Parish Resource Center plans to sell building to Homestead Village
BY DAN NEPHIN, Staff Writer
The Parish Resource Center in East Hempfield Township plans to sells its building to neighboring Homestead Village and lease a smaller part of it.
Organization leaders say the deal, which is being reviewed by lawyers and could be finalized in about a week, is good for both organizations and the larger community.
The Parish Resource Center, which provides resource materials and consulting services to area churches, is serving about half the congregations it once did, said Scott Sheldon, president.
And Homestead Village needed more space, said its president, Douglas Motter.
"We're always growing and ... one of the improvements we needed to make to our community was a larger multipurpose activity space," he said.
Under the plan, Parish Resource Center would sell the 7,500-square-foot building to Homestead Village and then lease about one-third of it back for offices and a resource center to house religious resource materials.
The sale price wasn't disclosed, but the property at 633 Community Way is valued at $699,100, according to county records.
The building, built in 1991, includes a large "great room'' that evokes a church nave without pews.
"We're planning to use it for concerts, educational sessions, for social gatherings and other events like that," Motter said.
Homestead Village also plans to rent to nonprofits and other organizations, Motter said, noting the campus is home to Schreiber Pediatric Rehab Center, the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.
"We really want this to be a community resource center," he said.
The seeds of the sale began shortly after Sheldon became president of the center in January 2012.
Motter told Sheldon that if the center ever thought about selling the building it should first consider Homestead Village.
Talks began in earnest in the fall, and both organizations approved the plan last month.
"I did not come here thinking (about selling the building), but as I moved into a year in which Parish Resource Center was beginning a yearlong strategic planning process ... we began to realize that we needed to begin to make some changes" to better serve churches, Sheldon said.
Many churches are facing declining membership, he said.
There are "many contributing factors, but it means that most of the churches that we have served are much smaller now, their membership is older and there are fewer people to oversee the programs they've developed over time," he said.
The center has 107 "subscribing congregations," which is down from about double that number at its peak about two decades ago, Sheldon said.
The center offers a range of services to churches, such as helping create a youth ministry, developing capital campaigns or navigating leadership change.
It's also hoping to provide half or more of its services at churches, rather than at the center.
"For example, if one person comes through the door here and works one-on-one with a consultant, you never know how that will be translated, if at all, when that person goes back to his or her church," Sheldon said. "If I'm invited ... to a church, I often find there's a room full of people, so there are many more people who are part of the conversation and therefore it's a richer conversation that allows more people to be contributing not only to the conversation, but to the outcome."
Selling the building, he said, frees up the center to focus on helping churches.
"Oftentimes -- and churches know this all too well -- their building can easily become their mission,'' he said. "They devote their time and much of their money to taking care of their building.
"And we could have fallen victim to that same thing in holding on to our building in spite of our mission."