Parkway Christian Church prides itself as a multigenerational family of faith.
“We have little babies to 95-year-olds,” explains Arnold Ramos, Parkway Christian’s treasurer, financial director, and one of its elders.
But it’s the children served by Parkway CC that inform the mission of Disciples living in Davie, a town located in Broward County, FL.
For more than 50 years, the church has provided licensed pre-K education through Parkway Christian Preschool.
“It’s probably better known than our church,” says Arnold, chuckling.
It was so popular in fact, that for years, the congregation held conversations about making an additional Christian elementary school available to Western Broward County youth. In the late 1990s, with 200 students enrolled in its preschool, and a waiting list for every class, Parkway CC began exploring the possibility of opening an elementary school.
The location would be easy enough – the campus that the preschool and the church shared had room to spare. The people of Parkway just needed help with funding for construction. They looked to banks located in the area. But like so many Disciples congregations, Parkway CC learned that while local financial institutions are convenient, their loan processes can be cost-prohibitive and weighed down by paperwork.
“Every time we had to do something for them, we were charged,” remembers Arnold. “Certified financial audits came with a charge. When we were required to submit a review, we were charged. It was horrendous.”
So Arnold and others on the leadership team reached out to Disciples Church Extension Fund (DCEF). Among various building and capital planning services, DCEF offers Disciples congregations church loans at competitive rates. Due to the size of the loan, Rick Reisinger, DCEF President, negotiated with a bank to help fund a portion of it.
“Rick Reisinger and staff made it all easy,” remarks Arnold. “Any question we had, they could answer.”
Parkway Christian School (PCS) opened its doors in 2001 as a state-accredited school, with 22 students and two teachers. While it initially only offered a kindergarten program, the school expanded, adding grades one through five. PCS became so popular, that need for a middle school arose. Four years later, a sixth-grade classroom was added, and soon, a complete middle school program was founded. By 2010, the newest facility was at capacity with 250 students, and portable classrooms had to be brought in.
“We made a commitment with the parents to get out of the portable classroom setting,” recalls Arnold.
So, when 10.5 acres freed up next door, the congregation decided to purchase the land and build permanent classrooms for the junior high.
While the church and the schools operate independently, they are all owned by Parkway CC, which views everything as one entity. Constructing a building for its middle school was not only vital to Parkway CC and its growth, but part of its calling. The congregation looked to DCEF again, which was able to bundle Parkway’s previous loan with its most recent one for a new building.
“The paperwork was simple,” notes Arnold. “We ended up with an incredible contractor. The minute the bookkeeper sends us stuff, money is deposited in the account. Several contractors and sub-contractors that have come to us have said, ‘We’ve never had a commercial lender that pays so promptly.’”
Part of the new addition includes a gymnasium for dramas and plays, which will be made available to the community at large. There are plans to plant a community garden on a portion of the property too. With numerous apartments in the area, the garden promises to strengthen Parkway’s relationship with local residents.
“The partnership between DCEF and Parkway CC sends the message we are committed to this community, to the town of Davie, and to the county,” Arnold notes.
The partnership has stood the test of changing leadership, as well. One pastor and associate pastor have come and gone, and former Hope Partnership Services and New Church Ministry staff member, Rev. Dr. Charlie Wallace has been called as the new senior pastor.
“We suffered when we lost our minister and associate minister,” Arnold admits, “but once Charlie stepped in, we’ve experienced a new beginning.”
With new leadership and the feeling of family that surrounds them at every worship service, the members of Parkway CC are looking forward to the future. In mid-February, they had a meeting to discuss the next five years of their congregation.
“For a church, being internally focused means, you’re dying,” says Arnold. “It’s lovely to see young people take on leadership roles. We’ve been lucky.”