As churches face discussions of expansion, relocation, merger, or closure, the process can become excruciating. Many churches form a church real estate decision-making committee to consider these decisions. Others use the elder team. Still, others leave it to the decision of the Pastor. In my experience, it is critical that these decisions are made by a selected group of leaders, call it a team or a committee, and then approved by the body.
I once saw a plaque that said:
“For God so loved the world that he didn’t send a committee.”
It’s a funny statement — especially to those that work with church committees. But it is essential to recognize the importance of making these types of decisions through a group of invested individuals. This group should be committed to making a decision that best positions the church to accomplish its mission and vision. A committee or team must take the real estate question at hand and look at it through a lens that asks the following questions:
- Does this decision better allow the church to accomplish the mission and vision?
- What is the cost of not making a decision, standing pat, and doing nothing?
- Can we afford to take this step? (especially if expanding or relocating)
- Is this a missional* decision or an emotional decision?
What is missional?
Missional is a word that gets flagged by spell-check all the time. My definition of “missional” is when every action and ministry function is carrying out the mission of Christ. In other words, all decisions are made with the mission, vision, and values of the church at the core of its purpose.
Clarity Through Missional Decisions
As a team considers ministry decisions, there needs to be a compelling reason why you will say yes to or no to a decision. We have been in front of church leaders who have said they want to sell their building and relocate, but they have no plan related to that decision. If your church does not have clarity about how you use your facility or what you need to meet your ministry needs, then pursuing buildings and property will just be another thing that will sidetrack you. A missional decision is one that the church makes with a clear focus on meeting the mission and vision of the church. Many multisite churches and church plants have developed the missional mindset into their ministry. The decisions they make are based on a specific framework that guides their ministry.
Uncertainty Through Emotional Decisions
On the other hand, 65 to 80 percent of churches in America are in decline or have plateaued. We have been in many of these churches as they face the decision to close or relocate and sell their existing worship facilities. Many times they have failed to ask the questions and make decisions way too late. One of the main reasons they wait too long is because the decision is an emotional one. The people are tied to the building emotionally as they have married, baptized, and buried loved ones there. They have developed an emotional attachment to the building, and to them, the church is the building.
I have encountered churches that have sold a building to another church and acknowledged that some members would stay with the building and join the new church. The place or space has become the church and asking the question should we relocate or close the church is not a missional decision; it is purely emotional.
Embracing a Missional Mindset
We have seen many churches run in circles trying to decide to move, sell, or change. These decisions can derail a church from accomplishing its mission and vision, but they must approach the decisions from a missional perspective as if it is a business decision.
When a church considers expansion, relocation, merger, or closure, there will be members with differing opinions and emotions. Understanding your by-laws and ensuring that actions follow the by-laws will help you in the process. If you need to obtain congregational approval, then you will need the congregation to embrace the missional mindset. This may take time.
We have watched as Pastors have led their church through a closure and stewarded the season well. When the leader leads well and shepherds the people through these decisions, the result can be a beautiful expression as opposed to an abrupt end. That does not mean that the entire congregation is involved in every aspect of the decision process. Committees or leadership teams will best reach church real estate goals when they keep the mission and vision of the church in mind as they make these decisions.
Facility decisions and church real estate decisions are not emotional decisions for a church. These decisions are stewardship decisions that affect your ministry. Before asking your people to consider selling a facility, take the time to work through a process that will guide your decision-making process.
Church Real Estate Experts at Your Service
If you need experienced church real estate agents who understand the unique challenges and rewards facing churches like your own, contact Church Realty. Our ministry-minded strategies can help you reach your real estate goals faster. To connect with a member of our team, contact us today.