Leadership

Buying a Church Building Isn’t Always the Best Thing to Do (But Here’s When It Is)

Considering whether or not to buy a building for your church?

Your church is not a building.

I’m not the first person to say that—nor will I be the last. But hopefully, you hear the phrase enough to believe and remember it.

Your church is not a building—it’s people, and relationships, and community, and a common cause to worship God together.

Even if your church is so much more than a building, many churches still own buildings. It’s where they meet to worship, host events, provide working space for staff, and serve as a visual reminder to your community that you exist.

Not every church needs to have a church building. They’re expensive to purchase. They take time and cost money to maintain. And they can lock you into a belief that your building is the church.

Even though it’s not always the best idea to invest in buying a church building, here are some situations when it is.

1. When you have severe issues with your current location

Not every church owns a building. But every church still needs a place to meet.

You can meet in schools, shopping malls, or someone's home. Meeting in rented or free spaces is where most local churches get started before they’re able to afford a building.

But sometimes there are issues with the place you’re meeting. Maybe the school can no longer accommodate you. Perhaps the shopping mall you were meeting in was sold. Or your church is getting too big for the Smith’s living room.

When you run into a problem with your current meeting space, it’s smart to start considering other options. And those options might include buying property.

But here's the deal:

Buying a property is a serious investment, but at a certain point, the cost of not buying a building might outweigh the value of the building itself.

Related: 6 Must-Know Tips for Managing Your Church's Finances

2. When it serves your community

The church is meant to be a place of serving. Each church is a pillar of God’s love and compassion in the local community they meet. So when considering whether or not to buy a building, ask yourself this question:

"Will purchasing this property or building help us to serve our community better?"

I recently wrote a resource for Courageous Storytellers listing churches that seek to use their building as a Third Place—basically a community hub where people go when they aren’t at work or home. These churches have coffee shops, free workspace, open gyms, and more for use by their community. They use their building to serve others.

If your church bought a building, how would you use it for others around you—not just church members? Is it in a better location to allow you to serve those in need? Would this building create more opportunities for you to show God’s love?  

3. When the opportunity is too good

God has a plan. It’s grand and majestic and exceeds our understanding. But some parts of God’s plan also fall into our mundane lives. That might include his plan for our church building.

Sometimes God drops an opportunity in our lap that’s too good to pass up. Maybe a business shut down and needs to sell its building quickly. Maybe someone left property to your church in their will. Perhaps you have the chance to buy the space you’ve just been renting.

You can’t count on these chance things happening. But you can count your blessings when they do.

Before you make a decision, be in prayer with God and open communication with your team to make sure it’s still the right move for your church.

4. Your congregation is ready

Even when all of these other elements align, it will still cost something to purchase a building. Your church may also have to take out a loan to afford it. Or you’ll have to run a capital campaign to raise the money to purchase the facility.

In other words, you can’t make a move to a permanent building until you’ve got the full backing of your people. There’s no good moving from your current location if you’re going to leave people behind. You need their support to pull it off.

Over to you

Communicate openly and honestly about the idea of buying a building. Ask your church to share their feedback and concerns. Show that you have a plan to make the transition smoothly. Share your vision with how it could improve the church long-term.

Give your people time to understand and get behind you. Once you’ve got their support, it will make the prospect of purchasing property just a little more realistic and worthwhile.

Related: 4 Ideas for Leading Your Church Through a Cultural Shift

Only when you’re ready should you invest into a permanent church building.
Is your church thinking about investing in a building?

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.
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Buying a Church Building Isn’t Always the Best Thing to Do (But Here’s When It Is)