Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Sallisaw pursues pay-as-you-go project


From left: Don Burris, A.O. Campbell, Bryan Warner, Tami Martin, Pastor Al Potts, Max Nimmo, Gary Winton, Trad Lattimore, and Matt Duke dig in to the first phase of construction at Sallisaw-First.
SALLISAW, Okla. — First United Methodist Church in Sallisaw broke ground recently for a 300-seat sanctuary, which will add more than 7,000 square feet to the current facility.
In 2005 the church made a bold decision to move from its downtown location to property on McGee Drive, where there was room for expansion and growth.
In that vision, the sanctuary was part of the design. But with a careful view toward funding, a multipurpose building was constructed first, and that has been serving as a worship center, fellowship hall, classrooms, and meeting space.
A year ago, the congregation again made a bold move. They decided to build the sanctuary debt-free. That meant paying off a half-million dollars in existing loans and raising funds for new construction.
This choice was not made without much prayer and evaluation of priorities. “We felt that our mission and ministry had to be first priority, and building programs often drain off financial resources for those,” said Pastor Al Potts.
“This was also something we needed to do now for future generations. We did not want to saddle them with heavy debt.”
The members responded. A large initial gift sparked a wave of generosity that swept through the congregation. In mere months the loans were retired and the building fund climbed over $1 million.
Sallisaw-First Church’s Building Committee engaged Architecture Plus in Fort Smith, Ark., to draw plans.
Standing by their commitment to build debt-free, the congregation is taking on the project in three phases. “We hope to complete all phases within the next year,” the pastor said in October.
Each year First UMC spends about 15 percent of its general budget on missions and ministries both local and international. Church members are actively involved in the community and in the Cherokee Nation, providing assistance in various ways.  
“Our facilities simply provide a place for ministry to happen. We are excited about what God is doing here, and we realize it is all about God and not us,” Rev. Potts said.

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