By Rev. David Lowery
• Editor's Note: Fifth in a series of articles on the A2 Indicators.
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many churches about facilities and building projects. As a part of the A2 Indicators, we were challenged to conduct a “facilities analysis.” To get the highest rank, a church had to be able to say, “Our facilities are in excellent condition with appropriate and useful designated ministry spaces.”
What that means is that a church should know what God has called it to be, and is mindful of the necessary upkeep and repairs of its facilities.
Churches are more than just buildings. They are a place to worship, fellowship, disciple, nurture and conduct the sacraments. Some congregations are like owners instead of stewards of God’s facilities. On occasion a congregation has called to consult about a building project, and I discover that the “church down the road” has built something with great success. As a result, the members now believe they should do the same thing. I try to remind them God has not called us to mirror the church down the road but has put each body together and uniquely called it to engage ministry as no one else can.
The building process begins with an identity quest to discover where God is leading us to be in ministry. It is then that we are able to better discern what facilities are needed to fulfill God’s mission. In knowing their strengths, gifts and talents, churches will be better able to discern facility needs. The facility needs of churches are intended to be centered on their mission/purpose.
Maintenance of church buildings is vital to be good stewards of the facilities with which we have been entrusted. The church and its ministries are generational. I hope every generation will be faithful to maintain the facilities of the local church. If not, sooner or later, a tremendous burden will undermine the church and its ministry. Budgets begin to reflect an inward focus rather than being able to fulfill the ministry and mission of the church. God has called us all to be faithful stewards rather than possessive owners.
The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds true when it comes to staying “on top” of maintaining church buildings and property.
Communication is the vital link in involving the membership of the church in caring for facilities. Some take that to the extreme and fail to utilize the facilities for mission and ministry for the reason of “protecting our investment.” If we use the facilities for mission and ministry, we will be blessed and our church building will become centers of ministry and mission.
Each church should answer these questions:
• Does our facility reflect God as the owner?
• Do we use our facilities to serve God?
The conference Office of Congregational Development offers the following list of resources to assist churches with assessing their facility needs and to secure funding to assist with building projects:
• The Complete Ministry Audit: Revised Edition by Bill Easum.
• Studying Congregations: A New Handbook – This new handbook for seminarians and clergy professionals places the congregation, rather than individual scholarly disciplines, at the center of congregational analysis.
• Building for Effective Mission: A Complete Guide for Congregations on Bricks and Mortar Issues.
• Building Your Church: Using Your Gifts, Time, and Resources by Don Cousins explains how God wants you to play a vital role in his Kingdom. 13 lessons.
• The conference Parish and Community Ministries Committee, Lou Ann Staggs, chair. This committee assists local churches with small membership by providing training, information, grants, etc., for strengthening their ministries.
• The United Methodist Development Fund supports the mission of the church by making “first mortgage loans” to United Methodist churches, districts, mission institutions, annual conferences, etc.
Loans are made for purchase, construction, expansion, major improvements, or for refinancing existing mortgages on churches, parsonages and building sites. The fund office may be contacted at 15th floor, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115; at 1-800-862-8633 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Renfro Trust Fund supports “unusual and challenging situations” for United Methodist churches in rural areas of the Southeastern Jurisdiction that are unable to secure other funding to complete projects of renovation.
The maximum grants are for $5,000 and may not be used for parsonages. Applications are due by September. To request applications write The Renfro Trust Fund, P.O. Box 237, Lake Junaluska, NC 28745.
Lowery is pastor of Picayune First United Methodist Church.