As a church grows, it inevitably experiences growing pains. With more people to serve and more programs to oversee, you might begin to wonder if it’s time to move into a larger building. Perhaps you’ve been able to get by renting a facility one day a week and meeting in homes at other times. Now that your congregation is growing, however, it may be time to think about purchasing land for a future church home—one that will enable your church to keep right on growing.
There’s a lot to consider before making a substantial real estate purchase, but for many churches, buying land is the next big step to take in order to fulfill God’s calling. Of course, every situation is different, but in this post, I want to lay out a few reasons why purchasing land is often a great idea. Then I want to share a few best practices to help you make the most out of the decision.
Why you should consider buying land
1. Permanent facilities equal stability.
Nothing sends a better message to your growing congregation than buying land for your future church facilities. It says you’re here to stay, that this church will be a permanent fixture in the area. The day you can plant a sign in the dirt that says "Future Home of [Your Church Name Here]" will be one your church will never forget. Every time they drive past that sign, your church members will say to themselves, "That's where I'm going to worship one day." It also sends a great message to the surrounding community that you are here to stay and that your current rental facilities are only temporary.
2. Permanent facilities mean more growth.
There is something attractive and visionary about buying land for your church. It attracts a different type of person. Don't get me wrong—you want all kinds of people in your church, but putting a stake in the ground attracts people who will want to build with you and give generously to the vision. There is something intangible at work, to be sure, but I've seen it happen many times. Buying land and buildings makes a church grow.
3. It's biblical.
"Possessing land," of course, is biblical. In the Old Testament, God's people were instructed to possess the land and build cities. This brought prosperity to Israel. In the New Testament, churches were started in homes, but by the end of the first-century buildings were being built to house larger congregations. In a very practical sense, going into all the world and making disciples requires more than meeting in a public park or renting facilities one day a week.
What you should know before buying land
1. Find a realtor and meet the zoning officials.
The first thing you are going to do when you decide as a church to buy land is to start looking in your area. I would suggest contacting the real estate agent that has the most “For Sale” signs in the community. Don't be afraid to look five miles further than you initially planned on looking. People won’t mind driving a few minutes more. The next thing to do, once you find a parcel of land, is to contact your local zoning officials and get their feedback. I cannot stress this enough. You can save many wasted hours by getting the local development and building officials on your side early. make an appointment and sit down with them. They might even know of some land they have already zoned for houses of worship.
2. Identify access roads and public transportation options.
Once you’ve found a piece of land, study the roads in and out. Is it easy to find? Is there easy access to freeways? Depending on your area, is there public transport close by? What about signage? Is your building going to be visible from the road? These logistics matter, and obstacles can be overcome, but you should be thinking about practical matters concerning your new location, as well as the spiritual benefits of your parcel of choice.
3. Know that size definitely matters.
This is somewhat linked to the zoning issues I mentioned above, but local governments have requirements when it comes to a building’s size as a percentage of acreage. A 250-seat auditorium will require about 2,500 square feet, including stage and aisles. You'll also need about 2,500 to 3,500 square feet for children, offices, a lobby, bathrooms, etc., for the building to function. Then you have to park all those cars. All this to say, you may need more land than you think. This leads me to the next important point...
4. Don't buy too small.
Your church is probably going to grow because of your new land and building, so don't think too small. You can build small and fill your building, and then even extend to build more facilities, but in most cases, you can't buy more land. You might be able to acquire parcels adjacent to your land, but this is rare and expensive. You'll pay over market value to get that property next door.
So, if you think you need five acres, you probably need ten. This whole exercise is going to stretch your faith and your resources. But while you’re thinking about the future, you may as well go big. Of course, like a wise builder, you should count the cost and have a budget.
5. Sell the vision.
In the process of buying land, you have a unique opportunity to preach a bold and powerful vision of kingdom expansion. If you can communicate this vision properly, it will galvanize your leadership and your members. People are always excited about projects they can be involved in, especially when it affects their lives.
6. Get ready to become a generous church.
Possibly the biggest effect buying land will have is to make your church more generous. You’re going to raise funds, which means you’ll be asking your congregation to give sacrificially. This act of fundraising will hopefully launch your church on a never-ending journey toward greater generosity. Whether it's land or buildings, missions, community outreach, or helping the poor, you are always going to need more money to step deeper into Christ's vision for your community and the world. If you have a yearly budget of $500,000 and try to raise $1,000,000 to buy land, it will make you uncomfortable, but it will also stretch you and your team. In the end, it will be worth every minute of blood, sweat, and tears because you will be a different church at the end of the process.
Over to you
Are you ready to buy land? If you think God might be leading you in that direction, just remember: it’s more than real estate; it’s an investment in the kingdom of God at work in this world.