In the Stewardship lending team, we speak to churches across the UK on a daily basis who enquire with us about what they need to do to start on the journey to owning their own building. It’s a privilege to see God at work in all kinds of denominations, congregations of all sizes and to play a small part in helping to serve the Church in the UK. We see congregations as small as 20 people to those in their thousands searching for a building of their own.
Some see it as something that is out of reach. From our experience with working with churches from across the UK, we see it as achievable - whatever the size of your church and whatever your purpose and your budget.
So here are some actionable steps that we have discussed with clients over the past year.
Start planning for your building now.
It may take between 5-10 years for the dream to be realised but by having small actionable steps you can start on that road today.
We have clients that we began the conversation of buying a property over five years ago, but that plan is now coming to fruition and they are now completing their purchases.
Gather people of expertise, with experience of purchasing commercial property, people with finance, legal and planning expertise and build a property team who will lead on the project.
Use advisors outside your church such as the Church Growth Trust who can assist you on considerations when purchasing a church property.
Call on church pastors and trustees who have been through the building journey before for their experience.
Set a vision
Once you start planning and have the right people in place, build a vision for your congregation. Tell them all about it, get them to walk through it with you, get their buy in, tell them how it solves a problem, and tell them how much it is going to cost.
Find the right property
Take a look at the properties in your town. What kind of properties could you convert into a church and how would they cost?
Don’t be disheartened if they aren’t available straight away; register with a few agents and view them as they come up. Expect that this process may take time to find the right property and you may need to be patient and wait for the right property to come on the market.
Get to know your local planning department at the local council. Understand their requirements for planning permission consent on different buildings. This will become essential and guide your thinking on what kinds of property might be suitable for you.
Some churches choose to undertake a building development project building a property from the ground up. However, know that this is a very costly way of obtaining a new building for your church, but ultimately very rewarding.
Some churches choose to rent to start with. This is a viable option and can often lead to opportunities to purchase the property you are renting in the long term.
Know your finances
Build up a picture of your costs, thinking about the professional fees, legal costs, fixtures and fittings, rebuild costs, and planning costs.
Start by putting money aside from your regular giving into a building fund.
Use the building fund so that your congregation can tithe additional funds directly to that fund as well as give lump-sums directly to that fund.
Look at other pieces of fundraising such as grants available for your church. Assign a volunteer to be the grants coordinator on your behalf with the responsibility of applying and securing grants for your project.
Consider the loan route. Loans are not meant to totally finance your project, they are meant to sit alongside your fundraising. Look at the loans available for your church. Talk to financiers at Stewardship or Kingdom Bank who would be happy to guide you in how much they believe you can borrow to sit alongside your fundraising.
Having a church property of your own really is an option that you can consider. It takes good planning, a lot of patience, having the right people in place, the congregation to catch the vision and a lot of perseverance to make it happen, but it really can happen if the steps discussed are followed.