ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.
Today’s guest blogger is Pastor Thomas Beavers . If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.
Am I mad for buying Century Plaza?
Yes, THAT Century Plaza– the abandoned mall in east Birmingham.
And that’s not even the mad part.
We’re buying a rundown behemoth of a property and converting it into a church and a school.
743,000 square feet of retail space; 62 acres; 1,400 parking spaces, and 1.3 miles around.
This project is not for the faint of heart.
And, yes we are mad!
Mad at the quality of life for many families in our eastern Birmingham neighborhoods.
This is a joint venture we are doing with God to change lives.
Who is Thomas Beavers and what makes me tick?
I’m Thomas Beavers, servant leader and senior pastor of New Rising Star Church in East Birmingham. I succeeded my grandfather in ministry, Dr. Tommy Chappell who served as the senior pastor of New Rising Star Church for 35 years (1975-2010).
I started preaching the gospel after graduating high school July 16, 2000; but I never thought that I’d be a pastor. After playing basketball at Kentucky State University (2000-2004), I graduated with a B.S. in Biology with plans to be a medical doctor.
I realized that I had the potential to be a doctor because I could make good grades; but I didn’t have the passion. I didn’t want to become another person who hated going to work every day.
Therefore I pursued a full-time ministry by enrolling in Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in August 2004. I graduated Beeson May, 2007 with a Masters of Divinity and again in December 2013 with a Doctor of Ministry.
I’m now living my dream by doing what I was born to do: know Christ, make him known to the world, love people, lead people, and empower people.
Century Plaza and Community Development
So why would I lead our church to pursue the aging Century Plaza property?
Our church is in zip code 35206: a Birmingham area of high crime, high poverty, and questionable education. This doesn’t mean that all schools are bad, but many people do question the educational system in Birmingham city.
A lack of education leads to poverty, and poverty leads to crime. When people don’t have what they need, they take what they need by any means necessary. For this reason, my grandfather, Dr. Tommy Chappell, who is now our Pastor Emeritus, had a heavy focus on community. I’m just continuing what God started through him.
New Rising Star Church is heavily involved in Community Development. Community Development is about developing people. Communities are people and not buildings. This doesn’t mean that we don’t need a building, but our vision dictates the kind of building that we need.
We develop communities in six ways: education, financial literacy, workforce development, housing, recreation, and the church.
When people consider a place to live, they make decisions directly or indirectly surrounding the quality of these six areas.
What is the school system like? What are the financial institutions like, or do we only have payday lenders in the community? Is there a viable workforce? Can I gain a skill to make a sustainable living?
When people act out, it’s not because they are bad; it’s because they are bored.
When a church invests resources in these six areas of the community, she now has the power to turn dilapidated communities into developed communities. New Rising Star Church already has efforts in all six of these areas.
New Rising Star efforts in the area of education thus far include the following: early childhood learning center (6 weeks-4 years old), summer enrichment camp (200 plus kids), spring break, enrichment camp (75 plus kids), after school enrichment program (50 plus kids), and Star Academy Charter School (Opening August 2018). These efforts are driven by the New Rising Star Community Support Corporation.
New Rising Star efforts in the area of finance include the New Rising Star Community; Development Federal Credit Union, whose mission is to put all payday lenders out of business. The NRSCDFCU offers the same products and services as other financial institutions without predatory lending.
New Rising Star efforts in the area of workforce development include Connect4Careers, a job resource fair that invites 50 plus employers who have at least one immediate job opening. New Rising Star Church also partners with Work Faith Birmingham), where I serve on the board, for the purpose of training individuals who are unemployed and underemployed for job readiness.
New Rising Star efforts in the area of housing include buying houses in East Birmingham and fixing these homes for affordable income based housing.
New Rising Star efforts in the area of recreation include all of the programs and supportive services through their Family Life Center.
New Rising Star Church serves alongside other great churches in Birmingham to share the gospel of Jesus Christ for the purpose of knowing Christ and making him known to the world, with three weekend services (1000 plus attendees) and two midweek services (400 plus attendees).
All New Rising Star efforts stem from our vision to turn dilapidated communities into developed communities.
In addition to New Rising Star Church’s community development efforts, we lead several ministry outreaches such as Operation East. This outreach gives away FREE Food ($80,000 in retail value), FREE Clothes, and FREE Healthcare every year to the residents of East Birmingham.
Century Plaza Plan
We plan to use 200,000 square feet of the mall for New Rising Star Church and Star Academy School.
New Rising Star wants to use the rest of the space to partner with other organizations whose visions intersect in developing the community. These organizations will build state of the art locations inside of the mall to continue to bring vitality back to East Birmingham.
We have completed due diligence on the Century Plaza facilities, which includes but are not limited to the following: environmental phase 1 & phase 2 studies, property condition surveys, and more. We are now in the process of interviewing potential partners who will also have space.
We invite the business community to rally around our effort. It’s bigger than a church.
THIS IS FOR THE BETTERMENT OF BIRMINGHAM.
Pastor Thomas Beavers is the Servant Leader and Senior Pastor of the New Rising Star Church in East Birmingham. He’s a family man who loves God, loves people, and cares deeply about the redevelopment of East Birmingham for the betterment of the entire city.
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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org.