Do you daydream about ministries that could be happening at your church? Do you pray for more people to walk through those doors? Do you have wasted space in your building? Every pastor I know can answer yes to these three questions. So let’s take a look at what we have at hand. What spaces do you need to reclaim in your local church to make room for ministry? What can be repurposed for the church or the community? Stewardship includes the care of buildings that have been entrusted to local congregations.
Churches across the country are finding themselves in a quandary about their aging buildings: Should we rebuild? How can we afford a(nother) building campaign? Even if we could raise the finances, is rebuilding the best way to steward the money? Should we renovate? Can we rent space elsewhere and save the overhead? Can we share space? Will we have to close our doors?
Each congregation has to assess its circumstances and discern its way forward. But even when a church isn’t struggling financially, assessing the use of their buildings can be an enormous opportunity to increase outreach while decreasing costs.
Here are just a few of the options I discuss in my forthcoming book, Funding Ministry with Five Loaves and Two Fishes:
Choir room to café: Is there a space in your church that would be perfect for a small café or other gathering space? So many of our churches have underutilized or never-utilized space. By converting those to a casual, comfortable gathering space, we may attract more of the community into our building while giving new purpose and vitality to old spaces.
Coworking: Whether your congregation meets in an old church building with extra rooms or is looking to move into something modern (like a strip mall or a former retirement community), it may benefit from coworking. Worship services are typically held on the weekends with little church activity during the week. Could nonprofits, entrepreneurs, or other professionals in the community rent office space during the week? Not only could this be a source of additional revenue, but it’s a great way to build community ties.
Classrooms and Meeting Rooms: Could classrooms and meeting rooms be used for Boy and Girl Scouts, Weight Watchers, AA meetings, Al-Anon meetings, Grief Share, Cancer Support, sports leagues, or other programs? ESL or GED classes? Even if the church decides not to charge a rental rate to a group, depending on the group’s purpose, this still gives the church the opportunity to get more community members through its doors than it would for Sunday worship.
Kitchens: Licensed commercial kitchens can be hard to find for young caterers or others just starting out in the food business, but most churches have one. This is the perfect space to offer for rental during the week.
Sanctuary: Sanctuaries provide a place where a large group of people can come together at once. What if your sanctuary could be used for neighborhood meetings with elected officials, or as a place where community members could come discuss and find solutions to problems that plague the neighborhood?
Parking Lots: Especially in an urban area where parking spaces are scarce, opening a parking lot during unused hours can be a draw for potential renters. There are a number of ways the arrangement could be made, whether it’s charging a monthly fee to individual tenants for weeknight parking or renting it to groups for parking during specific events.
Courtyards or Gardens: An outdoor courtyard or garden can serve as a venue for parties, weddings, or other outdoor events.
Choir Rooms: The organ and choir setup in many churches can be a great space for musicians who need to practice. The acoustics in a church are often excellent, hard to replicate, and may be exactly what a musician in your community needs. Consider offering this space as a music rehearsal space for organists, pianists, and other choirs.
Stage: Many churches have a stage, perhaps used only a few times a year for school plays or a Christmas pageant. Many towns have theater groups looking for an affordable place to stage performances. A stage could also serve as a venue for dance rehearsals or photo shoots for an aspiring photographer.
Storage Areas: Churches with several buildings may have unused storage spaces—closets in basements, outdoor sheds or garages, etc. These, too, can be made available to renters. They might be just what a Little League team needs to store their equipment in the off-season, or what a young entrepreneur needs for inventory storage.
Have you repurposed a junk space to a ministry space in your church recently? Tell us about it!