Joyfully Meeting the Needs of the Harvest
1 Yes, this is harvesttime. We are now in the conclusion of the system of things, and as Jesus said in one of his parables, “The harvest is a conclusion of a system of things.” (Matt. 13:39) At John 5:17, Jesus said: “My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.” In this harvesttime activity, Jehovah’s people are busy not only in preaching the good news of the Kingdom but also in providing places of worship. Now more than ever, Kingdom Halls are needed. Thankfully, Jehovah has moved his loyal servants to volunteer their skills in the construction of Kingdom Halls. Not only are they working hard but they also are radiating a spirit of joy.
2 It is now as it was in the days of Nehemiah when the Israelites were busy building Jerusalem’s wall. Nehemiah 4:6 says that “the people continued to have a heart for working.” What was the secret of that fine heart condition? It is mentioned later at Nehemiah 8:10: “For the joy of Jehovah is your stronghold.” We certainly have every reason to be joyful workers. We have Jehovah’s blessing. We have Jehovah’s spirit, and joy is part of the fruitage of that spirit.—Gal. 5:22.
3 Regional Building Committees: Reports from the worldwide field indicate that ‘the fields are ripe for harvesting.’ (John 4:35) With this need in mind, in 1987 the Society began appointing Regional Building Committees to assist congregations with Kingdom Hall construction projects, whether new buildings or renovations. The elders appointed to serve on these committees are spiritual men who usually have considerable experience in the construction and business fields. Their advice has proved beneficial, especially when there is a spirit of cooperation between them and the brothers serving on the local building committee.
4 Three congregations that received assistance from volunteers working with a Regional Building Committee in California later wrote to the committee to express appreciation. They commented discerningly: “Would you please extend our love and thanks to your wives, your children, and your congregations. We appreciate so much the sacrifices they make in sharing you with so many of Jehovah’s people.”
5 One regional committee reported: “We received fine cooperation from the local building committee. We continue to feel . . . this is one of the most rewarding aspects of the role that we have, the relationship that develops with the local building committee.” The local building committee representing two congregations in a western state wrote recently: “This arrangement brings wonderful blessings to a congregation. Let us name some of them: providing skilled project direction through the building committee, arranging for hundreds of competent and spiritual brothers to help, making it possible for a quick project that does not spiritually weaken the congregation but strengthens the brothers’ love for one another, giving a fine witness to the community, and best of all, producing a beautiful place in which to praise Jehovah.”
6 Contact Regional Building Committee Early: When congregations are contemplating undertaking either a renovation or a new construction project, the local elders should contact the chairman of the regional committee at the inception of the project. The Regional Building Committees have been provided with guidelines by the Society, and these brothers have much experience that will assist in avoiding pitfalls when purchasing property and planning a building project. If they are kept fully informed of all projects in the area assigned to them, the regional committee can schedule volunteers so that all the projects are completed without overworking the skilled workers. Each Regional Building Committee maintains personnel lists and schedules the volunteers within its assigned region of operation.
7 The guidelines provided for the regional committees include factors to be weighed carefully before purchasing property, such as federal, state, and city laws that govern a variety of situations affecting a Kingdom Hall project. Congregations can wisely benefit from the observations of the elders appointed to serve on the Regional Building Committee by contacting them at the outset, well before any property is purchased.—Prov. 15:22.
8 Elders may contact the Regional Building Committee through the circuit overseer. He has the name, address, and telephone number of the chairman of the committee assigned to assist with Kingdom Hall construction in the area of the congregation.
9 Purchasing Wisely: For the most part, congregations have bought building materials wisely. The Society does not have a national buying program for purchasing building materials. However, from time to time, some manufacturers make special pricing available direct to the congregations. When this happens, the Society will send notice of these suppliers to the Regional Building Committees. In this case neither the Society nor the regional committee is recommending or approving the supplier. This is simply a matter of passing information along to the local congregations so that the materials and prices offered might be known and comparisons made.
10 Local elders should see that materials are obtained through careful comparison shopping. The regional committee can help in developing a list of items to be purchased, including interior-decorating items. Likely each committee knows of volunteers experienced in these areas who would gladly make their services available to assist congregations in developing the list of materials to be purchased. Other brothers knowledgeable in business matters may be used to obtain competitive pricing for the materials. Contact should be made with several suppliers to determine the best price while looking for adequate quality. While offers are sometimes made to provide materials or services “at cost,” the elders must check the details carefully, since sometimes hidden costs are included. Since dedicated resources are being used, local cooperation with the Regional Building Committee will help ensure that these resources are spent wisely.
11 Keep Kingdom Hall Design Simple: Even though a congregation may have accumulated funds sufficient to include extra features without seeking a loan, consideration should be given to using conventional designs and to building modestly. This makes any additional funds available for use in other theocratic endeavors. (om p. 61; 2 Cor. 8:14) Since many volunteer their labor on Kingdom Hall projects, workers may feel imposed upon if asked to build or to install labor-intensive embellishments. Although good sound is a necessity, elaborate systems with added features are not usually cost-effective or necessary. Careful consideration should be given to such matters before they are included in the project. The Regional Building Committee can provide valuable input in helping to make balanced decisions regarding design.
12 Many congregations have built new Kingdom Halls by using funds lent locally by those associated with the congregation. At times a Kingdom Hall has been sold, and the receipts from the sale were sufficient to care for construction costs of a new, larger facility. However, some congregations must obtain additional financial assistance. They may contact the Society to find out whether a loan can be obtained, following the direction provided for the elders in a letter dated July 18, 1990. Before requesting a loan from the Society, the elders should take a survey locally to determine (1) how much will be contributed at the outset to assist with property purchase and construction costs, (2) how much can be lent locally by those associated with the involved congregation(s), and (3) how much will be contributed monthly to cover congregation operating expenses and to repay any loan that is obtained from the Society. No names should be shown on the slips that are turned in when this survey is taken. It is important that all provide accurate figures, taking a realistic look at their own contribution and loan prospects, as the elders will use these figures in making weighty decisions on behalf of the congregation.
13 When a Kingdom Hall construction project is completed, sometimes there are funds remaining. If the loan was obtained through the Society, any surplus should be returned to the Society immediately. The Society can then share the funds with others having a need. The extra funds should not be kept on hand locally nor should they be lent by the involved congregation(s) to other congregations.
14 Cost Estimation and Accounting Procedures: Before a Kingdom Hall construction project is undertaken, construction expenses should be estimated carefully before a final loan request is submitted. This prevents burdening the publishers with a heavier than necessary repayment schedule. Also, it leaves moneys in the Society Kingdom Hall Fund available for other congregations that have a pressing need for an improved Kingdom Hall. (Phil. 4:5) Since those serving with the regional committee have much experience in this regard, such estimates should be fairly accurate. While unforeseen expenses can cause cost overruns, reasonably accurate estimates can be projected with good planning and analysis of the major cost factors, thus eliminating the need for a large buffer to be included in cost projections.
15 A Kingdom Hall construction project involves the expenditure of great sums of money by the congregation. The elders must see that the funds are handled in a responsible manner. Accurate accounts records need to be maintained, and clear reports should be given to the involved congregation(s) monthly. The presiding overseer should see that the building fund and all associated accounts are audited quarterly on the same months that the regular congregation accounts are audited. The congregation must give overall approval of the project after being advised fully of the details and estimated costs. (km 6/84 p. 3) Thereafter, approval of all payments should be given in the proper manner before any funds are disbursed. At the conclusion of the project, there should be a clear accounting of all funds spent. Sharing a copy of this summary with the Regional Building Committee will help these brothers maintain accuracy in their estimates as they assist other congregations contemplating a construction project.
16 What Has Been Accomplished: There are now over 70 Regional Building Committees in the United States. They report that each year about 200 new Kingdom Halls are built and another 200 renovation projects are completed in the 48 contiguous states. That is an evidence of the unity and willing spirit manifested by those loving Jehovah and their brothers.—John 13:34, 35.
17 Observed by Others: The apostle Paul said: “We have become a theatrical spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.” (1 Cor. 4:9) Christians today are on display, and this is especially true during the time of Kingdom Hall construction. The work being done and the joyful spirit of the workers do not go unnoticed. As a result, newspapers print such bold headlines as “Jehovah’s Witnesses: Their Work Was Cut Out,” “In the True Spirit of Helping,” and “On the Third Day, They Rested.”
18 The unity of the volunteer workers has always amazed onlookers. In Massachusetts a news account referred to the project as having “the sound of an old family reunion,” since the noise of the work was punctuated by “shouts of joyous greetings.”
19 The mayor of a town in Minnesota visited the construction site when a Kingdom Hall was built locally. Thereafter, the local paper reported that the mayor “commented on the organization and professionalism of the volunteers.” A town zoning administrator in New York State was quoted in the newspaper as saying, “This job may have been quick, but it was quality.” In North Carolina a building inspector said: “This is one of the things building inspectors talk about when they get together, a weekend construction.”
20 A congregation in Texas expressed appreciation for the Regional Building Committee arrangement and stated that the building project brought much praise and honor to Jehovah’s name. They reported that one clergyman observed the building project in disbelief and later taught his weekly night class that ‘this was a true evidence of the spirit of Christianity.’
21 A news staff writer commented: “Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the old saying goes, but the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses has just about put that theory to rest with the erection of their new Kingdom Hall.” In Alabama a writer covered the local Kingdom Hall building project and stated: “This may seem like something you only hear about, but it happened right here. . . . What many view as pretty miraculous, the Jehovah’s Witnesses see as routine. . . . While they may not like to boast about their success, their spirit and cooperation set examples for many to follow.”
22 In Texas a non-Witness wrote the newspaper after watching one of the quickly built projects: “I just watched in amazement as this building grew before my eyes. People were all over it, inside and out. . . . There was no shouting, cussing, or apparent ordering. From a distance it seemed as if an unseen hand was directing everyone. Perhaps so. I’m still amazed at the reality of it.” He concluded his letter by saying: “When they come to your home, they don’t mean to bother you. They just want to share their love and joy with everyone. Maybe we ought at least to listen to them. I know I will. Because what I saw last weekend was like a shining light in a darkening world, and today, folks, we need some of that light and love.”
23 Loving Volunteer Assistance: The thousands of volunteers, including skilled workers who assist with Kingdom Hall construction, are certainly to be commended. Their doing this without receiving reimbursement for their effort is an evidence of Jehovah’s spirit operating through them. (Acts 20:35; 1 John 4:12, 13, 21) So much is accomplished by these joyful workers on the construction site.
24 Many qualified workers contribute their time and skills to assist with property purchase, building design, construction and engineering, decorating, landscaping, site development, purchasing, food service, traffic, safety, and so forth. Brothers contribute the use of their own equipment on these projects. How happy this must make our Father, Jehovah, when he sees them using their possessions and abilities in such a loving way!—Compare 1 Thessalonians 2:6-9 and 2 Thessalonians 3:8b.
25 More Volunteers Needed: Regional Building Committees report that many more volunteers are needed. This is a necessary service in support of Kingdom interests. (1 Cor. 15:58) Skilled workers are needed, as are other mature brothers with spiritual qualifications although not skilled in building trades. If you so qualify, could you make some adjustments so that you would be in a position to volunteer? (Isa. 6:8) For example, some elders or ministerial servants may be able to help with Kingdom Hall construction for one weekend each month or two. They might receive training in order to assume additional responsibilities, often in nonconstruction departments. This would provide assistance to the hardworking brothers overseeing these projects.
26 Regional Building Committees and local building committees schedule the volunteers so that they are at the building site when their help is needed. These volunteers return to their home congregations and families as quickly as possible and do not unnecessarily miss sharing in the meetings and field service activity. Those at the Kingdom Hall construction site would be those who are (1) the approved volunteers specifically assigned by the department heads to be present and (2) those who come from the congregations in the area where the Kingdom Hall is being built to make up the general unskilled work force. Others are encouraged to support the field service activity and meetings in their own congregations.
27 Volunteer Procedure: How does one volunteer? In August 1990 each body of elders was sent a supply of Kingdom Hall Construction Worker Questionnaire forms. These are available for qualified workers upon request. As more forms are needed, the elders obtain them from the circuit overseer. The elders have detailed instructions regarding the volunteers needed and the qualifications that must be met.
28 If you wish to volunteer to assist with Kingdom Hall construction in your area and you are a ministerial servant or an elder or you are an exemplary Christian who is a skilled worker, you may request one of the forms from the elders in your congregation. Return the completed form to the elders. They will add their comments and forward it to the circuit overseer, who, in turn, will complete the form and send it to the Regional Building Committee. If your personal circumstances allow and you qualify to volunteer, great blessings will be yours as you see the joy of your brothers and sisters upon completion of their Kingdom Hall construction project, to Jehovah’s praise.
29 All Can Help: Those who are not in a position to volunteer perform a valuable service also. They assist in caring for congregation needs while others are serving at a Kingdom Hall construction project. Of necessity some volunteers must occasionally be away from the meetings in their home congregation as they lovingly assist other congregations with Kingdom Hall construction.
30 Also, when a Kingdom Hall is being built nearby, publishers in your congregation who do not have construction skills may have the opportunity to assist as part of the general labor force. These workers do not fill out the volunteer questionnaires. The need is made known, and the arrangements are made through the elders in the congregation(s) involved in the construction project and the elders in the neighboring congregations on a one-time basis.
31 All of us have the opportunity to contribute financially toward the Society Kingdom Hall Fund as our circumstances allow. Since the Society Kingdom Hall Fund was established in September 1983, funds have been made available to assist with the construction of 1,000 new Kingdom Halls in the United States branch territory. These accommodate 1,488 congregations. Many congregations could not have obtained such fine meeting places were it not for the love of the brotherhood that has been manifest in your generous support of the Society Kingdom Hall Fund.
32 The Society Kingdom Hall Fund makes loans to assist with constructing new Kingdom Halls. As moneys are repaid along with interest, these funds are lent to other congregations having a need. There are advantages in contacting the Society with a loan request before seeking funding from a commercial firm.
33 Expressions of Appreciation: When their new Kingdom Hall was completed, a congregation in Pennsylvania said this in a letter to the Society: “We are writing you to thank you for your loving assistance in the building of our new Kingdom Hall. Our building is now completely finished and dedicated to Jehovah, and the congregation is extremely grateful to have such a beautiful building for Jehovah’s worship. Our congregation has always gladly supported the Society Kingdom Hall Fund and local building projects and will continue to do so, realizing the great need for yet other congregations to benefit from this generous and important provision.”
34 A congregation in California expressed appreciation for the loving assistance that had been made available in their behalf, saying: “We wish to express to you our deepest thanks for the assistance of the Society Kingdom Hall Fund. Without it the construction of [our] hall would have been much more difficult and delayed for some time. Jehovah’s wisdom is certainly evident in this arrangement.”
35 A Wisconsin congregation wrote: “It has been a little over a year since we dedicated our Kingdom Hall to Jehovah, and we want to express our appreciation for being a recipient of the [Society] Kingdom Hall Fund. What seemed an impossibility two years ago has now become a reality—all because of the loving generosity of our brothers and sisters.”
36 From Oregon appreciation was expressed for the fund in these words: “How good it has been to have experienced Jehovah’s hand at work in our case. We have seen the love and unity of brothers working together to bring a great witness to Jehovah’s name in our community. Thank you so much for encouraging all of us to share our valuable things toward such a noble cause as the Society Kingdom Hall Fund.”
37 The Work Ahead: Yes, all of us have reason to be joyful as we meet the needs of the harvest. We should have a spirit of cooperation—working together and fully supporting this necessary activity. (Ps. 133:1) How happy we are to have men appointed by Jehovah’s organization to take the lead both in spiritual matters and in the construction of needed facilities! Paul appealed to the Philippians, saying: “Make my joy full in that you are of the same mind and have the same love.” (Phil. 2:2) Surely, we have every reason to rejoice, as we are entrusted with the good news of the established Kingdom to “be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations” before the end comes. (Matt. 24:14) Our taking a firm stand on the side of that Kingdom and loyally working for its interests makes Jehovah’s heart rejoice. “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Prov. 27:11) What a remarkable privilege is ours to be working along and sharing joyfully with Jesus Christ in Jehovah’s work!