At what point does a congregation shift from being a church to becoming a landlord?
Many of our congregations – for financial reasons – rent out space to other congregations and non-profit organizations. A couple of initial thoughts about this:
- Charging rent to other not-for-profit organizations seems to be the antithesis of partnership. If my congregation believes that A) our building is a tool for ministry and B) the ministry to addicts, abuse victims, and children is aligned with our mission, then charging rent or expecting “a donation” feels a bit mercenary.
- If we charge rent to an organization, we cannot claim their work as “part of our ministry.” I recently visited a congregation and asked about their mission outreach into the community and they shared a long list of organizations that meet in their building. “Do you know them?” I asked. “Who are their leaders, their participants, and how do you connect with them personally?” Needless to say, their only connection is a transactional relationship involving keys and a rent check.
So, assuming your congregation rents space to a preschool or a counseling center or a support group for PTSD victims or another congregation . . . at what point in funding your church’s budget do you become more of a landlord than a church?
My brilliant colleague EH and I discuss this often. Has your congregation declined from being a church to being a landlord if your budget is 97% rent-subsidized? 80%? 50%? 25%?
Jesus didn’t die for this. Jesus didn’t give up his sweet life to endlessly prop up ineffective ministry or to perpetuate an institution that is sentimentally dear to our hearts. That is not ministry. That’s real estate management. (No offense to real estate professionals.)
So this Lenten season is an excellent opportunity to be brave followers of Jesus. Are we willing to give up our buildings for the sake of the gospel?
If my particular church no longer has the capacity to serve the community and beyond in the name of Jesus, imagine leaving a legacy that would serve the community and beyond for years to come. Who will be the first leader to say these words:
“I believe we are called to sell this building and give the proceeds to a congregation that can be what we can no longer be.”
These are not sad words. They are not the words of a loser or a failed Christian. These are holy, imaginative, faithful words.
For the love of God – literally – please consider your congregation’s ministry with a new set of metrics:
- How many people are being touched by the Holy through the work of our church?
- How are we serving our “partners” in ministry (i.e. people using our building) apart from renting them space?
- How do we love Jesus more than we love our building and property?
And for what it’s worth, I’d love to hear your opinion on the percentage of the operating budget can be fulfilled by rent before a church stops being a church. Is it 10%? 50%? 100% (or something in between.) Please share your wisdom here or on Facebook. Thanks.