Magazine article The Christian Century

Asset Management: How a Building Can Serve a Church's Mission

Magazine article The Christian Century

Asset Management: How a Building Can Serve a Church's Mission

Article excerpt

MANY congregations regard their church property as an albatross--a huge maintenance burden. They tend to see church largely as a Sunday operation that takes place on a property that needs tedious and expensive maintenance during the rest of the week. But in our ministries in different churches over the years, each of us has discovered the importance of viewing buildings and real estate as assets.

What we've discovered--and it has been a learning curve for us, as well as for the congregations we've served--is that buildings and grounds can be leveraged to support congregational mission and extend the presence of the church in the community.

One issue many churches need to think about is the possibility of renting space in their buildings, and how to go about doing this. One common assumption is that allowing other groups to use the building is a form of evangelism--community members who use the space will be more likely to attend worship. In our experience sharing space in this way seldom leads to an increase in worship attendance.

Another assumption is that renting space is a form of benevolence. But this approach often leads congregations to help people who do not need help or enables groups to take advantage of a church's naivete.

This reality became evident to us in one of our pastorates. The church had rented rooms to a franchised math tutoring program. The church had determined a rental fee, but kept it low under the assumption that the church was supporting children's education. Soon it became clear that the church had underestimated how lucrative this tutoring program was and how much the church was adding to the profits of a for-profit organization. Church leaders met again, researched the business, and set a more appropriate rent.

When the rental to the tutoring organization ended, leaders brainstormed: What other programs might use the available space for a fair rental fee?

At one church, when leaders explored possible uses of the property they learned that there was a need for after-school care for middle schoolers. The church decided that it had space to devote to this project and that such a program fit well with the church's mission.

The church started a drop-in center that included homework tutoring, a computer lab, and supervised sports and games. The center was open to students of any or no religion, but the program was unapologetically Christian. It promoted cooperative learning, teambuilding games, and service to others, based on Jesus' teachings. Plus it offered a mix of intellectual, athletic, and social programs. The church hired seminary students and graduates as staff and recruited church youth as homework tutors. The church's youth minister served as director.

The program opened with 14 students and was subsidized by the church for two years. …

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