The Importance of a Church Real Estate Strategy
by Ministry Solutions, on September 2019
Nathan Artt, Principal of Ministry Solutions, sat down with Steve Caton, Chief Growth Officer at Generis to talk about his new eBook: Intelligent Church Real Estate.
Tell us about your background and how you started Ministry Solutions.
Nathan Artt, who became a Christian at Buckhead Church about eight years ago, has a background in private equity and development. He began Ministry Solutions six years ago with the mission of being Financial Advisors and Owners Representatives in order to create and execute financial and facility strategies for growing churches.
His motivation to start Ministry Solutions came on accident at first. A friend from North Point Community Church knew many churches that were making large financial decisions needed assistance from someone who knew the business. Nathan started helping these churches under the pretense that it would be a pro bono side gig, but it eventually morphed into a full scale business.
Today, Ministry Solutions has funded and managed over $600 million in church projects and gotten to work with some of the fastest growing churches.
What motivated Intelligent Church Real Estate?
At Ministry Solutions, we're very passionate about what we do. There is a moment in a church's history where the culture shifts from reaching new people to paying bills. We cannot avoid the fact that we are involved in real estate when we lease and build buildings. The better we are about getting into those processes and the more we understand about it, the more money we will have to accelerate our God-inspired vision.
Ministry Solutions not only brings a business concept to clients, there is a stewardship aspect that they fulfill for each of the churches they work with.
"People call what we do development."
When we entered into this space, there was no one who was consolidating all of the moving pieces into one cohesive action plan and represents the owners interests. This concept is relatively new to the church world, but it's the philosophy that developers have been using in their work for years.
One of our brand promises is to protect the purpose. Pastors didn’t get into ministry to become project managers. Our hope is to free up pastors financially and to keep focused on the vision of leading his church.
The hope for every single Ministry Solutions' client is to move from a place of asking, "how do we fund a building?" to "how do we build buildings that fund ministry?"
How is Ministry Solutions similar or different from a bank?
Banks are primarily going to look at historical numbers. They will typically ask, "how do we fit this project into a box?" As developers, our question is "how do we build a box?"
Before the Ministry Solutions team ever goes to a banker or architect, they've already created a plan. They've already figured out the financials, so that the banker and architect are reviewing - rather than guiding - the project. If this works, the building pays for itself. This makes banks not only comfortable, but competitive. Rather than begging a bank to help fund a project, there are multiple banks who are competing for your business.
Talk to us about A New Perspective on Church Buildings. Where does faith fit in?
Larry Osborne once said, "Faith is not risk-taking. Faith is being obedient even when it's risky." Stewardship is not about raising money, it’s what we do with the resources that we’re given.
Every pastor will experience a time when he is required to have a lot of faith. Every church will experience the balance of having more needs than resources. It's not about stepping into those situations blindly, but about making educated, risky decisions based on the God-inspired vision that they've been given. It's not about building physical kingdoms.
How would you describe ministry capacity?
When we think about creating ministry capacity, we are creating room for growth. We are creating capacity to meet an existing demand. Church staff will need to balance having enough seats for adults, creating supporting space for children and providing places to park.
Capacity is creating an environment where you’re able to grow in a healthy and sustainable way.
Some churches get way down the road before they realize they’re in over their heads. What do you see happen?
The biggest mistake is letting our opportunities define our strategies instead of letting our strategies define our opportunities. This usually plays out in hiring an architect to dream up a new project that the staff and congregation fall in love with. However, it turns out to be a $15 million dollar project when the church can only afford $8 million.
By taking the route of "phasing" the project, any momentum gained by the new development will be capped by the lack of balance in the current facilities.
What is the trend for the model of large, new churches in low-density areas?
There are churches that have the ability to draw up a 2,000-seat auditorium in the middle of a low-density area and it is successful. While this may work out for a few specific churches, it is more of the exception than the rule.
The largest auditorium that Ministry Solutions has helped build is 1,700 seats. What we're seeing more often is churches who want to build 500-1,000 seat campuses once a year.
The old philosophy was to build a large facility first, and then work on filling it out. The new model is shifting to getting into a facility as soon as possible, filling it up quickly, and launching more campuses.
Two trends that we're seeing today:
- Smaller room size – not all churches are in low-density areas.
- There are much higher rates of participation and giving in smaller venues.
The heart of the eBook is not just about healthy church real estate, it is all wrapped up in the idea of engagement. Many churches today are wrestling with engagement, especially as the church grows. Ministry Solutions is helping these churches to learn how to be healthy financially and create a model to reach the next generation.
The idea behind a facility is to facilitate an experience that we want people to have. The bigger the room, the less people feel engaged. We ultimately want to create more investors and fewer consumers in the church.
Interested in learning more about church real estate? Click here to download Intelligent Church Real Estate for free.