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Leveraging Church Real Estate To Build Community

by Nathan Artt, on November 2019

This interview was originally featured on The Nurtured Church podcast from Pushpay. To listen to the full episode, click here

If your church owns a building, you’ve probably been faced with this dilemma:

How can we fund new projects that reach new people with the gospel while also keeping our lights on?

The burden of paying off debt often inhibits churches from funding new disciple-making efforts. How can we ensure that your building is fueling your ministry, not the other way around?

We've all heard stories of thriving, growing churches, where all of a sudden the church culture shifts from reaching people to paying bills. Almost every time you hear a story like this you can trace it back to a decision that was made involving buildings and debt. There is a business that funds the ministry of the church, and the better we are at that business, the more ministry we get to fund.

With a smarter real estate model, we’re able to have buildings that pay for themselves more quickly and accelerate ministry.

  1. We believe that funding a building isn’t about the building, it’s about funding ministry capacity. We have to fund ministry capacity at a price point where we can afford the project today and we’re creating enough capacity so that the growth that is created pays for the projects
  2. The church is the center of community. Allow buildings to operate during the week with a non-competing business that drives traffic to the site. The goal is to attract all people, regardless of what they might believe.

The physical location of a church can have an impact on the community, either good or bad.

What is working:

  • The location of the church is within the community it serves.
  • There is a common connection place, where visitors can congregate outside of the worship space.
  • Guests should feel comfortable before they step into the sanctuary.
  • Parking is convenient and close.
  • The children's ministry check-in process is quick and easy.

Sometimes churches spend a majority of time thinking about about what happens in the worship room, but the reality is that people make 20-30 decisions about you as a church before they ever get inside that room.

What isn't working:

  • Parking is so far that guests need to be shuttled to the main building.
  • Visitors are taken directly into the sanctuary space rather than a common meeting area.
  • The church does not prioritize connection space.

What would you say to churches who might feel constrained by their facility model?

  1. Congratulations! You have more needs than resources, which means that you are doing something right. Enjoy this time, because you are never going to have a better opportunity to build your core base of volunteers and givers.
  2. Do whatever you can to truly celebrate your volunteers.
  3. Stay flexible. Instead of building a building that may not serve your needs, think about other options, like leasing for example, which would create more optionality in 4-5 years.

A mistake we commonly see is letting opportunities define the strategy – flip that around to make sure your strategies define your opportunities. What do we need to operate as a church?

While a temporary facility may not be the “ideal” situation for a church, there is a huge opportunity to leverage the community and surrounding areas to grow the church during that time.

Start with a proactive financial strategy – plan for growth now. Understand what is needed for growth instead of waiting for the opportunity to come up. For a growing church, you will always have more needs than resources, and you have to plan for it.

Topics:Financial StrategyFacility StrategyChurch GrowthChurch Debt

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