11 Jul 2019

Is a Building in Your Future?

David Newkirk

Every church needs a place to gather. Often, churches start out meeting in a home, a community building, or a school. Everyone's opinions, preferences, and visions vary depending on their experiences. 

After experiencing a trial by fire, the church I pastored received an insurance payout settlement. We were then faced with a decision: What were our next steps going to look like? Would we rebuild the church? Should we buy an existing building or build a new one? 

After the fire, we began holding services in a meeting room at the back of a coffee shop. Though the church had been in existence for many years, we all were in agreement to build a new church. However, with this decision, we were also facing some of the same obstacles that young churches often face—decisions that could have a very dramatic effect on the future health and growth of the church.

We decided to buy some land on the main thoroughfares of our small town and build a new building (pictured above). There were five things we considered before making this decision. I would encourage you to also consider these items before you, your church board, and its members decide to buy or build a new building. 

Maybe you didn’t want to get the church started until after you secured a more permanent location to meet? Either way, it does not matter what approach you take. The fact is, there will always come a time when you are faced with the question, “Should we buy?”

Here are five things to consider before you buy. 

1. Consider the alternative

It's possible that buying is not the best fit for your ministry at this time. And that's absolutely 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. 

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.

When starting out, consider a meeting place that would delay your need to buy so that you 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 very important to count the cost before diving into the commitment. When you consider buying a building, you will need to consider not only the value of the property but also the operational cost. You may be able to afford the mortgage payment, but can the church also afford

    • Insurance, 
    • Maintenance,
    • Lawn care, 
    • Security,
    • Utilities, and
    • Taxes? 

When considering facilities to purchase, it can be very 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 big annual savings. To learn more and find out if your state offers property tax exemption for churches reach out to one of our church plant specialist 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 pay them a visit 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.

As a church planting specialist here at StartCHURCH, I 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 are not able to 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 I referenced earlier was about getting 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.

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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 in order 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 week 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 important 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 help to 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 to be an essential set of tools that help safeguard the unique ministry of your church.

Is your church ready for this next step?

As you, your church board, and its members deciπde 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. 

Many of the items listed above are things that every church plant should have in place, even before they are looking for a building. Often times in the busyness 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 to learn how the StartRIGHT Service will ensure the necessary legal steps are taken. When you talk to one of our church plant specialists, they will be able to help you understand what the timeline looks like to secure the items you need to obtain the property for your church.

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Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Blessings,
Raul Rivera


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