Ah, the building campaign. The impressive, visionary, strategic move to improve your church with a permanent place to meet. This can feel like the ultimate goal for a church planter. A building can feel like you’ve arrived, and like you have a place to be officially established in the community. However, there are pros and cons to owning a church building. If a church is unable to build or buy, leases are a viable option for many churches, especially new campuses in multisite churches.
Both decisions face complicating factors. There are trade-offs to buying and to leasing. Here are the key considerations you will have to review as you prayerfully consider this decision.
Considerations for Buying a Church Building
1. Finding and Buying a Building
Can you find a building?
Whether you are a single church, the first new campus offshoot or a church plant looking for a permanent spot, the hunt for a new church building must be strategic. Churches have unique requirements. You need a building that can accommodate not just who your church currently is but who you will be. Providing for vision while remaining in budget can be a challenge. You may need to hire expert realtors who specialize in church work.
2. Capital Campaigns
Can you afford to build?
Many churches can’t find an existing building that they can either afford or will suit their ministry needs. Churches often have trouble retro-fitting department stores or existing structures. It’s likely that you have similar needs to most churches (like childcare space, class space, offices, etc.). In this case, many churches opt to build and begin a capital campaign to fund it. The entire process, from fundraising to breaking ground, can be full of challenges. Again, you may need to consider a capital campaign consultant to help you.
3. Building Costs
Can you afford to maintain?
A building doesn’t just cost the monthly mortgage. There are additional costs to owning a building. Let’s consider what you will have to pay.
- Property taxes
- Routine maintenance and upkeep
- Parking lot maintenance
- Appliance maintenance
While some of these can be covered with good insurance, there will be regular and one-off costs that will come up when you own a church building.
Considerations for Leasing a Church Building
Within a lease, you will have to consider several key things.
1. Find a Building to Lease
Can you find the right building to lease?
Traditional realtors will have limited experience in finding a building that will meet your needs. A building that works for your church will need:
- Adequate parking
- Guest parking
- Safe, accessible, enclosed childcare space
- Small group space
- Storage for supplies
- A sound system
You will have to make decisions about how you will transport things like chairs, if those aren’t on-site. It’s also important to assess the building flow and the signage you will have to add to direct visitors.
2. 24/7 Access
Do you need 24/7 access to a facility?
Think about what it will cost to not have this. If you rent a school building, for example, you will never be able to host MOPS (Mothers Of Preschoolers) or have a senior brunch on a weekday. You will also have to consider where the executive and pastoral staff can meet and work. If numerous additional locations have to be rented for workdays and events, that will change the investment you’re making by leasing.
3. Rent Costs
Can you afford rent?
A lease doesn’t just cost the monthly rent. There are many additional costs to take into account. These are things like:
- Storage space for equipment
- Transport costs for weekly set-up and tear-down
- Volunteer and staff requirements for set-up and tear-down
- Additional workspaces or meeting spaces for offices or events
- Wear and tear on equipment and materials
It also costs something emotionally for both your staff and people to have a transient location.
Should Your Church Buy or Lease?
It may be helpful to have another set of eyes to look at your scenario. Many times, churches rush this decision in the interest of being established. The right building at the right time is essential for financial security and long-term ministry success. Our team at Ministry Solutions has helped hundreds of churches find the right church location, build a church or find leases for individual campuses. We are skilled in the specifics of a church’s needs and financial considerations. If you would benefit from this kind of guidance, reach out to us.
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