When is the Right Time to Buy a Church Building?
Buying a church building is no small matter, and the number of things that you need to consider if you’re planning to buy or build a church are numerous. You want to do what’s right for you and your ministry, you want to wisely spend the funds that you have stewardship over, and you want to expand and grow. All of these things are righteous desires, and you should be commended for having them, but they’re also perilous. The scriptures are rife with stories of people who valued money more than people, who sought for the things of this world rather than the things of the next. Starting a new church, getting church financing, and buying a church building at the right time are difficult prospects. We’ve compiled some things for you to think over.
Value People Over Things
The most important thing when you’re looking to buy a church building is to place your value in people and in the ministry, not in things. It can be very tempting when you’re looking at properties, amenities, and furnishings, to think of all the many glorious ways that you can make your church beautiful and magnificent. And there’s nothing wrong with a beautiful church! You can have a marvelous church and still be within the spirit of glorifying God. There is nothing wrong with beautiful paintings, stained glass windows, or lovely furniture. But: don’t do so at the cost of neglecting the people you serve.
Be In the World But Not of the World
Remember the Lord’s counsel to be “in” the world, but not “of” the world. There are many temporal concerns that we have to face when it comes to building our churches and building our ministries, and among them are budgets, financing, facilities, materials, parking, property, zoning, and more. These are things that we have to deal with because we are “in the world”. Were we in paradise, we wouldn’t have to worry about such worldly matters—we could just focus on the ministry. But we are in the world, so the bank accounts must be balanced, the bills must be paid, the permits must be applied for, and the payroll must go out. But that doesn’t mean that we have to be “of” the world. We can stay grounded when we think about the purpose of the church building that we’re wishing to buy. Who is it going to serve? How will it benefit the ministry? How will it further the mission of the church?
Understand Church Financing
So, let’s talk about those temporal matters of dealing with church financing. When we seek to buy a church building, just like when we seek to buy a house or a business, there is a lot of paperwork that we have to go through, and a lot of steps we have to follow and forms we have to sign. Understanding church financing will help you to know how much you can afford, which will then lead you to know how many of those fineries you can afford, where you can shrink the budget, and where you can make cuts.
Understand the “Market”
As much as it may pain us to say it, when you’re looking to start a church, you need to think—at least a little —like you’re starting a business. So, in banker’s talk, you’re going to need to think about customers (church members) and competition (other nearby churches). When you seek church financing the lender is going to want to see that you can afford the building that you plan to buy, and that means that you have to have enough church members giving tithes and offerings to the church to support the price of the building, including down payment and future payments. And you’re not going to want to buy a church that “competes” with another church for members. Just as you wouldn’t build a bakery on a street with three other bakeries, you wouldn’t buy a church in an area full of other churches.
In lender’s terms, you’re going to want to put together a “business” plan that lays out where your offerings are coming from, where the members will be coming from, how you plan to gain new members and expand, and how you plan to sustain your church over the long term. Yes, this all sounds very “in the world”, and it is, but it is a necessary thing to gain the funding you need to buy a new church building.
Understand Your Budget
Understanding your budget means that you need to know how much money you have, how much income you expect to continue to get, and how much you will be able to borrow based on those numbers. And don’t expect the lender to always make the correct decision for you! A lender might be willing to give you a loan for $1.5 million, but you feel in your heart (and you’ve crunched the numbers yourself) that you’re more comfortable only taking $1 million. Know how much you can afford and don’t fall prey to predatory lending.
You will also need to know your cash reserves. Many lenders require a down payment of 20-30% but will also require you to have six months of operating expenses in the bank on top of that money. So be aware that it isn’t just enough to scrape together the down payment: you also need to have money in the bank.
Define the Needs of Your Church
A big part of determining if it is the right time to buy a church is to determine exactly what you need for your new church. This is more than just a lot and a chapel, some pews and hymnbooks. There are needs for your church that you must plan for.
What Facilities Does Your Church Need?
Ask yourself what you want your church to have, and what you need your church to have, and then see how you can get the best of both worlds. Some of the things that you will need to consider when it comes to building the church is the property the church sits on, and does that property have any facilities on it like a large lawn or a pavilion for outdoor activities. It also includes parking, which is a major concern, especially when you’re looking at future growth. You need enough parking to accommodate everyone and then more.
You also will want to ask: do you want a gym in your church? What about school? What about a food kitchen? Aside from the chapel, how many classrooms and multipurpose rooms and offices and restrooms are you going to need?
This is also where you ask yourself how elaborate you want the church to be. Is this going to be a utilitarian church that looks decent and has adequate facilities? Is this church going to be designed by a cutting-edge architect that will create something gorgeous and elaborate? Is this a megachurch that will gather in thousands of members? Also: are regular pews fine, or do you want carved wood? Is an electric organ fine or do you want a real pipe organ or are you planning on a band?
Remember: the point is not to squeeze every amenity out of your budget; it’s to do what’s best for you and your ministry.
What Materials Does Your Church Need?
Buying a church building also means that you need to furnish it, and you’re going to need to factor in those costs as well: chairs and tables, hymn books and framed art, couches in the foyer and computers in the clerk’s office.
The decision to buy a new church building is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and you should put a lot of thought and prayer into it. Getting the Lord’s help in all matters, including temporal ones like budgets and financing, is essential to creating a lasting church built on a firm foundation.
Are you ready to look into buying a new church building?