Renting out the facilities of your church to outside groups for non-church related events and activities can be beneficial in a number of ways if you follow some simple rules and avoid making some common mistakes.
Why would a church want to rent out space for non-church events in the first place?
The rationale for doing this goes well beyond generating income to pay off the mortgage or cover other expenses, and plays a part in the special role a church facility can play in the community at large.
Think in terms of whether you think of your church facility as being built to serve as a "temple" or as a "well," says Tim Cool, chief solutions officer for Cool Solutions Group, a Charlotte, N.C.-based provider of software solutions for church facility management.
The temple vs. well concept is fairly simple yet profound, he notes. It is based on the John 4 passage where Jesus and the Samaritan woman meet at a well, first sharing physical water, then evolving into sharing "living water," i.e., a relationship with Jesus
WHY DO IT?
In the world of church development, "We have been notorious in building temples buildings that are used one or two days a week, places that people in our community believe you have to act, look, and smell a certain way in order to enter, with too many real or perceived thou shalt not' rules," Cool explains.
Instead of temples, churches should aspire to be wells, i.e., places where, historically, people in the community have gathered daily not just to get water, but also to interact socially, and grow spiritually, as they "share life" with their neighbors.
"The concept is that we need to look for opportunities to develop wells' on our [church] campuses and within our communities not just temples," says Cool.
"As you think about your church facilities and campus, think about what wells' you are providing your community for these kinds of encounters," he adds.
SOME NUTS AND BOLTS
The theological and philosophical benefits of utilizing your church to providing community "wells" for spreading the Word aside, according to Cool there are a number of practical aspects that need to be taken into consideration when renting out your church facilities for events.
Things church facilities managers need to do if considering event rentals includes: determining if events will interfere with regular church activities; figuring out the true costs of letting your church be used for events - in terms of additional heating/cooling expenses, janitorial services, paper products, and wear-and-tear; added security and other personnel; and legal costs and damage claims.
Among the list of things to consider is how an event might impact the church's standing in the community, relates Cool. Ask yourself if the group or the event promote agendas that are not in keeping with your vision and mission.
Churches wanting to get into the event business also need to take a close look at their existing insurance coverage. Tells Cool, "Churches need to at least make sure they have ample insurance, and then they should also get a Certificate of Insurance from the renter, listing the church as an "Additional Insured."
A church can pull a number of these items together into a single document by developing a "Facility Use Policy."
This kind of policy statement provides both general and specific information on who may/who may not use the facility; rules for use of the facility; a schedule of fees and deposits for renting the facility; and any other provisions the church wants to have in place for use of its facilities. A good source for sample forms that can be adapted to the special needs of your house of worship is FreeChurchForms.
Making sure rental events are scheduled so they won't conflict with one another or with your church activities is another nuts-and-bolts issue that churches need to address as they enter the facilities-rental arena. They may wish to make use of facility planning software, such as Cool Solutions Group's eSPACE); or dedicated event management packages such as EventPro.
SOME COMMON MISTAKES
There are three main mistakes churches tend to make as they start renting out their facilities, shares Deborah Ike, founder of Velocity Ministry Management, a ministry management consultant.
Mistake number one is not thinking through who it is you will rent your church facility to and why, she notes.
"Will you restrict your facility to members of the church only, or will you open it up to anyone in the community?" she asks. If you don’t limit facility rental to members only, you run the risk of renting to a group whose values or doctrine you disagree with calling to use your facility, says Ike. Consider talking with legal counsel of the implications of denying a request to rent, she says, adding "A group that wants to rent your church facility might decide to sue, perhaps claiming discrimination, if you decline their request."
Common mistake number two is not charging a rate that makes it worth all the effort you put into renting out your facility.
Don’t just set an arbitrary number, Ike warns.
Make sure you charge enough to at least cover your expenses and, ideally, generate some income," she advises. Add up what it will cost to heat, cool, light, and provide audio/visual for any event, "and make sure that you also include the costs to clean the facility, as well as reset' it to its original condition for weekly services after the event is over, and if you need staff members to be at the church during the event, include that cost as well," Ike notes.
A third mistake is not having renters enter a formal agreement.
"We would all prefer to be able to trust people to come in, have us host their meeting or event, then pay on time, and leave our facility in excellent condition but unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen," says Ike.
Sometimes people just don’t keep their word; and in other instances, the renter didn’t understand what was expected of them in the first place.
"That’s where an actual rental agreement or contract becomes useful," Ike says. These can be simple extensive legalese probably isn't necessary, she notes, "but do have a lawyer review the basic agreement before you start using it."
A rental agreement should include items such as the specific dates and times the facility will be rented; exactly what portions/rooms of the facility will be used; specifications for equipment usage, such as kitchen items and AV equipment; fee schedules; delineation of the responsibilities of the parties involved; facility usage policies; reservation and cancellation policies; insurance requirements; and any policies specific to an event. Again, FreeChurchForms is a good source for sample forms.