How to Prepare for a Church Building Project: Part 1 of 5

September 26, 2019 |David Graf

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Part 1: Church Buildings: To Lease or Not to Lease?


If your church is leasing its worship property, eventually you will almost certainly consider whether it would be better to purchase your own building. Many factors will influence your decision, from building equity to ministry function to location to monthly costs. Perhaps you are convinced that your church will never want to own a building. If that’s you, experience tells me you may change your mind as your church grows and time passes. Even if you are satisfied with your current rental facility, it would be wise to periodically reevaluate your situation to ensure you are best equipped for your Kingdom ministry.

The first consideration when deciding whether to buy is building equity. Obviously, any rent you pay is not earning a return for your church beyond the immediate use of the facility. Conversely, money invested into building ownership will likely yield a return, as property values usually appreciate over the long term. While this may not be that important to you today, there could come a time when you or your successors will be grateful that you chose ownership. The equity you build by owning your own property could create a steppingstone for a significant future building upgrade that would not be possible otherwise.

You are also less likely to have a building that is well-suited for your church’s ministries if you lease than if you build. While you personally may be willing to tolerate the resulting inconveniences, an ill-suited building could be a real hindrance to your church’s various ministries. For example, are your visitors confused about where to go when they first arrive at your property? Is participating in worship or listening to your sermon difficult because of an inadequate auditorium? These sorts of compromises may not be immediately apparent, so it’s important to have frank discussions about your leased space with your staff, ministry leaders, and other attendees.

There are further downsides to leasing a building. Finding an adequate facility is always challenging, and even if a building may function well for you, it might be unattractive or in a bad location—meaning new visitors may not return. Also, while purchasing a property essentially locks in your building’s cost, leasing a facility virtually guarantees that your monthly rental payments will increase with inflation. Your church may be forced to move to a new location because of factors beyond your control when you lease, and the setup/teardown routine for Sunday worship is hard on everyone—staff and volunteers alike.

Of course, buying or building a church facility can also have downsides. You may live in an area where properties are prohibitively expensive and construction costs are constantly rising. The construction of a new building or addition is perhaps one of the most time-consuming, stressful experiences a church will ever go through. The number of decisions to be made, the man-hours consumed, and the hurdles to be crossed are rarely overestimated by those who begin a first-time church building project. The planning, funding, and construction processes will test your mettle as a pastor, challenge the unity of the church body, and, if not done well, expose the church to ongoing problems or even project failure. I’ve heard that 80 percent of pastors will leave a church within two years of completing a building project—a testament to just how difficult it can be.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. While it may be impossible to eliminate all the stressful experiences and man-hours required, going into a project with a sound plan should greatly minimize the pitfalls and lead to a well-executed building project. If your church has determined that the time is right to own a facility, the next posts in this series will prepare you for what lies ahead so you can enter into your project with confidence—and actually thrive during the process. I am also available to provide input and be a sounding board, so please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Click here to learn about Orchard Alliance’s lending programs.

David Graf
Vice President for Lending

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