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A Tale of Two Lenders

Out of space and out of time, Sunnylane Church needed a loan to grow. But the promise of an ultra-low interest rate turned into a financing nightmare for this Oklahoma City congregation.

Drew Sanford was frustrated. He’d already wasted too much time working to secure a loan for Sunnylane Church, the Southern Baptist congregation where he served as student and administrative pastor. A California-based credit union had wooed Sanford with an ultra-low interest rate, but after nearly four months of negotiations, the relationship had yielded little more than a mountain of paperwork. Sanford felt like he was getting nowhere, and the church didn’t have time to lose.

Nestled in a suburb of Oklahoma City, Sunnylane was growing. Attendance on an average Sunday morning regularly topped 300, and though the church’s sanctuary hadn’t yet reached capacity, education space was at a premium. Adult Sunday School classes, which Sunnylane brands “Connect Groups,” were completely out of room, forcing some classes to meet in odd, improvised spaces like hallways or the foyer outside the church’s sanctuary.

Portrait of Frontline pastor Josh Kouri

SHEPHERDS – Drew Sanford (left) grew up at Sunnylane and today serves as the church’s student and administrative pastor. Danny Gandara (right) was called to Sunnylane as senior pastor in 2017.

Danny Gandara, Sunnylane’s senior pastor, says it’s a good problem to have, but one that needed to be addressed quickly to facilitate future growth.

“The heartbeat of Sunnylane is advancing the Gospel throughout our community. We want to focus outward, not inward,” Gandara explains. “As our Connect Groups grow, we want them to birth new groups. But finding the space to accommodate these groups has been one of our biggest challenges.”

As Gandara and Sanford searched for a solution in the summer of 2021, they quickly ruled out new construction — costs were simply too high. That’s when they turned their attention to an existing church building adjacent to Sunnylane’s property. The church had disbanded and the building was no longer in use. It needed significant renovation but would be cheaper than new construction and would provide Sunnylane with plenty of growing room. Total estimated cost for the project, including the property purchase, was about $500,000.

With a plan in place, Gandara and Sanford turned their attention to financing. They reached out to WatersEdge Ministry Services, which had provided the loan that funded construction of Sunnylane’s sanctuary 12 years earlier. WatersEdge offered a competitive interest rate for the new project, but Gandara and Sanford wanted to ensure they were being good stewards
of the church’s resources, so they also shopped the loan with several banks. That’s when a California-based credit union made an offer they couldn’t ignore — 3.25 percent — nearly a full percent less than any other quote they’d received, including WatersEdge. The rate represented an overall savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We did the math and it was like $64,000 a year that we would save on our payments just from that 1 percent difference,” Sanford says. “That’s huge, especially to a ministry like ours where every extra penny goes to missions or something that spreads the Gospel.”

The 3.25 percent rate almost seemed too good to be true — and it was. As Sunnylane began the loan process, the credit union asked for extensive documentation that WatersEdge doesn’t require. This often includes items like an appraisal, inspections, compliance certificates and audited financial statements — all paid for at the church’s expense. Sanford says the credit union even asked for “nitpicky stuff” like additional signatures on the church’s bylaws. Each time Sanford supplied the requested information, the credit union would ask for something else. Weeks would go by between each request, and the process soon passed the two-month mark, then three.

“Every step the credit union had took forever,” Sanford says. “They just kept giving us more paperwork.”

The ultra-low interest rate the credit union offered began to climb, too. It jumped to 3.4 percent, then 3.65 and then 3.85. That was the breaking point. Now a full half percent above the credit union’s original 3.25 offer, Gandara and Sanford reached back out to WatersEdge.

Gandara shared his frustration with Jerry Vaughan, WatersEdge’s chief lending officer, who offered a rate that could compete with the credit union. What’s more, Vaughan promised to close on Sunnylane’s loan in less than a month.

“They sent me to the WatersEdge website to fill out the loan application, which took maybe 30 minutes,” Sanford remembers. “They asked for budget to revenue numbers for last year, and that was it.”

Photo of kids playing Jenga in Frontline's newly renovated east wing

ON MISSION – Christ’s call to missions in Acts 1:8 is front and center in Sunnylane’s foyer, part of senior pastor Danny Gandara’s emphasis to keep the church focused on reaching its community with the Gospel.

Vaughan closed Sunnylane’s loan three weeks later, as promised, with an added bonus. In addition to the $500,000 needed to purchase and renovate Sunnylane’s new educational space, WatersEdge was able to refinance Sunnylane’s existing sanctuary loan, lowering the interest rate by 1.4 percent — a drop that will save the church $1,069 per month, or $256,000 over the life of the loan.

Today, four months after securing financing with WatersEdge, Sunnylane is busy with renovations on its new 2-acre property, which the church has dubbed the “Ministry Center.” The plan is to move Sunnylane’s student ministry into the 6,000 square-foot building, which will free up additional space for the children’s ministry as well as provide seven new Connect Group classrooms. Renovations are expected to be complete by the end of April with the Ministry Center’s grand opening scheduled for May.

Portrait of Frontline pastor Josh Kouri

GROWING ROOM – Renovations continue on Sunnylane’s new 6,000 square-foot Ministry Center, which is scheduled to open in May 2022.

“We’re calling it the Ministry Center because we want to use it to minister to our community,” Gandara says. “It’s focused around Sunnylane’s vision of reaching and teaching and ministering for the purpose of souls being saved and lives being changed for the glory of God.”

Sanford is especially excited about the Ministry Center’s kitchen, a feature missing from Sunnylane’s original building.

“One of the big ministries we have is feeding the local high school football team every Friday night during the season,” he explains. “But we don’t only feed them physically, we feed them spiritually — we put the Gospel right in front of these students. That’s what this new Ministry Center is all about: reaching people outside the walls of the church.

“The Bible says to be good stewards,” Sanford adds. “WatersEdge helped us do that. They gave us a really good rate, streamlined the paperwork and made it easy.”

Renewing and Redeeming

WatersEdge partners with congregations to bring new life to church facilities through renovation and new construction. But unlike traditional lenders, the interest from a WatersEdge loan is poured back into Southern Baptist ministries that change lives with the Gospel. Contact a lending expert today to learn more or apply.

loans@WatersEdgeServices.org | 800-949-9988 | WatersEdgeServices.org/loans

portrait of Mike Schueler

Mike leads the WatersEdge marketing and communications team and serves as editor-in-chief of Generosity magazine. He lives with his wife and three daughters in Edmond, Oklahoma, and attends Quail Springs Baptist Church. Mike enjoys yard work, powered flight, and is a frequent patron of Hall’s Pizza Kitchen.

Mike Schueler
WatersEdge Vice President, Marketing and Communications | Oklahoma City, OK