The Committee of the Month for October is Buildings & Grounds, and I would like to share my perspective as chair, including a little history and what I think might be a great opportunity for us.
Probably everyone reading this knows that our church used to be a dairy barn, but maybe you don’t know that our only worship space used to be what is now Friendship Hall (until 1991, when the Sanctuary and East Room were built), and that the beautiful and spacious religious education classrooms upstairs were once a huge hayloft that served as the year-round home for the church’s rummage (until 2007, when the second floor as it is now was finished)?
Capital campaigns made these steps in the evolution of our building and grounds possible. We as a congregation came together and made the extra investment in our church that allowed us to respond to growth and that helped our religious education programs to flourish. It was a great investment, and we’ve been reaping the benefits of our new and improved spaces since then.
Fast forward to today, and although our new and improved spaces were once shiny and worry-free, they are now revealing their age and showing years of wear-and-tear. The trouble is, our committee is still funded as if these improvements are new and there’s nothing to worry about. A report to the Board two years ago detailed an extensive list of inevitable repairs and projected expenses that face us, and a good deal of these will cost substantially more than what’s in our committee’s yearly budget. Maintaining our property has become increasingly unsustainable.
But all is not lost — we have a great opportunity. Dealing with the list of inevitable repairs can result in improvements that become the next evolution of our space. For example, instead of waiting for the original, nearly century-old silos to fall down, maybe we can take them down and rebuild one of them with a large enough diameter that we can put two or even three floors of new classrooms in it, alleviating the need for two classes to share one room, as has been happening now for awhile. (The silos are already tall enough for three stories, by the way, in case you haven’t been inside. Let me know if you want a tour!)
You may be wondering, how would spending large amounts of money on improvements make maintaining our property more sustainable? My answer is that many churches keep up their buildings with rental income. The nicer and more accommodating the space, the more income the space can bring. For example, having air-conditioning in two large, adjacent rooms would enable a church to easily host both a wedding ceremony and reception during peak season from June-September. A few weddings a year, at a time when church activity is at a lull, could provide substantial income with little impact on our congregational life, and would introduce countless people to our church.
Having a team of people to support large rentals would also help increase income. When we as hosts provide the capacity to transform the church into a space that works for our renters — setting up tables and chairs, moving plants or hiding the coffee hour sign-up sheet — we can charge them more. When they don’t have to worry about replenishing toilet paper, changing trash bags, or putting the church back in order for Sunday morning — we can charge them more. (Incidentally, we don’t currently have a rental support team, but we would welcome volunteers!)
Even if we don’t substantially increase rental income, we’ll still need more money in our Buildings & Grounds budget to make regular maintenance sustainable. And even if we don’t have a capital campaign to make significant improvements to our church, those large, expensive repairs are still inevitable. Maybe it’s time to start planning for the next stage in our church evolution. Thanks for giving it a thought!
Editors Note – as we head into 2022, we will be conducting a capital campaign to address some of these issues.