Our friend and colleague, Elizabeth Lynn, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, recently published an incredibly helpful article in Faith and Leadership that outlines the myriad challenges many congregations face when it comes to church buildings, property, and space. In addition to summarizing the challenges, Elizabeth also listed several organizations and additional resources that have proven invaluable for many congregations who are navigating these challenges.
We recommend reading the entire article at Faith and Leadership here: https://faithandleadership.com/struggling-what-do-your-church-building-heres-how-find-help
We include Elizabeth’s list below, as well as some of our own recommended conversation partners at the bottom. Never hesitate to contact us for clarification or if you need a conversation partner to discern next steps.
- For more than 30 years, Partners for Sacred Places, the longest-standing national nonsectarian organization working in this arena, has been helping congregations better understand the architectural, historic and community value of their buildings in order to preserve and use the property for good.
- Newer organizations like RootedGoodare crafting cohort experiences and human-centered design tools to guide congregations toward new plans for their properties.
- Oikos Institute for Social Impactis helping faith communities of color harness the power of their assets and especially their real estate, often their most valuable tangible asset, for community benefit and economic growth.
- The Proximity Projectis encouraging congregations to understand the built environment of their properties and neighborhoods as essential to mission, drawing on the insights of urban design, development and placemaking.
- Some organizations are geographically focused. Bricks and Mortals(which wins the award for best name in a highly competitive field!) focuses on New York City congregations, connecting faith communities with development experts to find sustainable solutions to property woes.
- Good Acres, a project of Mission City Renewal, builds collaboration among real estate professionals, investors, community organizers, and church and denominational leaders in San Antonio to help churches realize the full potential of their underutilized property for community good.
- Wesley Community Developmentpartners with faith-based organizations and churches in North Carolina.
- And north of the U.S. border, both Parish Propertiesand Trinity Centres Foundation work with congregations in Canada.
- Other organizations approach congregations through a specific social concern that repurposed church assets might help address: affordable housing, food security in Black communities, co-working spaces for change makers, ecological land stewardshipor venues for artists, to name just a few.
- Meanwhile, denominations continue to provide programs like Project Regeneration(Presbyterian Church [U.S.A.]), the Episcopal Parish Network (formerly CEEP) and the UCC Church Building & Loan Fund. They also share resources with one another cross-denominationally, and increasingly engage the growing landscape of independent consultants.
Additional TMC connections and conversation partners:
- Kjell Ferris. Calvary Lutheran. Calvary Lutheran Church of Minneapolis is deeply committed to its neighborhood— a commitment that only intensified following the murder of George Floyd a block from the church building. Like many urban mainline churches, however, Calvary was confronting the challenges of insurmountable deferred building maintenance and chronic financial deficits. Following a multi-year process to identify partners and options, the congregation voted to sell its property to Trellis, Inc., a local nonprofit developer of affordable housing. The twenty-million-dollar Trellis project creates forty units of deeply affordable housing through a mix of new construction and adaptive reuse of the historic building, and retains space for Calvary’s worship, activities, food shelf, and administration. With construction currently underway, Calvary has temporarily relocated to its mother congregation, St. Paul’s/San Pablo’s Lutheran, two miles away. Calvary looks forward to returning as one of the tenants in the completed Trellis property in late 2023— just in time to celebrate the congregation’s centennial on the corner of 39th Street and Chicago Avenue. firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Mack Ave Community Development. MACC Development is a 501(c)3 Christian community development corporation committed to the holistic revitalization of Detroit’s 48214 community, block by block, neighbor by neighbor. MACC exists to see the gospel advanced and to promote the dignity, value, and worth of every resident. One of TMC’s facilitators has been key to this work. Reach out to TMC if you’d like to learn more.
- Steve Lindsley. Trinity Presbyterian, Charlotte. How does being a 500-member church in a 1500-member facility work?” That’s the question that the session of Trinity Presbyterian Church of Charlotte started asking back in 2017, and continues to ask. Trinity is blessed with an abundance of buildings and a large campus in the heart of south Charlotte that, at one point, sprawled out over 20 acres. But what happens when the church is no longer able to support all of that on its own? Trinity has engaged in one long-range planning process, and is currently engaged in another, as it seeks to live into and even broaden its mission while ensuring financial stability for the congregation long-term. Some of the things that Trinity has engaged in this effort are ministry partnerships, strategic campus planning, land sell and land lease options, mixed housing, and missional endowment growth. Senior pastor Steve Lindsley would be happy to share this experience with others. Steve Lindsley email@example.com
Do you have other resources that you would like us to know about? Or ideas for how TMC can support you in exploring the topic of church property? We know this is a vexing issue for many congregations, and TMC is interested in your thoughts and questions. Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.