West Side Church looking to share space

Greater St. John Bible Church eager to lease space to address financial woes

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By ROBERT FELTON

Shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday, The Greater St. John Bible Church, located on 1256 N. Waller Ave., put out an ad on craigslist.com.

The subject: Church Space Share.

The church, facing a financial shortfall, is looking to rent space to an interested business partner to aid in some of its costs.

"We've been pretty hard hit by the current economic crisis and have really had to make some financial adjustments to stretch our resources," said Rev. Ira Acree.

 "I have a staff of 1,200 employees, 1,188 of them work voluntarily, the other 12 are paid staffers. They have been incredibly accommodating of their time during these difficult times."

In fact, Acree says, the paid staff has recently had to take a pay cut as one way to deal with the crisis.

Part of the problem comes from the fact that so much of Greater St. John's financial support comes from donations-some private and others from collections-which have been slowly in decline over the past several months as church members have been forced to tighten their belts.

"The simple fact of the matter is: The people are hurting," said Rev. Acree. "And when the people are hurting, they must do what they can to sustain themselves."

This would not be the first time the church has housed another business. Back in 2001, the church shared space with a Marcy-Newberry associated Headstart program at the church.

Once the non-profit relocated in 2002, the church simply chose to use the space for afterschool programs and youth themed initiatives in the eight years that followed.

However, because of the budget constraints, the church was forced to suspend its afterschool programs indefinitely.

Now that Greater St. John is in the market for a partner to share space with, Rev. Acree says the church is open to perhaps a Headstart program or a food pantry, however, an afterschool program would be his preference.

"I think that the church has become affiliated with so many youth centered programs, like Safe Haven with the Chicago Public Schools, that it would be ideal to have the organization that we work with cater to that area," he said. "But ultimately, we are just looking for a solid fit for the church."

Rev. Acree says that the budgetary issues of the church are not yet a threat to the church's sustainability and that it does not face closure.

Nevertheless, he does concede that any attempt to expand the church would be difficult to do until its financial situation improves.

"As long as the overall solvency of the church is in question, the goal that we have had to expand will be on hold," he said.

Among the amenities the church is promoting: Free Wi-Fi, a full industrial kitchen, a decent sized storage space, access from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and the ability for the renter to choose whether they want the flexibility of a short lease or the security of a long lease.

For information about the available space, contact Bernard Lilly at lillyrev@aol.com or call the church directly at 773-378-3300.

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