Finding a worship gathering space can be one of the most frustrating parts of launching a new church. After all, you can raise money and you can recruit people to the core team, but most planters are forced to work within the constraints of available space in their community, especially in urban areas. Building a sustaining partnership with the owners of the space is essential to this whole process.
“Shalom, welcome to church…”
The basement of a Jewish synagogue was where City on a Hill Church first gathered for worship. It had low ceilings, some bizarre art work, and random columns in the middle of our seating area. That said, it worked well for our new church plant core team meetings on Sunday nights. We knew the synagogue administrator well and maintained a good relationship for the year we were in the space. From there we moved into an elementary school gym and have built. Here are a few helpful guidelines for building a lasting partnership.
- Pay your rent on time… or even early.
Most organizations are stretched so getting a regular bill for rental space sent out may not happen. Over the years, personnel changes and challenges have meant that City on a Hill hasn’t received regular invoices for rent. But that’s never a problem because we send the check regularly, whether we receive it or not. Administrators have thanked us on multiple occasions for being proactive. Don’t make the owner ever come to you about a late payment. It looks bad for your church, the larger church, and it hurts your reputation with the organization and the community.
- Be OCD about Cleanliness
|No owner wants to come in and find communion juice dried on their carpet, left over bagels shoved into the crevices of the seats, and the bathroom looking like a porta-potty after a Metallica concert. The general rule is to leave it in better shape than you found it. A few years ago, we accidently lost a favorite pizza cutter from our school’s kitchen. We not only went out and bought the most expensive pizza cutter we could find (I think it had running lights), we sent an edible arrangement to the kitchen workers as a way to say we were sorry.
- Find ways to Serve and Bless
Christians are called to serve others and that includes those from whom we rent space. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Don’t think “we send them money so we don’t need to do anything.” Find out what the organization needs, whether work on the building, volunteers for a program, or help with a project, and jump in to help!
City on a Hill has given money and lent our equipment to support the teacher organization at the school we rent space from. When we have special services around holidays we know it takes the custodian away from his family so we seek to bless him with a gift card. At the end of each school year, we send a gift to the gym teachers that put up with us using their space. Those are just a few ideas.
Make space to pray for space
As, Kevin Bruursema of New Life Community Church in Chicago says, “Finding worship space is an uphill spiritual battle; start praying.” I heard the story of a leader at an old, dying church saying he would rather see their church building burn to the ground than rent it to a new church in their community. As you seek to find space for your new church, do not underestimate what you are up against. Satan hates what you are doing and will do whatever he can to stop you so pray earnestly, consistently, and with bold faith. One way to pray is not just for the building itself but for the owners. Ask God to give you favor, to draw them to Jesus, and to develop a good partnership for the good of the city.
Published November 22, 2017