FACILITIES & Megachurch Expands Reach by Downsizing Main Facility

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  I’ve written a chapter in one of my books about how “over building” usually stunts church growth (you can read that chapter, the “The 7 Don’ts & 7 Do’s of Building” here).  Below is a recent story about how over building has thwarted one church’s missional flexibility.

(Download the chapter from my book by clicking on this link > BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – GROWTH BY ACCIDENT Missteps with New Facilities 2. If you like the insights please support publisher and author by buying a copy here. Excerpted from Growth by Accident – Death by Planning: How Not to Kill a Growing Church, Abingdon Press, 2004, pp. 76-80.)

“Southern Baptist megachurch to downsize its campus by 90 percent.”

by Bob Allen, Baptist News Service, 9/10/19.

First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, once one of America’s most influential megachurches, determined Sept. 8 to downsize its downtown property footprint by 90 percent in a cost-cutting move the senior pastor described as necessary for the church’s long-term survival.

Under the leadership of pastors and co-pastors Homer Lindsay Sr., Homer Lindsay Jr. and Jerry Vines, First Baptist Church earned the nickname Miracle of Downtown Jacksonville after buying up real estate left behind when department stores and smaller retailers started relocating into suburban malls in the 1970s.

Today the church covers 10 city blocks with buildings including a sanctuary built to seat nearly 10,000 people that was dedicated in 1993.

image.pngHeath Lambert, named last year as sole senior pastor of First Baptist, said once a blessing, the congregation’s central location has become a curse as the city continues to expand farther away from its urban core.

“If you want to get people to come to First Baptist Church on Sunday morning, you have to get them to do two things they never do,” Lambert said during his Sunday morning sermon. “You have to get them to come to church, and you have to get them to come downtown.”

Lambert said that after 20 years of declining membership, the downtown church needs about one-tenth of its current space. Plans approved by the congregation on Sunday call for consolidating all operations into one city block.



“What we can’t do on one block, we won’t do,” the pastor said.

The plan includes borrowing $30 million to renovate Hobson Auditorium, the original 1,500-seat worship space built after a fire destroyed much of downtown Jacksonville in 1901, and to replace other buildings now used for offices with state-of-the-art construction.

Lambert said the church will eventually sell off downtown property and move toward a multi-site church model. The church currently has a south campus in Nocatee, which moved into its own building after meeting at Ponte Vedra High School for a decade in 2019.

“Instead of being the big church downtown that we ask everybody from all over to come to, we want to be a church for the whole city,” Lambert said. “Instead of asking our city to come to our church, we’re going to take our church to the city.”

Read more here … https://baptistnews.com/article/southern-baptist-megachurch-to-downsize-its-campus-by-90-percent/#.XXkddC3MywQ

FACILITIES & Minnesota church flipper gives empty religious buildings new life

FACILITIES & The do’s and don’ts of renting your church facility #ChurchExecutiveMagazine

by Eric Spacek, JD, ARM, Church Executive Magazine, 2016.

Opening your church’s doors to outside organizations is another way to extend your ministry into your community — but it might also open the door for safety and liability issues, such as property damage, theft, or tumbles on slippery surfaces.

With smart planning, trusted use policies and a thorough review process, it’s possible to protect your place of worship and be a good neighbor. Keep these considerations in mind when renting your facility:

DO set ground rules. Saying “yes” or “no” to use requests is much easier when you have streamlined guidelines in place — guidelines influenced by legal and financial advisors. Create a go-to facility use policy that includes, but is not limited to, the following factors:

• Will you allow members of the public or outside organizations to rent your facility, or limit it to church or ministry uses? Note that opening your facility to the public can have potential tax and/or legal liability implications.

• Which rooms in your church (the sanctuary, fellowship hall, classrooms, kitchen and nursery, for instance) are open to users, and which aren’t?

• What will you charge for rental fees and related expenses? Will church members pay less than nonmembers?

• Who is responsible for setup and cleanup?

• Will you allow sales during events?

• Do church members get priority if two groups want the space at the same time?

• Must someone from the church be present when an outside group uses the facility?

• Must childcare providers be selected and screened by your church?

• How will damage, injury or theft be handled?

DON’T make decisions alone. Form a team of church leaders, plus legal and financial counsel, to approve or deny rental requests depending on the organization, the type of event, and potential legal and tax implications. The approvals team should document their decisions.

DO ask questions. Before giving a group the green light to use your church’s space, do your homework. Find out what specific type of event the group is hosting, approximately how many people will attend, which room(s) the group needs, and how exactly participants will use the space. When possible, check venue references at places where the group has held past events.

DON’T skimp on insurance. Make sure that any group that rents space in your church has insurance coverage limits that are equal to or higher than your church’s insurance policy limits, and confirm that the group names your church as an additional insured on their policies. Secure proof that your church has been named as an additional insured on their insurance.

Read more at … https://churchexecutive.com/archives/insurance-essentials-9


FACILITIES & What should be considered before renting space in a church?

by Deborah Miller, CCA and Charles Kneyse, Church Professionals LLC, 2015.

…What should be considered before renting space in a church?

Often church buildings sit idle much of the time. It would seem that if your church leaders could find a way to increase your building’s utilization it would demonstrate better stewardship of what God has entrusted to the church. And besides, it might even provide another way that your church could reach out to your community.

But because churches hold a special status in our society—that of a tax-exempt organization—a church renting extra space to a for-profit could result in costly problems for the church—costs well beyond the church’s ability to pay.

Property Taxes
One of a variety of taxes that churches are exempt from is property tax. Generally the property values of churches can be in the hundreds of thousands, if not the millions, of dollars. If a church was on the local property tax rolls, the amount of taxes that it would be obligated to pay would be thousands of dollars annually. Instead the church pays nothing.

But the reason that churches pay nothing is important. As long as a church’s property is used exclusively for programs and activities that furthers its exempt purpose as a charitable, educational and/or religious organization, it most likely will not be required to pay any property tax. But because property tax laws can vary so much from state to state, and even from county to county, we recommend that churches seek qualified legal counsel if they wish to let another organization use any part of its facilities or property.

Much of what a church can and cannot do depends on what its legal documents state is the “why” of a church’s existence.
One of the questions that a good attorney will ask church leaders is what is your organization’s purpose? A good place to look for the answer is your church’s governing documents, its Articles of Incorporation and/or its Bylaws. In fact, that’s probably where any inquiring taxing authorities would look, too. So if your church’s tax exempt purposes were drawn up too narrowly many years ago, we suggest that they be revisited and maybe even revised sooner rather than later. Much of what a church can and cannot do depends on what its legal documents state is the why of a church’s existence.

Returning to the issue of property tax exemptions, some states allow church facilities to be used up to a certain percentage of the time for non-exempt activities—even for-profit organizations—without requiring that they pay property taxes. Other states set the bar much higher, not allowing any non-church group—even other tax-exempt ones—to use church facilities before requiring that property taxes are owed. In a worse case situation a church’s property tax exemption could conceivably be revoked altogether. Could your church afford to pay the resulting tax bill?

Sorry, but asking the church down the street how they’re able to have a day-care operate in their building is not a prudent way to proceed—instead contact an attorney who is qualified to advise your church about local property tax laws and ordinances…

Read more at …


FACILITIES & 8 tips for making the most of your church’s space

by United Methodist Church, Communications Dept., n.d.

Opening your doors to the community can do two things. First, you expand your congregation’s role in the community. Second, you might help the church’s bottom line. Here are eight ideas to get you started…

Involve your congregation before opening your facility doors. Seek their ideas, address concerns and work together to create a facility-use plan that meets a variety of needs. Appoint a church employee to oversee the facility schedule…

Rent rooms.
Many churches already do this, but most can do it more successfully by expanding their marketing. Some possibilities include:

  • Advertise room rentals on your Web site. Include costs and an up-to-date calendar, if possible. Make sure to identify how many people each room can accommodate and the various set-up styles available (theater, round tables, etc.).
  • Hold an open house for leaders of your community’s nonprofit, charitable, educational and arts organizations to tour the available spaces.
  • Put rental fliers on public bulletin boards in bookstores, cafes and supermarkets.
  • Advertise space availability on your church’s Facebook page.
  • Post an ad on Craigslist.com. Although it is a national site, it is divided into geographical areas. Listings are free.

Host a food pantry.
Few tasks are more basic to a church’s mission than helping to feed the hungry. Start a food pantry or give space to a community pantry. Central Community United Methodist Church of Shell Knob, Mo., hosts a two-days-a-week pantry sponsored by its community alliance of churches. Food pantries require ongoing space to store donations and pickup space to distribute food…

Share space.
When the single Sunday morning service ended at Cove United Methodist Church, Lakewood, Ohio, the worship sanctuary sat silent. Now, it comes alive later in the morning when the Lakewood Christian Church, which sold its building recently, holds its services. As churches of all denominations face declining congregations and increasing costs, sharing service space can make sense in the right situations. Such decisions should involve members from the host church, and both congregations should outline each other’s rights and responsibilities in a formal, written agreement.

Talk to counsel.
Options may involve bringing in groups outside your congregation. It’s a good idea to consult an attorney—perhaps a member of the congregation—regarding legal or tax consequences of renting space. In this “Just Ask” online forum, a tax attorney responds to an inquiry about endangering the church’s exempt status if it rents space. While he gives a quick response, consulting an attorney who is familiar with your church is critical. Your attorney or insurance adviser also can identify your liability and protection if someone gets injured at your facility and what steps you can take to minimize your liability.

Read more at … http://www.umcom.org/learn/8-tips-for-making-the-most-of-your-churchs-space

SMALL CHURCHES & How to increase community impact by making your facility available to emerging cultures in your community. #EdStetzer #TheExchange #CT

by Ed Stetzer, The Exchange, 2/27/18.

… Typically, small churches use their facilities no more than six hours per week. The other 162 hours of the week buildings sit empty and woefully underused. Open your property to a church plant in need of a place to worship. Invite the local addiction recovery chapter to meet in your building for as long as they want. Offer to provide coffee and cookies baked by a different member each week.

Neighborhood association meetings are often looking for a place to hold gatherings. These take place no more than once a month (usually much less frequently) and are a wonderful way to get people to come to your building. Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops are always looking for places to hold weekly meetings. Let your building(s) be a blessing to your community. Value relationships with your neighbors more than you value the cleanliness of the carpet in your sanctuary.

Serving people is more important than a pristine fellowship hall. Your community will soon take note of which churches care about them and which churches care only about themselves. Be the former, not the latter.

One of the most successful ways of serving your community is to offer a free night of babysitting so parents can have a date night. Sometimes this is structured around Christmas so parents can shop together without having to bring their kids and hide purchases.

Often it is simply a random Friday or Saturday evening where parents can spend an evening strengthening their marriage without shelling out $20–$40 on a babysitter. The kids are served a meal, presented a Bible lesson, and allowed to play together.

At pickup, church members tell parents about one unique thing their child(ren) did that night, showing that each child was valued. It is also a time where families can be invited to attend worship the following Sunday. Something as simple as taking down their name, address, or email for the promise of inviting them to future ‘Date Night’ babysitting events produces a ready-made list of prospects for future contact and evangelism.

In any way that you use your building(s) to serve your community, make sure you have members at each meeting to unlock the facilities and to welcome all who enter. They are there to assist, not to eavesdrop on the meetings.

A warm welcome goes a long way towards showing them you really care about them, not simply that you’re begrudgingly providing a community service. And it should go without saying, but just so no one misunderstands, all of these opportunities should be rent-free for the users. Don’t try to make a buck off of your community. Don’t even justify it as covering your costs.

Excerpted from “Getting Small Churches on Mission (Part 3).” Read more at … http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/february/getting-small-churches-on-mission-part-3.html

FACILITIES & Churches that base their decision solely on price get exactly what they are after #TonyMorgan

“5 Mistakes Churches Make with Building Projects” by Tony Morgan, 4/12/10.

Tony Morgan says “Churches that base their decision solely on price get exactly what they are after.”

(Thanks to Sarah for finding this.) Read more at … https://tonymorganlive.com/2010/04/12/5-mistakes-with-building-projects