School Board Blues
Read the first part of the story here.
I thought I had it all figured out. Based on my research of what the school board was looking for, their potential objections and final presentation, I was sure the school board proposal would simply be a formality for us to begin our first rural multisite location in Neepawa.
But that's not exactly how things went.
Backing the story up a bit, the school board trustee I had talked to was hesitant on two major areas with granting us permission to use the local schools:
We also included in our presentation the kind of church we are: a place where some of the least-likely to come to church end up giving their lives to Christ and making big changes in their family and life. While a school board wouldn't be all excited about people finding Jesus, per se, they would see the benefit of families being turned around for the better.
We also wanted to do everything we could to let them know that a year from now, they would be happy that we were their tenants and wouldn't want us anywhere else because of the blessing we might be able to be to the local schools. This was tricky to navigate because we didn't want to appear to be greasing any palms but we wanted to let them know that we knew about the stress of sharing facilities and would do everything we could to alleviate it - including paying more, buying mutually beneficial supplies and generally blessing the teachers and principal.
We left the meeting thinking that we had provided a clear presentation that would allow them to make an easy decision in either direction. All we had to do was wait.
The next week, a letter arrived that let us know that the school board had voted to deny our request to use their facilities. I was shocked.
This seemed like one of the last pieces to fall into place to allow us to have church services happening by January. If we had gotten the green light, we would have been on the phone to Portable Church Industries to get us outfitted with the potable church solution that would fit out needs best.
Instead I was left with a crushing feeling. The letter officially stated that they denied our request based on a local community college requesting to use their facilities after hours during the week and they thought it best to allow recreation and educational groups in above other groups. It was an us or them decision.
I kind of get that. However, the letter (and official board minutes) contained wording that opened up the ability for us to fight to be allowed in based on a freedom of religion violation. In my anger and hurt and shock of the situation, I wanted to fight hard against their decision. To pick up the phone and drag them over the coals for their (potential) discrimination.
How dare they? Don't they know how much is riding on this facility? How could they deny our request when we had, in my opinion, overcome all of their objections?
In the midst of a door being shut, God was drop-kicking open another one that was was way more important than a building....
More to come.
I am a pastor in rural Manitoba that is passionate about the church, leadership, coffee and bicycles.