Frequently Asked Questions

Vision and Process

We imagine that ministry 30 years from now will look much the same as what it looks like now. For instance, the sanctuary will continue to be used for worship, but the ceiling needs an upgrade, including a new sprinkler system to bring it up to code. We also expect to continue serving our local community with a welcoming, functional building, but we don’t have a definitive vision of what that looks like. For instance, will we be offering ESL classes in 2048? So we aim to support the general vision, with enough flexibility to support additional needs as the Lord wills.

  1. A few years ago, the Session decided that we would remain at our current location.
  2. Based on expert architectural guidance, we will not be demolishing our current facilities in order to re-build from scratch, but rather to re-invest in the building.
  3. The oldest section of the building (containing the library and church offices), if we modified it, would require significant expenditure due to ADA regulations.  Since this area of the building receives only a modest amount of congregational usage, we decided against any significant renovations.

Over a three-day period in Fall 2017 over fifteen New Lifers participated in a three-day charrette (an architectural term for design/planning session) to discuss building needs and possible enhancements. Architect Dave Tyler, representing Building God’s Way and the architectural firm Daniel Cook & Associates were in attendance, as well as congregational members Amy Lewis, Bob Custer, Bob Lyon, Cara Clark, Clint Files, Diane Kim, Ed Spector, Greg Raysor, Ian Oelschlegel, Jason Peterson, Ken Wilson, Mark Moser, Michelle Hopping, Nancy Bower, Piper Fordham, Scott Dirksen, Stephen Kim, and Todd Bellinger.

  1. Install an elevator to aid in general accessibility.
  2. Sanctuary improvements, primarily a modest expansion, technology upgrade, and a ceiling improvement for better lighting and acoustics.
  3. Improved security and efficiency for children’s ministry, including consolidation to a single floor/area.
  4. Space for communal gathering and conversations near the Sanctuary (a.k.a. “Third Space” or “Community Gathering Space”).
  5. Addressing significant needs caused by 30 years of deferred building maintenance.

We want the building to be pleasant — a warm and inviting atmosphere designed around hospitality.  It should make people not only want to stay, but also return. We also want it to be invisible and not call attention to itself.

Good facilities do not guarantee numerical growth, much less spiritual growth.  They do not “make disciples” (Mt 28:18-20). But it is also true that poor facilities can hinder growth.  Some current members of our church family almost didn’t return for a second Sunday at New Life because they questioned our building stewardship.  Guests often see things that long-time members no longer notice. A recent visitor’s first impression of the sanctuary was noticing the the ceiling’s state of disrepair, commenting that it was a negative distraction.  Other visitors routinely get lost in our building, and well-placed signs can only do so much.
We are already working towards one of them — children’s ministry security and efficiency.  This past summer, we swapped the locations of our Sr. High and elementary classrooms, putting Pre-K through 5th grade on the same floor.  Fully achieving our security goals would require an alternate pathway to reduce/remove general foot traffic from the children’s ministry hallway, which would require significant building enhancement.  But there are other goals that cannot be met without a large investment (e.g. improved worship and fellowship spaces). So we have taken an initial step this summer, but as a sign of our momentum, but a large investment is nonetheless needed.
This suggestion was discussed at the charrette.  Constructing a standard-sized gymnasium would require a large capital investment and result in ongoing operational costs and reduced available parking.  However, plans for the Fellowship Hall — which has been used for light gym activities, games, and recreation during Kids Clubs and other times — remain uncertain.  It is possible that it might continue to be used in this way.
Reaching the next generation is a need that New Life takes seriously.  Churches on “autopilot” tend to implicitly focus on the needs of the current leadership’s generation(s), and often only speak in the language and culture they easily recognize.  However, it would be misleading to view most of the proposed building changes as specifically targeting the next generation. Rather, much of what we are doing is simply enabling this building to survive and thrive for thirty more years.  Additional to that, addressing security and the need for deliberate social spaces in a disconnected and distracted world are strategic and loving responses to the changing culture at hand.
There are no plans at this time to change the Sunday worship format.
We currently allocate 23% of the general budget for missions, and nothing for building construction.  The last time we raised money for our building was 30 years ago, and we feel it is time to do so again.  Addressing deferred maintenance has become a non-negotiable activity for us, and in carrying that out we aim to do that in the most advantageous, cost-effective way possible.

Building Use and Ministry

Our current seating capacity is 383, with an additional 24 seats in the vestibule for a total of 407.  However, on a given Sunday, we typically have 370 seats set up, many of which are at odd angles to the stage and speaker.  The proposed expansion easily accommodates seating of 400-465, none of which are at odd angles. Overflow seating may be able to accommodate even more.

None of our missions budget (currently 23% of our overall budget) is being diminished or reallocated to our building needs.  Rather, the building project will rely completely on funds brought in from this capital campaign.

We are committed to improving the facilities for both types of ministries. For instance, the Food Cupboard (mostly outward-facing) received our first enhancement after the charrette, with KidsLife (mostly inward-facing) receiving the second. Furthermore, we will continue to provide multipurpose spaces that serve both types of ministries.

Our church leadership continues to ponder this question, and we seek your input as the design matures. As a result of preparing for this campaign, we have already made improvements to the Food Cupboard. If you have an idea of what mercy ministry you would like to see developed or further enhanced, please contact the diaconate, and if you think it might have implications for our work on the building, please let us know at

During the charrette, we learned that the building”s foundation was “built like a tank”. Not only is it already well-equipped to survive many more decades, but would be cost-prohibitive to demolish. Moreover, we would lose our grandfathered zoning status and we would have to comply with modern setback distances, reducing available parking. As for the old Weldon Hotel, we felt it was important to keep intact due to historical value and importance to the community.

There will be additional ongoing maintenance needs. We would look either into increasing staff, requiring budget adjustments and/or increased giving, or organizing teams of volunteers to reset rooms for various meetings.

We have already installed sound-absorbing acoustic panels on the walls, and are looking into further improvements to the room. No plans for this have been finalized, however.

The Easton Road-looking facade looks into the new Community Gathering Space and not the Sanctuary (which doesn’t have any exterior windows under the current design plan). But adding visibility into the building carries some intangible but very real benefits, as our activities become more transparent, demystified, and normalized to our surrounding community and the traffic along Easton Road. Not so long ago, many members in our community were curious about what goes on inside our walls, and even a bit suspicious. Our goal is to be better understood, and let’s not forget they help us to see out upon our local mission field, the Easton Road corridor!

We are blessed in that ESL, WBS, and Adult Ed ministries are flexible in their space requirements and usage. This is also true of many other meetings that take place in the building, and we will continue to offer up rooms available for those activities as well. Providing additional flex space was discussed, but we do anticipate our existing ministries to take advantage of the new spaces as well.

Possibly, but the church is currently not staffed to handle these events. There are many activities that happen throughout the church throughout the day and evening and even on Friday nights and Saturdays.

Renovations to the kitchen have not been considered. If you know of a need or have a suggested improvement, please submit your idea to

While alternative energy sources are possible, the design is not yet complete and so far they have not been considered.

Due to township ordinances, we are unable to provide emergency overnight shelter in our location. However, we have aimed to serve our community during winter storms and power outages in other ways, offering the building as a warming station, with heat, toilets, and a place to recharge phones during the day. In order to offer services like these in the future, we need a volunteer to help plan, organize, and staff the operation. If you are interested in serving in this capacity, please contact the diaconate.

On the contrary — our desire is for children to fully participate in the general worship service as they are able. But many preschool-age children are not ready to sit through a 75-85 minute long service, so our Kids Life program provides age-appropriate alternatives. Our hope is that as children grow, parents feel led to bring them into worship. This is an important part of their nurture being part of the church. We leave it up to parents to determine what their children are ready for, so it’s completely acceptable for them to spend most or all of their Sunday mornings in the Kids Life program, or to join their families upstairs in the Sanctuary during the service.

The Fellowship Hall design is not finalized. Multiple ideas are in consideration, including movable walls, using it as a permanent youth space, improving its gym-like capabilities, or leaving it as-is. Concerning the offices, other than a few wiring and lighting concerns, only a refresh of the main office has been discussed. (We would rather spend money on the more public areas of the building!) The current elementary space has been moved to the ground floor already, making room for a new Sr. High/young adult classroom in its space. The remaining classrooms in that hallway will continue to be a multi-purpose space for adult education and more.

The current plan does not commit to a change in where Adult Ed is taught. We are still considering this issue. Historically, Adult Ed is typically attended by those who have been at the church for some time. Yet, it is unclear if the current location is the cause of low visitor attendance or the effect of something else.

The exterior in the design concept received mixed feedback, so we initiated a “photo contest” for folks to submit alternatives. Numerous alternative facades were suggested, including quite a few with masonry options more common to the neighborhood.


Thrift Store funds support our diaconal ministry, and not anything in the church’s general budget (e.g. building improvements). There are no plans or proposals for the Thrift Store to help fund this campaign.

New Life purchased the Casa Conti on March 15, 1988 for $1.15 million. The entire amount was borrowed from PNC Bank at an initial rate of 11.25%. There was a three-year capital campaign for that purchase, which was extended an additional year to help people fulfill their pledges. During that time, a significant amount of interest accumulated, perhaps $300k or more, and some of the pledges were not received even with the extra year. The original purchase included two adjacent properties on Jenkintown Rd. These were sold in 1990, the proceeds of which helped pay off $200k of the loan principal. In 1991, the loan was refinanced with Union National Bank. We did not receive all the pledged funds and needed longer to repay the loan. During this time, the giving power of the church diminished significantly when New Life Fort Washington (now Dresher) was sent out as a daughter church. By the mid-1990s, the mortgage was still not paid off, so mortgage interest was added as a line item in the church budget. The loan was refinanced again in 1997 with a principal balance of $700k.

Here is a rough breakdown of above:

Original borrowed amount: $ 1,150,000
Estimated renovation expenses $ 200,000
Estimated interest (1987-1991) $ 350,000
Estimated interest (1991-1994) $ 180,000
Total debt: $ 1,880,000

Sale of adjacent properties: ($ 200,000)
Estimated pledges received: ($ 1,028,000)
Balance: $ 652,000

Additional expenses (refinancing fees, points on the loans): $ 48,000
Amount refinanced in 1997: $ 700,000

If the pledged total comes up short of the total cost, we will need to consider additional options, to include a possible second campaign and/or mortgage. If these options are not sufficient, we will need to prioritize our building needs and wishes and scale back renovation work appropriately. Specific priorities have not yet been determined.

No. Each should give cheerfully according to as he has decided in his heart (2 Cor 9:7). Both Zacchaeus’ offering (Luke 19:1-10) and the widow’s mites (Mark 12:41-44) were commended by Jesus on the basis of their voluntary gifts of faith and not according to their giving capacity. With Jesus’ priorities and values in mind, we hope for equal sacrifice rather than equal gift amounts.

Contact Dan Johnson if you are interested in helping out with the campaign.

The Nursery School has received grants for special projects in the past. For example, the playground renovation garnered about $50,000 in grants, donated material, and volunteer labor, including free trees and cabinets for classroom storage. For the building plans discussed on April 29, we have not yet identified a potential grant opportunity for the Nursery School. NLNS director Piper Fordham would be grateful for any help in getting more grants if anyone is interested in working with the preschool.

Historically speaking, uur weekly offerings frequently come very close to our annual budget and rarely produce any surplus. Our budget also includes a general building escrow account for heaters, roofs, carpets, wiring, phones, etc. This fall’s campaign is needed to raise funds for these things and much more.

Many in our congregation have volunteered their time and effort to this campaign, and we want to say “thank you!” in advance. To aid in organizing this effort, we have secured the organizational wisdom and services of Jeff Newlin, a retired pastor with immense experience in capital campaigns, who will personally provide the volunteer training necessary.

Miscellaneous expenses include: building & inspection permits, testing, taxes, management fees, design fees, civil engineering, and land development.

No, and as a result our cost estimate is most likely on the high side, because we expect actual costs to drop through various forms of church labor. For instance, certain unskilled and semi-skilled labor could be performed by volunteers.

Construction & Design

Disruption is quite likely, but depends on the scope of the final project and the sequencing (phasing) of tasks.

Construction is expected to take one to three years depending on the scope of the project and the phasing plan.

No decisions have been made since we don’t know the scope of the project. Potentially, we could meet in the Fellowship Hall, perhaps requiring three services, or create a temporary worship center in the parking lot, or make arrangements with another church or the Keswick Theater.

The Weldon Hotel, where our church offices are now located, is a unique and non-compliant structure. Any significant changes would trigger compliance requirements with the Americans with Disability Act, which would cost a lot of money (i.e. more than just an elevator, as expensive as that alone would be). We are not planning significant changes in this building.

We have had only informal discussions with the township so far. For the current drawing, a variance would be required for the sanctuary “bump out” on the south wall.

In the current design, there are no windows or skylights in the sanctuary, which has only one wall common to the exterior behind the stage. Additionally, some have proposed skylights, but roof penetrations can be challenging and costly to maintain and increase the risk of leaks. However, the design has not been finalized, and we have noted a difference of opinion on natural light within the congregation. We remain open to feedback, which may determine whether we include skylights or not.

The Community Gathering Space, as drawn on the current plan, shows a long and wide area with seating, tables, and coffee bar. Functionally, it is similar to Dresher’s gathering and conversation area, although the shape is quite different.

The architect and builder that were present at the charrette were hired only for the charrette to provide documentation and pricing ideas. There is no further obligation to obtain their services.

Statistically speaking, the probability is slim. But speaking in general terms, we are concerned with all aspects of loving and caring for the children in our church family, which include their protection. This includes performing criminal and child abuse background checks, following best practices for adult/child ratios, bathroom safety procedures, evacuating safety, and more. Preparing for the slim chance of an active shooter is included in this. It is increasingly expected by parents, and soon will become commonplace. We should note that our building already has many police-recommended child safety protections, however it lacks a security door at the entrance. This would be paid for by the New Life Nursery School. Other adjustments, such as toilets in each classroom, help in the day-to-day operation of the classes, but also help us comply with child abuse prevention policies of not being alone with children, especially away from the classroom, and keep teachers with their classes instead of out in the hallway and possibly exposed to an armed intruder.

All the pictures of disrepair in the building may have skewed perception a bit. Over the years the building has seen major repairs and upgrades: HVAC in the Fellowship Hall, flooring in the Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall, parking lot repairs, handicapped ramps, and building exterior repairs and painting. Church leaders, with the approval of the congregation, have not created escrow accounts for other major stewardship projects (e.g. roof replacement, electrical, windows, carpets/floors, or sound/light systems). In fact, the idea of escrow accounts for these projects was negatively received. Our focus at New Life has been on missions and various other ministries, and this continues today. Yet now we are at the place where repairs must be done, during which it is advantageous to consider enhancements as well. Concerning only the facilities we currently have, we are quite blessed to have a building that is paid for and wonderfully located. May God work through and in this building for another 30 years!

What's next?

Consider a commitment to the next 30 years of New Life Presbyterian Church.

Commitment Sunday was on November 18, 2018, capping off a month-long season of dedicated prayer and reflection.  However, we continue to pray for how God will use us for his purpose, and for the future of our church here in Glenside.

© 2018 New Life Presbyterian Church