Frequently Asked Questions

A list of common questions regarding the Horse Farm property development and our Campus Vision Committee

The Campus Vision Committee has been tasking with gathering information on what our members feel are the most important needs facing the Spencerville Seventh-day Adventist Church, its future growth, and its many ministries to our communities. During discussions leading to purchasing the adjoining property, commonly called the “Horse Farm”, the major unanswered question of many church members was, “What would we do with the land?”

Below, you’ll find a selection of frequently asked questions concerning the campus development plan and the Campus Vision Committee.

Campus means all the land and buildings on the entire 34 acres we now own that fronts on New Hampshire Avenue and extends to our new back property line.  It includes the existing church building and parking lots as well as the Horse Farm.

No.  Existing land use and zoning regulations do not allow any further construction on that property.  However, we can use the rear of the SAA property for more tree-planting to offset any tree cover removed in future construction on our campus.

There are two types of community we are thinking about:  community of interest and community of place.

A community of interest is a group of like-minded people who share common interests and values.  Our Evensong Program is one example, connecting a group of people who share interests in music.  Some members of that community are members of our congregation, and some aren’t.

A community of place is where we live, work, and worship.  It’s our neighborhood, eastern Montgomery County.  It’s the geographic area where our church programs and activities minister to people.

As you respond to the committee’s survey, please keep both types of communities in mind.

Within our congregation, there are many smaller communities of interest, often organized as ministries.  HIS Teams, Women’s Ministry, the Keep in Stitches group, and the Pathfinders and Adventurers Clubs are all communities of interest.

Sometimes, a community of interest includes outside partners.  Spencerville Church is a member of the Colesville Council of Community Congregations (C-4), through which we partner with 28 other churches to provide compassionate support to those in need.  Many Spencerville Church members belong to several different communities of interest.

Spencerville Adventist Academy (SAA) is a great example of both types of communities. On the one hand, it is a community of place—a location where a dedicated faculty provide a Christ-centered education that meet the academic and spiritual needs of its students.  Its “neighborhood” is broad—drawing students from north of Baltimore to Vienna, Virginia.

SAA is also a community of interest—supported by people who share a common interest in the practical and eternal value of a Seventh-day Adventist education.

SAA is a good example of a ministry that engages in “out-reach” as well as “in-reach.”  SAA conducts out-reach by serving students whose parents aren’t Seventh-day Adventists.  It’s also a good example of in-reach, serving the needs of students who are part of the Spencerville Church congregation.

Since September 2018, our mission has been simply stated as, “to make Jesus better known and better loved.”  Although short, this mission includes both out-reach to non-members as well as reaching our own members and children.

Yes.  Our vision statement has four components: (1) equipping for service and ministries; (2) nurturing; (3) offering compassionate support to those in need; and (4) teaching and preaching.  Ideally, all that we do should relate in some way to one or more of these components of our vision.

The first thing that the Campus Visioning Committee desires is for church members to think broadly about how we can better serve and support our communities and their needs—those inside and outside our congregation.  For some interests and places, we are already doing a good job of serving and supporting.  But in other areas, there are gaps in our capacity to serve and support people, ministries, and programs.  Where are the places and interests that create a burning desire for us to do more?

A popular contemporary Christian acronym is WWJD—What Would Jesus Do?  Where are the greatest and most important unmet needs in our communities?  What would our faith and our congregation be like if we united our energies in meeting those needs?

Here are two examples.  Some church members may place great value on helping others learn about healthy lifestyles.  Others may be strongly interested in having a very active Sabbath School class for church members who are attending local colleges.  These are two examples of needs that are already generating much interest and enthusiasm among some Spencerville Church members.

As you think about the spectrum of needs our congregation could fulfill, we begin to define our desired future.  If you think it’s a great need to have healthy lifestyle programs and activities and a Sabbath School class devoted to study by and ministry to college-aged church members, then the next step is considering questions including:  How can our campus help serve and support these compelling needs?  What changes might be needed in our land uses and facilities to better support these activities?  For example, do we want to create a walking trail through natural settings to promote outdoor exercise in the fresh air?  Do we want a Sabbath School room committed to college-age members programs and activities?  What would it take to develop our campus to better serve these needs?  This is a needs-driven, a purpose-driven visioning exercise.

Immediately jumping to a proposal to build or remodel something on our campus won’t be as insightful to the committee, and ultimately the Church Board, as understanding why a proposal is so important to you.  Further, there may be more the one potential solution to a specific need expressed.  So clearly understanding the needs is an important first step before moving on to potential actions and solutions.  Therefore, our online form begins by first exploring what members think are the greatest needs of the communities important to them, and what the future would look like of those needs were met better than they are being met today.

The online response form provides an option for you to share in more detail your ideas.  Visit https://www.spencervillechurch.org/campus-visioning-committee, click on the form link and fill it out.  At the bottom of the form, there is a button where you can attach a lengthier description of your ideas to the form before clicking the “Submit” button.

Times and conditions have changed.  Our campus is now larger.  Our congregation is twice as large.  Some who were church members 15-20 years ago have left.  We have more ministries and outreach activities.  Some of the land use and zoning constraints (e.g., percentage of impervious surface) we faced back then have changed—both because of changes in county regulations as well as the addition of the new property to our campus.  Because of the many changes, the Church Board felt we should re-evaluate the past decision and take a fresh look at current and prospective future needs.  That’s why the Church Board decided last October to create the Campus Visioning Committee.

The Church Board asked this committee to develop a set of ideas about how our campus can be used to meet not only our current needs, but also future needs, and to present several options to the Board for their consideration.  The Board expects to receive our report in September or October 2019.

The Church Board will then decide what to do next.  They are the decision-making body, not the committee.  It’s highly likely that the Board will conclude that one or two of the options need some additional work before the Board decides on what to recommend to the Church in Business Session.  If so, the board will probably ask a smaller, different team of people to develop that more detailed information, depending on the additional information needed and the expertise required to develop it.

The type of additional work depends on the nature of the option being considered.  The additional work might be civil engineering or landscape architecture or zoning work, or something else. Those sorts of technical work are beyond the scope of the committee’s assignment and the expertise of our members.  The point is that the Church Board will need to decide what option(s) they want to study further and then appoint a small team to complete the additional work.  That is the same process the Church Board used when they appointed a small team to perform “due diligence” studies before purchasing the Horse Farm property.

That’s great!  We want to hear from you.  But Sabbath mornings in the foyer aren’t the appropriate times for business like this.  We invite you to reach out to the Chair of the Campus Vision Committee or one of the other committee members outside of the Sabbath hours in order to share your views. Contact information for the Chair and other committee members is in the latest church directory.

The Church Board delegated the responsibility for establishing the church’s relationship with the Horse Farm operator to the Church Finance Committee.  That committee developed a new lease with the operator.  The lease terms were reviewed by our legal and insurance advisors and Chesapeake Conference officials before they were signed by the operator and us.

The lease terms provide that the church or the operator must give the other party 12 months notice of their intent to terminate the lease.  Meanwhile, we are working together on building maintenance, tree-trimming, and site clean-up; actions that benefit both of us.  The church is receiving monthly lease payments from the operator, which help to cover some of our expenses.

The Church Building and Grounds Committee can set up a walking tour of the Horse Farm if a group of church members are interested.  Because we have leased the property to the operator, any tour must be pre-arranged with notice given.

Two different land use zones occur on our campus.    The front portion of our campus is zoned RE-1, a residential zone where detached houses predominate.  The rear portion of our campus is zoned RC, a zone intended to preserve the rural character of the land for agriculture and other natural resource uses.  Each of these zones has different regulations and requirements.  For example, the minimum house lot size in RE-1 is one acre compared to five acres in the RC zone.

The boundary between the RE-1 and RC zones is roughly aligned with New Hampshire Avenue, bisecting the front of our sanctuary.  Measured from the edge of the New Hampshire Avenue right-of-way, the depth of the RE-1 zone ranges from 125 feet (by the Choir room) to 660 feet along the front of the Horse Farm.

The current RE-1 Residential Use zone means that creating some sort of commercial enterprise on the front part of the Horse Farm portion of our campus would likely face rezoning difficulties.  The likelihood of a costly and lengthy rezoning process and the large lot minimum lot sizes is what led other potential buyers of the property to back away.

Having the Horse Farm—a permitted agricultural use—helps the church maintain a much lower annual property tax rate than we would face if the farm were not there.

If the church decides to shift the use of the Horse Farm part of our campus to some other church-related use, then we will need to develop a new site plan and go through the process of obtaining a zoning variance.  During the “due diligence” studies conducted before we purchased the property, these technical details were discussed with a civil engineer and lawyer.  The church has completed this process before—once when the original church building was constructed and once when we acquired the property on the north side of the sanctuary that is now a parking lot.  The “forest restoration” sign-posts along the edge of the parking lot are there because of obtaining the variance we needed to build the parking lot.

The Campus Visioning Committee was not asked to do the project planning that would be needed to develop cost estimates.  After the Church Board decides what project(s) to study further, a planning team will need to be appointed to develop conceptual plans, the site plans, and cost estimates.  Realistically, it will probably take at least two years to get to the point where a specific project is recommended to the Church in Business Session for the congregation’s consideration.

Whatever project(s) are approved by the business session will also need a financial plan that includes fund-raising.

Most church members should be familiar with all these steps because we went through them all while building Spencerville Adventist Academy.  But because all that happened a decade ago, some of our newer members might not recall all those steps.