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Project Reimagine

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President John Stumbo opened his August 2020 video blog by posing an important question: “For more than 30 years, the U.S. Christian and Missionary

Alliance National Office has been located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It’s a beautiful building in a wonderful location. Why, then, would we potentially give this up to pursue something else? The answer to that question could shape our movement for decades to come.”

Two months earlier, in considering a number of financial, logistical, and missional factors, the C&MA Board of Directors authorized the National Office administration to pursue the idea of relocation. In February 2021, the board voted to place the Colorado Springs building on the market. It is currently under contract.

FINANCIAL FACTORS

I’m one of the few remaining National Office staff who survived the 1989 relocation from Nyack, New York, to Colorado Springs. Being so close to New York City, the cost of living had risen to the point that establishing and maintaining a household was no longer affordable for staff. In addition, commercial real estate and other operational overhead made it difficult for the C&MA to effectively steward its resources to expand the reach of the gospel throughout the world.

The idea to relocate provided hope for something more fruitful and sustainable in a new location. Property funding grants, lower operational overhead, affordable commercial and residential real estate, and other economic incentives made Colorado Springs a welcome home for a host of other nonprofits.

Fast forward 30 years, and here we are again! Colorado Springs has doubled in size and become the hottest housing market in the country. Employees are again finding it difficult to afford adequate housing, and the cost of doing business has steadily risen. So once again, packing up and moving offers the best economic opportunity for both staff and mission to thrive.

LOGISTICAL FACTORS

My first assignments in the Nyack headquarters were to clean the bathrooms and to make frequent trips into upper Manhattan. If given a choice, I’d clean twice the bathrooms to avoid a trip to Manhattan. Traffic was always gridlocked, and navigating the hostility of other drivers was a blood pressure-raising adventure. Not to mention, getting to the airport—whether JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark—was always a “better-pack- lunch-and-dinner” excursion.

I can’t yet compare Colorado Springs traffic with that of the big city. But as it continues to expand at an alarming rate, navigating the strained infrastructure serves as an inevitable harbinger of the chaos to come. And even though the city has a decent municipal airport, it is much too small to compete cost-wise, which has forced most travelers attending Alliance events to fly in and out of Denver—a commute not unlike the New York/New Jersey airport experiences.

I know it may sound like I’m dissing our dear Colorado hosts. Not so! We have been blessed to be a part of this community. And just as we depart, there are a host of other technical and military-based industries eager to expand or set up shop in this wonderfully picturesque setting. So I wouldn’t say the National Office has outgrown this city— the city has outgrown us.

MISSIONAL FACTORS

Most critical to the decision to pack up and head east is the fulfillment of our Alliance vision: All of Jesus for All the World. We are a diverse denomination. Well over 40 percent of

our U.S. Alliance family is non-Anglo. Neither the Colorado Springs community nor the current National Office staff reflect this diversity. Shouldn’t we be located in a city that better represents who The Alliance is?

As President Stumbo described the Colorado National Office in his August 2020 video blog,

We are in a building that isolates itself intentionally from the broader public. Our staff can come in every day, including myself, and never have to engage with secular society. That troubles me, because who are we becoming by what we’re repeatedly doing? Over the course of years and decades, when our staff doesn’t have a natural connecting point through work to engage with the broader public, how does that begin to shape how we design, edit, lead, program? All those things are impacted by who we talk to day after day. Could we be in a setting whereby coming to work we actually engage with the public? Would that increase the evangelistic temperature of our team? And if our team’s evangelistic temperature was increased, would that in time increase the evangelistic temperature of this entire family? Yes, that is one of my continued passions and goals for this movement—that we care more deeply and engage more effectively with those who do not yet know Christ.

When the local Colorado Springs newspaper found out the National Office was relocating, they requested an interview. In answering the interviewer’s questions, I expressed the reasons for our decision to relocate while making sure to express deep gratitude for how the city has hosted our ministry. All-in-all, it was a good interview and provided some of the closure we needed. But after seeing the readers’ critical comments, it became clear that we had failed to establish a meaningful presence in our community.

Many staff were engaged in the local outreach efforts of our Colorado Springs–area Alliance churches. But as a National Office family, we failed to make much of a mark—at least a positive one—and vow to do better in our new Ohio home.

SO . . . WHY REYNOLDSBURG, OHIO?

As National Office leaders and the Board of Directors initially discussed the idea, a set of criteria emerged that shaped how potential cities and properties would be evaluated.

Twenty cities were reviewed and then narrowed down to three: Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Columbus. During the summer and early fall of 2020, members of the Board of Directors and the President’s Cabinet visited 90 properties in these cities before the leadership team unanimously recommended pursuing a specific location in Reynoldsburg, an eastern suburb of Columbus.

“Initially, we were attracted to Reynoldsburg by the friendly, inviting posture of the governmental leadership,” notes Robb Childs, relocation assistant to the president. “As we talked with them, we were drawn more deeply by a shared vision for a mixed-use development opportunity on a 15-acre parcel of land in an area that city leaders had long slated for redevelopment.”

Alliance leaders saw this as an opportunity not only to fulfill our mission and vision but also to provide a cam- pus that would serve the needs of the community with an events center and a hospitable space for people to gather. As Ohio pastor and former C&MA Corporate VP Jonathan Schaeffer notes, “We don’t want to be in a comfortable hidden enclave but an integral part of a community. We want our neighbors to know us and to see Christ in us.”

Seeing God’s clear direction as all financial, logistical, and missional criteria were met, the C&MA Board of Directors approved the recommendation to pursue relocating to Reynoldsburg and to allow the commencement of property negotiations on October 30, 2020.

On May 13, 2021, The Alliance became the new owners of a 10-acre portion of land located at the corner of East Main Street and Brice Road, containing a vacant Kmart and an existing McDonald’s franchise. Just a few days ear- lier, The Alliance had secured a building adjacent to this property, which will serve as the temporary National Office building until the Kmart is demolished and the new campus is developed over the next few years.

Project Reimagine donations are funding the National Office relocation to Ohio. This fundraising effort is completely independent from the Great Commission Fund (GCF). In other words, no GCF dollars were or will be used to purchase and develop the property—including the temporary office building—or to provide moving allowances for staff. During the initial exploration of potential properties in Cleveland and Columbus, The Alliance learned of financial incentive grants for organizations relocating to Ohio, bringing new jobs to the state, and investing in property acquisition and development. Once the decision was made to relocate to the greater Columbus area, Alliance leaders initiated a dialogue with JobsOhio, the agency responsible for overseeing and administering employer incentive grants. In mid-February the National Office was awarded a $1 million grant—the largest of its kind to be awarded and the first ever to a nonprofit! And there are no grant restrictions that would prevent The Alliance from fulfilling its mission and vision.

Reynoldsburg City Planner Andrew Bowsher writes, “[The Alliance is] not just a nameless entity that’s there to make money or to build buildings. They’re there with a purpose and a mission, and they not only want to raise Reynoldsburg but raise their own organization and footprint—and make what we’re trying to do even that much more important.”

Despite the degree of disruption caused by such a massive undertaking, there is unanimous agreement among

Alliance leaders and Reynoldsburg city officials that this is right for both The Alliance and the greater Columbus community. Some National Office staff have already relocated, and others will follow throughout the summer and beyond. As the person most involved in the day-to-day process of relocation, Robb Childs confidently observes, “Without any hesitation, I can say that God is in this. Let’s see what He does!”

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