No, this does not refer to an actual street corner in Spokane but to a merging of two components that have historically been kept apart – business and ministry. This story takes place in Portland, OR where I had the opportunity to sit down with Ryan Saari, a staff member of the Eastside Foursquare Church. What prompted our face-to-face was the surprising discovery that the motel my wife and I were staying in was owned by the church. I was intrigued. How does a non-profit run a for-profit business? How did they come up with the capital to invest in this property? What impact are they having on the community through this venture? Ryan agreed to meet with me at the Sacred Grounds coffee shop – also operated by the church. If you have read much of my blog you know that I am a strong cheerleader for Next Generation leaders. Ryan is one such leader and it was great to meet him and hear about the Eastside story and what God has in store for Ryan down the road.
A few years ago Eastside was looking for a location for their church and they came across this rundown motel that was for sale. They ran the numbers and determined that this would make a great location for their church and the motel could be a viable business operation for them. In order to operate the motel they had to form a for-profit LLC. The LLC pours it earnings back into the property and gives away the rest to ministries that the church is connected to – a rehab center that operates on the campus and a family shelter. The motel operation provides an income stream to ministries that generate little or no income themselves. This is the intersection of Mission and Market. A successful market (the motel) the supports mission (the church, rehab center, and shelter). It sounds pretty simple. It is. But it wasn’t easy.
When the church approached their denomination for financial backing for the project they were turned down. No surprise here. Denominations are not in the habit of supporting marketplace ventures and are among the most conservative investors. So the church found financial backing from private investors. Later, when the motel was operating successfully the denomination backed the project. It took some time for the motel to turn a profit, though. The place looked like a crime scene from CSI. The majority of the rentals were hourly. This was not a place that most travelers would choose to stay. So Eastside poured money and energy into an amazing top-to-bottom transformation complete with pillow-top mattresses, granite slab tub surrounds, and granite counter tops. My wife and I stayed there for six nights recently and found it to be perhaps the quietest and most comfortable motel we’ve ever stayed in. It was exceptionally clean and the staff was extremely friendly and helpful. The motel has affiliated with the Choice hotel corporation operating as a Quality Inn and a Rodeway Inn. (The remodeling of the Rodeway side is not yet completed and so the room rates are a bit less.) They also operate a small conference center converting the space that the church uses into meeting rooms and banquet facilities catered through their on-site coffee shop operation.
As Ryan described it, the church was looking for a 7-day relationship with the community. They are so much more than a steeple on the corner where people can enter and partake in services on Sunday at 11. This is a church that very literally has their door open and their lights on 24-7. The model has been so positive for them that Ryan is making plans to plant another church in Portland in the next year that will also intersect mission and market. That’s another story for another time!