What kind of building does your church meet in? And comment: do you like it?

Church buildings are obviously extra-Scriptural.  Still, with changing times, growth and decline, etc., it is interesting to try to determine the structural needs of the future.  The place to begin is where we are and to learn practical points from one another.

Our church has had to invest ridiculous amounts of money to maintain our buildings.  These are not frills.

So comments about your own church family's facility or meeting place can help the many of us who are uncertain, especially given our changing times.

Also, comment on the economy of steel buildings, strategies, or other experiences from which we can learn.  Try to keep it brief, and I think it appropriate to say most of us will not bother to click on links you share.  Sorry!  :(

 

 

 

We meet in a rented/loaned facility and do not own our main meeting place.
19% (5 votes)
We are located in an older facility, but costs to maintain are reasonable.
42% (11 votes)
We are located in an older building that is a black hole for money.
8% (2 votes)
We are located in a newer building, but not so pleased.
0% (0 votes)
We are located in a newer building and fairly or very pleased.
19% (5 votes)
We are in transition, limbo, or between choices.
4% (1 vote)
We made some big mistakes in this area (please share).
4% (1 vote)
Other
4% (1 vote)
Total votes: 26
5355 reads

There are 20 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

Terms like older or newer are ambiguous.

Let try this: If your building was built before 1980, it is older.

If it was built after 1980, it is newer.

How is that?

 

This is pretty generous, really. The reason is that many of you may meet in buildings over 100 years old!

 

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Larry Nelson's picture

 

.....it's more complicated than that.  As the church has grown, so has the building:

The church was founded in 1962.  The first sanctuary, with restrooms, a small kitchen, and little more, was built in 1966.  A few classrooms were added in 1969.  1976 saw a larger sanctuary added.  1982: more classrooms, nursery, & office space.  1987: a gym (we have a preschool), more classrooms, and storage.  1994: an expanded nursery & youth room.  2001: Expanded sanctuary, more classrooms, more offices, larger library/cafe, commercial-grade kitchen, new junior & senior high rooms, larger vaulted-commons area, and more.

The church building now consists of 7 separate construction projects/additions, built between 1966 - 2001.  It totals 95,000 square feet.  We've just re-roofed the whole thing (peaked & flat sections) in the past year, and we're in the midst right now of renovating about 40% of the building (the older portions).  A new boiler, HVAC upgrades, LED lighting, and other mechanical work is being done, in addition to paint, carpet, and the like.  (We have no mortgage, and we are not incurring any debt, in case anyone is wondering.) 

Once we're finished (scheduled in October), our hope is that we won't need to make any significant investment in the building for many years. 

JD Miller's picture

I was at the Continental Baptist Missions conference last week.  Part of their ministry is church building.  I talked to one of the missionary builders and he said a wood frame building was less expensive to build than a steel building.  He also said that they were seeing about a 5-6 yr payback on using spray foam insulation vs fiberglass.  Understand that this is payback on the cost of materials since the labor is supplied, but long term, the added insulation value is paying off.  In my last pastorate, we were in a 100+ yr old building with very little insulation (just a few inches on the center of the ceiling with none on some parts and none in the 2x6 walls.  We added about 16" of blow in cellulose insulation to the ceiling and about 6" to the walls.  Our heating bill went from over 400 a month to about 160 after this project was completed.  We had cost sharing from the energy company, and furnished our own labor, so it was paid for in 3 months.  This was in northern Iowa, so it was cold, but this just shows how important insulation can be.

Ron Bean's picture

Building #1: 140 year old historical meeting house that had no running water (heresy for a Baptist church?), uncomfortable pews, and hard to find. Tradition made moving difficult and improvements were impossible.

Building #2: New building with 50% of funding from sale of parsonage and a lot of free labor from members. Simple design that was functional and attractive in a good location.

Building #3: Primarily built as a Christian school building with a small meeting room. (Think "If you build it they will come.") by a group that split from a larger church. Poor construction, never completed, massive debt with impending balloon payment. Doomed from the start.

Building #4: 7 year old church plant now independent and fully supporting a lead pastor meets in a rented school facility that meets its needs. Community groups seem to a beneficial replacement for Sunday night services and prayer meetings. Set up and take down each Sunday can be stressful but it provides an opportunity for everyone to get involved. 

Curmudgeon Question: Why spend hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of dollars for a building (house) that you use (live in) for 5-10 hours a week?

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Ron Bean wrote:

Curmudgeon Question: Why spend hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of dollars for a building (house) that you use (live in) for 5-10 hours a week?

The simple answer is that if you have a building that's worth that much, then you utilize it seven days per week.

For us, underutilization is not a problem!  From morning to evening, seven days/week, there is usually something (and oftentimes multiple events) going on in the building.

1. Four services each weekend: 1 on Saturday night, 3 on Sunday mornings.  Additionally, we have irregular Sunday evening services for different reasons.   

2. Funerals & weddings

3. Preschool & daycare weekdays, open from 7 am to 6pm

4. Big-attendance women's Bible study on Monday nights

5. Men's Bible study & prayer, Friday mornings @ 6:30 am

6. Numerous other Bible studies, support groups, etc. meeting at various times (morning/afternoon/evening) throughout the week

7. Pastors & staff working in their offices throughout the week

8. Two different homeschool co-ops (one is elementary, the other secondary) meet in our building during the school year.  On days when both are present, along with our own preschool/daycare, we will have 500 kids in classrooms throughout the building.

9. Wednesday night clubs (Awana, etc.): Hundreds of kids then too.

10. Choir practice, orchestra, band, organist, piano, singers, etc: there is often some sort of practice going on.

11. Various outreach & service events

12. Men's basketball in the gym one or two nights a week.....

13. Etc.

You get the picture.  Our building is open and being used at least 12 hours a day, 7 days per week.

pvawter's picture

Our building is older, but relatively easy to maintain. We have been in the process of making some upgrades since I came four years ago.
The only real negative is that we have classrooms and our fellowship hall in the basement with limited access for those who cannot easily navigate stairs.

RickyHorton's picture

JD Miller wrote:

I talked to one of the missionary builders and he said a wood frame building was less expensive to build than a steel building. 

That is true to a certain extent.  However, when you get into larger buildings, it makes no sense to use a wood frame.  If I'm not mistaken, the churches they build are typically on the smaller size so it would definitely make sense there.  Let me qualify my statement though by saying I am a bit biased since I work for a steel company that produces structural steel! 

Ed Vasicek's picture

Larry Nelson, Ron Bean, and others (join in), consider and please respond

With the recent Supreme Court rulings and predicted trends -- and given our convictions (that really are convictions, not preferences), consider and respond to the following, if you will.

1. Is your church building in a place that invites picketers and protestors because you will not embrace gay marriage?  Do you have a public walkway near your building?

2. In our area, the county accessor has been looking for opportunities to tax churches.  For example, if you loan buildings for home school use, and one of the teachers charges a nominal fee for art lessons, for example, the property now becomes taxable. 

3. Many of us believe that we will lose our tax exempt status over the gay marriage issue.  How might that affect your building situation? Could you maintain your current facility given those additional charges?

4. Now to the Curmudgeon question: Schools will have a great tool to eliminate rental of facilities to churches who are viewed as bigoted because of our stand on homosexuality.  What happens if we become the "undesirables" of society and no one wants to rent to us?  Perhaps pro-gay marriage school board members begin objecting.  This, to me, seems VERY LIKELY to occur in many areas.

So what is the best approach for the future?   I am trying to figure these sorts of things out, and many of us will have to come up with a plan eventually.  So, please, share your thoughts.

"The Midrash Detective"

Craig Toliver's picture

Building nightmare:

  • The building was in two parts: A very large, very high ceiling, auditorium with an attached 2 story box structure that served as the foyer and offices (main level) and a nursery and and office on the 2nd level
  • The windows were (I could say "are" because it is still there) single pane in a cold region
  • The box structure pulled away from the auditorium. Rain from the auditorium roof would run down between the crack between the two sections. 
  • The auditorium (a big polygon box) had terrible acoustics
  • The street view of the auditorium looked like a medieval fortress 
  • The fixtures in the bathroom were basically low grade residential 
  • And while the auditorium  had seating for 300 or 400 or more, they basically had restrooms for about 80 people

Some idiot architect must have had fun drawing up his plans. A generation has suffered from his mistakes!

Picture

I voted: "We made some big mistakes in this area (please share).". The mistakes were made prior to my attending.

Mark_Smith's picture

Relax. While I am sure the inside problems are as bad as you suggest., I don't think the outside looks unattractive at all.

Jim's picture

Craig Toliver wrote:

http://binged.it/1efbnih

We had that leak fixed and had trees planted around the outside to improve the look. But the construction quality was poor. In the inside behind the pulpit there was a long vertical crack in the stonework. The deacons hired a guy to put some colored putty in there: didn't systemically fix it ... just cosmetically covered it over.  

 

JD Miller's picture

Ricky is correct about wood vs steel

That is true to a certain extent.  However, when you get into larger buildings, it makes no sense to use a wood frame.  If I'm not mistaken, the churches they build are typically on the smaller size so it would definitely make sense there.  Let me qualify my statement though by saying I am a bit biased since I work for a steel company that produces structural steel! 

I had forgotten that the builder said that if you get over 80 feet wide, then steel is the way to go.  I'm guessing some of that will change from year to year depending on steel and wood prices.  

Larry Nelson's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

Larry Nelson, Ron Bean, and others (join in), consider and please respond

With the recent Supreme Court rulings and predicted trends -- and given our convictions (that really are convictions, not preferences), consider and respond to the following, if you will.

1. Is your church building in a place that invites picketers and protestors because you will not embrace gay marriage?  Do you have a public walkway near your building?

2. In our area, the county accessor has been looking for opportunities to tax churches.  For example, if you loan buildings for home school use, and one of the teachers charges a nominal fee for art lessons, for example, the property now becomes taxable. 

3. Many of us believe that we will lose our tax exempt status over the gay marriage issue.  How might that affect your building situation? Could you maintain your current facility given those additional charges?

4. Now to the Curmudgeon question: Schools will have a great tool to eliminate rental of facilities to churches who are viewed as bigoted because of our stand on homosexuality.  What happens if we become the "undesirables" of society and no one wants to rent to us?  Perhaps pro-gay marriage school board members begin objecting.  This, to me, seems VERY LIKELY to occur in many areas.

So what is the best approach for the future?   I am trying to figure these sorts of things out, and many of us will have to come up with a plan eventually.  So, please, share your thoughts.

1. We're on 18 acres, and the main entrance to the building is a good 300 to 400 feet from the public sidewalk.  That isn't to say that any protesters would respect the boundary of public vs. private...   Even so, there are larger, better known, higher profile churches in the Twin Cities that would likely be targets of protests before us.

2. The fact that we run an actual business (licensed preschool/daycare) in our building might be more applicable in our case than our hosting of homeschool co-ops. 

3. If conceivably we lost our exemption from property taxes, we'd likely see a six-figure bill.  On a previous thread, I did some looking online to estimate the amount.  Our property (building & land) is worth something like $18M (+/-).  Locally, it looks like that would mean annual property taxes of $100,000 - $150,000.   Could we absorb that?  Yes: last year our "income" (tithes/offerings) was about $5M, so this would be 2-3% of that.  Would we need to make any cuts to any areas of the budget to pay it?  Maybe; maybe not.

4. We are in the process of starting a second site.  (We've planted six other churches since 1971, but this one would be a second site, rather than a church plant.)   Location is yet to be determined, but a school auditorium is always an option.  Would our stand be a factor in a school's decision whether or not to rent to us?  If we'd choose to go the school auditorium route, I guess we'll find out.  

Larry's picture

Moderator

Is your church building in a place that invites picketers and protestors because you will not embrace gay marriage?  Do you have a public walkway near your building?

We are on a public sidewalk about 40 feet from our front door. I doubt we would get picketed because (1) marriage isn't a big deal in our church and (2) most people don't seem to care that much.

2. In our area, the county accessor has been looking for opportunities to tax churches.  For example, if you loan buildings for home school use, and one of the teachers charges a nominal fee for art lessons, for example, the property now becomes taxable. 

I would imagine that wouldn't stand up. Even schools are non-profit so allowing a home school group to use it doesn't change the non-profit status of the church, unless the church rents the building to the homeschool group. If this actually happened, I would push the issue.

3. Many of us believe that we will lose our tax exempt (IRS) status over the gay marriage issue. If givers gave 25% less to compensate for not being able to take gifts to their church off their taxes, how might that affect your building situation? Could you maintain your current facility given those additional charges?

I don't think the main problem is the tax deductibility of gifts but rather the hit to the church budget from paying property taxes. It would be hard for us to sustain.

4. Now to the Curmudgeon question: Schools will have a great pretext to eliminate rental of facilities to churches (who are viewed as bigoted) because of our stand on homosexuality.  What happens if we become the "undesirables" of society and no one wants to rent to us?  Perhaps pro-gay marriage school board members begin objecting.  This, to me, seems VERY LIKELY to occur in many areas.

This is more likely, but it would face a court challenge. It would be a toss up because it is clearly not viewpoint neutral, which I believe has been a key test in previous cases where religious groups have won the right to use public buildings that are used by outside groups with other views. I think the position has been that if you let anyone use it, you must let everyone use it. You cannot discriminate because of a viewpoint. But in these times, who knows ... It would be a toss up, IMO.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Our fairly new inner-city church plant (4 years ago) began in a neighborhood public school.  After 3 in a half years (by that time we had just become self-supporting), we realized that there were several people on the Grand Rapids school board that were trying to get rid of all of the 13 churches that lease space on Sundays for their worship services.   Because several board members have made this an issue, we began to look for an alternative to the school for our church.   Then, a liberal United Methodist Church right down the road closed a few years ago and they desired to sell the property for $350,000 to a church that would reach out to the community (which we do in many different ways). We are closing on the building tomorrow.  The sanctuary area is over 100 years old, but the educational wing is about 50 years old.  We are able to rent out space to non-profits, including a neighborhood food pantry, a small Pentecostal church, and a Native American organization that provides a soup kitchen.  From the rent from these organizations, we will bring in about $2500 per month.     

 

 

Ed Vasicek's picture

Joel Shaffer wrote:

Our fairly new inner-city church plant (4 years ago) began in a neighborhood public school.  After 3 in a half years (by that time we had just become self-supporting), we realized that there were several people on the Grand Rapids school board that were trying to get rid of all of the 13 churches that lease space on Sundays for their worship services.   Because several board members have made this an issue, we began to look for an alternative to the school for our church.   Then, a liberal United Methodist Church right down the road closed a few years ago and they desired to sell the property for $350,000 to a church that would reach out to the community (which we do in many different ways). We are closing on the building tomorrow.  The sanctuary area is over 100 years old, but the educational wing is about 50 years old.  We are able to rent out space to non-profits, including a neighborhood food pantry, a small Pentecostal church, and a Native American organization that provides a soup kitchen.  From the rent from these organizations, we will bring in about $2500 per month.     

 

This is the kind of thing I am talking about.  That is why I wonder if rented schools are indeed a good long term approach.

"The Midrash Detective"

Ron Bean's picture

We are currently meeting in a school facility and anticipating possible future scenarios. We have a team of talented members who are looking for alternatives to our current situation. Building is financially impossible so we are considering long term rental of space that we could customize for our purposes; that being the most likely choice. We would consider taking over an existing church building if its location and condition met our needs.

When it comes to renting out your existing facility, do you encounter any problems allowing groups such as Penetcostalists or 7th Day Adventists making use of your facility?

Would any of you use the facilities of a functioning Roman Catholic or liberal Protestant church?

BTW, we drive by a Korean Church that rents its facility to an English-speaking congregation on Sunday afternoons.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Joel Shaffer's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

 

Joel Shaffer wrote:

 

Our fairly new inner-city church plant (4 years ago) began in a neighborhood public school.  After 3 in a half years (by that time we had just become self-supporting), we realized that there were several people on the Grand Rapids school board that were trying to get rid of all of the 13 churches that lease space on Sundays for their worship services.   Because several board members have made this an issue, we began to look for an alternative to the school for our church.   Then, a liberal United Methodist Church right down the road closed a few years ago and they desired to sell the property for $350,000 to a church that would reach out to the community (which we do in many different ways). We are closing on the building tomorrow.  The sanctuary area is over 100 years old, but the educational wing is about 50 years old.  We are able to rent out space to non-profits, including a neighborhood food pantry, a small Pentecostal church, and a Native American organization that provides a soup kitchen.  From the rent from these organizations, we will bring in about $2500 per month.     

 

 

This is the kind of thing I am talking about.  That is why I wonder if rented schools are indeed a good long term approach.

So far, the churches haven't been kicked out of the Grand Rapids Public Schools, thanks to the Black and Latino board members, who don't have such a rigid view of Separation of Church and State the way that their fellow white secular board members do.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

We're in a building that is, I think, less than 5 yrs old now. Code requirements made the sprinkler system ridiculously expensive. Codes didn't seem to be written to account for the situation where you have a large crowd once in a great while, and a medium sized one only once a week. Some reform needed there.

One wing not yet completed. This was part of the plan.

On the whole a huge improvement over the previous facility (before my time) and everybody is very grateful to be out of there!