would really cool if they could find a way to make this huge under taking a wY to bless the community to. Great marketing opportunity there. Building a bridge not only to the church but building a bridge to the community.

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  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    October 15, 2009

    I was wondering about that, too, Sean. When my church did our last capital campaign for our building expansion we gave 10% of the total to a partner church in Haiti for their building project.
    Certainly not the only way to do it, but it made a lot of sense.
    My guess is that North Point felt that they do a lot of giving outside the church in other areas, so there was no need to tie it to this project.

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  • Marc Aune
    October 15, 2009

    Building projects can be positive things to rally around. To that extent, I am optimistic that it will be unifying for many in the church. Six years ago, dozens of men from our congregation came together to move the church garage across the property and it is still viewed as a galvanizing event for those men involved.
    My concern would be the apparent lack of concern for the environment. Sure, it sounds like they got all the permissions required by law, but building a thousand foot hulking structure of steel and concrete through wetlands does not show respect for God’s creation, even though it is done under the premise of love for God’s people.
    Admittedly, I am much more inclined to hug people before trees, but to this outside observer, it just doesn’t look good.

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  • John (Human3rror)
    October 15, 2009

    Thanks for blogging about this initiative. We’re excited about how it’s going to help a lot more people access the church. It is core to our mission and success. and it’s been a long time coming.

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  • Steve
    October 16, 2009

    Great post. It would be good to do a whole post on different capital campaigns again. We just did one and raised in 8 months $1.7m though we were expecting $2m to come in over 3 years. People caught the vision and gave – slap bang in the middle of the GFC.
    Only God.

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  • Rich Barrett
    October 19, 2009

    Balancing care for creation and the infrastructure necessary for growth is a delicate balance in ANY civil engineering project, and is part of why this was debated for so long.
    It is a bridge, and not a surface road, for exactly that reason—to preserve as much nature as possible
    Keep in mind this is Atlanta… not exactly remote territory unfamiliar to steel & concrete.

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  • Ryan
    October 30, 2009

    I live in the Atlanta area, and will admit I have never visited NP. I have heard a lot about their church – opinions, experiences, etc – and I’ve found that sometimes I think what they’re doing is spot-on with the gospel, and other times I’ve questioned their motives.
    But recently I’ve found that every time I hear or read something from Andy Stanley, I see his heart for the lost and his desire to impact as many people with the gospel as he can. He is not about numbers, he is about each individual person that his church comes into contact with – inside or outside the walls.
    Every time I’ve found myself questioning their motives is a result of listening to or reading someone else’s critique or opinion. Too many people are too quick to insert their “expertise” on a situation of another church, or its leadership, when they have no knowledge of the situation outside the article they just read.

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  • Zach Lorton
    November 10, 2009

    Our church is launching a fundraising campaign for several areas of mission ministry that we already actively support, although many of our members don’t even know we’re involved, so we developed the 0 TO 60 IN 40 DAYS campaign. Between November 15th and December 24th, we’re looking to raise $60,000 to help these ministries thrive and continue ministering to those in need. You can check out more information at our website, which is at http://www.0to60in40.com. You can also view a promotional video I created at YouTube. I hope it inspires you and gives you an idea for your ministry.

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  • cheapman
    August 26, 2010

    I hate to tell you this is misguided and a huge blunder for a megachurch to make. A 5 million dollar bridge in the midst of the worst economy since Jesus was here. Come on now! WWJD How about a 5 million dallor cross to bear our sins!!!

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  • Grace Nabundince
    October 5, 2010

    Dear Cheapman:
    1. Usually when you have to start a sentence off with “I hate to say this” you are about to say something you shouldn’t.
    2. You are too influenced by the media. This is not the worst economy since Jesus (or even in recent history)
    3. Your brashness is astounding. Though the NP Staff, city officials and others have spent months analyzing it you can shoot from the hip and say it is a huge blunder? Mega-impressive.
    4. “Cheapness” (frugality) is not a virtue if it means we are holding on to resources God gave us to use for His Kingdom.
    5. Finally, WWJD? It is hard to say. He was always surprising the very disciples who walked with Him for 3 years. My guess is He would surprise you and provide more than enough for NP to complete this project just to show He is not deterred by man’s economy. Let’s watch and see.

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    • Really
      November 3, 2011

      Sometimes you might not fully agree with what you hear and see at NP, but overall my experience with NP has been fantastic and I am really grateful for what they do.

      Having said that, this project has been the only time were I totally disagreed with Andy & NP.

      Frankly, if what really is a 10-15 minutes ‘traffic jam’ to get out of NP, is not worth your time to listen to the message and live the experience, then the problem is different.

      We are spoiled enough, and ‘wasting’ 10 minutes in the car could be put to good use to debrief the message, discuss about what you learned, about how you will apply it, as a family, or as individual. We spend hours texting, playing with apps, … etc. (won’t even go deeper there)

      IMHO, $5M can be used in much more relevant ways. How many high quality school days that would pay? How many meals? How many churches? etc..

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  • bonzomatic
    November 22, 2011

    I would like to point out that Northpoint also raised $1.7 million in less than ONE WEEK to give to local charities. That’s pretty amazing when the original goal was to collect $500,ooo over several weeks. I would say that building that bridge has truly paid off because it has made coming to a big church a lot less intimidating.

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