Are You Ready for a Building?

By Kristen Alexander

Even in 2020, thinking about a church or ministry usually brings to mind a building. Older generations remember the little white church on the hill, the walks to service on Sundays with family members. No matter what comes to mind, it almost always begins with a building.

Are you asking yourself questions such as, is it time for us to buy one? Should our church stop renting and plant roots instead of being mobile? Or should we move into something entirely different, such as creating an online presence to reach the masses?

Whatever your case may be, here are 5 things to consider before you buy a building.

1. Consider the alternative

It's possible that buying is not the best fit for your ministry at this time. And that's okay! Rushing into a buying decision can really hinder the work the Lord is doing. As in everything, it is important that you seek the Lord's direction and timing.

With the pandemic currently limiting gatherings, it might be worth considering that online streaming of services may be more beneficial to your organization right now. This alternative route takes many organizations into new territory to reach those in need of God's love.

After working through this list, you may find that buying is not the right option for your church or at least that now is not the right time to do so. Very few churches begin their journey with a facility that they own. Some churches spend a good portion of their early existence leasing a building.

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When starting, consider a meeting place that would delay your need to buy to have more time to fundraise and plan. This meeting place can look like a community building, a school, a local gym, or a movie theater. It may even be sharing a building with another church with offset schedules.

2. Consider the cost

When it comes to the Lord's money, it is imperative to count the cost before diving into the commitment. When you consider buying a building, you will need to consider the property's value and the operational cost. You may be able to afford the mortgage payment, but can the church also afford the following?

    • Insurance
    • Maintenance
    • Lawn care
    • Security
    • Utilities
    • Taxes

When considering facilities to purchase, it can be easy to overlook or underestimate the utility cost, especially if it is an older building. In most cities and counties, you can reach out to the utility providers to get the record of the previous year's utility consumption.

Additionally, when your church owns a building, property taxes may be assessed. Some states allow you to apply for property tax exemption, which can provide significant annual savings. To learn more and find out if your state offers a property tax exemption for churches, reach out to one of our church planting specialists at 877-494-4655.

If you are looking at building a new church building, I encourage you to reach out to other pastors and churches who have been down that path before. Even visit them and see how their facility came to be. Ask these pastors what they loved about the process and what they wished they could do differently.

3. Consider the legal steps

It is important that a church has established its legal presence by first obtaining its articles of incorporation. It doesn't matter if it's a new church plant or a church that has been active for many years.

Our church planting specialists at StartCHURCH have talked with many pastors who are just a few weeks away from closing on their property, but their churches are not incorporated. Unfortunately, churches that find themselves in these situations cannot purchase or insure the property in the church's name. This can lead to a tricky situation if the building is being purchased with church funds.

Another aspect that was referenced earlier was about getting a property tax exemption.

Many states offer this tax benefit to nonprofits and churches, but they require that you obtain your favorable determination letter to show your nonprofit is 501(c)(3) approved. At StartCHURCH, we can help help you establish a legal foundation starting with applying for incorporation, all the way through getting your 501(c)(3) status through our StartRIGHT Service.

4. Consider the timeline

Most things that we want to move swiftly end up moving slowly. And the things we think are far off often sneak up on us much more quickly than we anticipated. Just as you make it a point to count the financial cost of buying property, you also need to count the cost of time. It's necessary to consider how these factors will fall within your timeline.

Take the time to map out the lineup of events that need to happen to securely and successfully purchase the property for your church. Some events to consider as a part of the timeline would include:

  • Legal formation of the church
  • Negotiations
  • Inspections
  • Financial approval
  • Time till the closing day

If you are looking at buying a building or property and have not taken the legal steps to establish the church, you must take this factor into account before you set your closing date. It can take as little as 24 hours or as long as 8 to 12 weeks to get your articles of incorporation approved by the secretary of state (or county), depending on where you live. And depending on what state your church will be located in, you may need to receive your 501(c)(3) approval letter, which can take another 3 to 8 months.

5. Consider the community response

Something new going on in a community almost always gathers attention. And with this attention, it can be an excellent opportunity to minister to people who are being stirred up by their curiosity.

With this, we also know that we have an adversary who is looking for opportunities to tear down the Lord's church. This is a good time in the life of the church to ensure that the right steps have been taken in establishing some solid corporate policies and procedures.

When you finally get to open the doors to your new church building, you will find that people will be interested in using your new facility for weddings, funerals, and other events. You will need to have a plan on how you will handle each of those requests. It is essential to consider what type of liabilities you are engaging in when accepting such requests.

When you sign up for the StartRIGHT Service, we will provide you with over 40 different policies and procedures that you can easily access and put into practice. A written and promoted set of policies and procedures helps protect the ministry and its values by anticipating questions or activities for which more than one interpretation or viewpoint is possible. Many ministries skip this component of developing their vision, but we consider policies an essential set of tools that help safeguard your church's unique ministry. If you've already started your church but would like access to these policies, you can check out our Policies Suite here

Is your church ready for this next step?

As you, your church board, and its members decide to buy or build a new building, be sure you count the cost. Be sure the appropriate legal steps have been taken before a decision is made. Consider the time and prepare for the response of the community.

Many of the items listed above are things that every church plant should have in place, even before looking for a building. Often in the business of ministry and life, these steps get overlooked. But I encourage you to get started as soon as you can. We would love to partner with you and your church to help you make sure you're ready for new church property.

Call us today at 877-494-4655 or click the link below to schedule a call to learn how the StartRIGHT Service will ensure you take the necessary legal steps. When you talk to one of our church plant specialists, they will help you understand what the timeline looks like to secure the items you need to obtain the property for your church.


And receive Book 1 of our Grow Trilogy FREE today! This series gives you the strategies you need to get started growing your church plant today!