If you're responsible for managing your church's property and buildings, you know that one aspect of managing your facility is determining the fees to charge people or groups who would like to use the church for their events. From weddings to baby showers and more, people may ask to use your facilities for various purposes.
The first hurdle is deciding what types of events you'll allow to be hosted at your church and by whom. Will you let non-members reserve the fellowship hall or banquet room for their parents' 50th wedding anniversary? Will you allow caterers access to your church kitchen for a couple's wedding?
Once you've decided the types of events you'll allow at your church, you need to decide whether to charge a fee for the usage of your building. While you may want to offer this service for free, you need to consider the costs incurred by your church when the building is used outside of regular church events.
- How much additional electricity, water, bathroom supplies, and cleaning materials are used during or after each event?
- Will you need to hire cleaning services?
- Does the additional foot traffic cause more wear and tear of your flooring and grounds?
- Do you need to have any staff members on-hand for these activities?
- Will you have security personnel present?
All of these items cost your church and are probably not in your annual budget. It's reasonable to expect people to pay a fee to offset the costs incurred when they use your facilities. You may offer a lower cost to members of your congregation versus non-members, but a fee to cover these costs makes sense.
What's a Reasonable Fee?
The next issue to deal with is how much to charge. I spoke with Jim Boyd, director of support services for Calvary Baptist Church and Day School, about his process for calculating what to charge for facility usage.
His approach is to calculate the cost per square foot of the church facility, then break that down by room and by number of days a room is used per year. From there, he's able to identify the cost to use a room for one day.
Something else to consider when allowing others to host events at the church is any potential liability cost to the church. Check with your insurance provider to determine if you need any additional coverage in case someone is injured on church property during a non-church sponsored event. If so, incorporate that additional expense into the cost of an event.
Finally, you'll want to have clearly defined and documented policies for what types of events your church will allow to be held at the church facility.
Include a list of expectations for the individual or group hosting the event including factors such as:
- When will they have access to the building (number of hours before/after the event for setup and tear down of their items)?
- What decorations are they allowed to use and where? Can they put anything on the walls?
- Are certain types of beverages not allowed on church property?
- Is there an additional fee incurred if their guests cause any damage to church property? If so, how is that fee determined?
- Do the hosts need to put down a deposit to reserve the facility usage? If so, how much and by when?
- When is the final payment due?
- Are there any other special considerations or expectations for the event hosts?
If so, include those in the documentation.
Both parties, the church representative and the event host(s), should sign-off on the agreement before formally reserving the church facility for that event.
Remember: Your church leadership's reputation and the facilities themselves can be impacted (either positively or negatively) by any event held on church property. Even if your church staff was not directly involved in the event, because it's held on church property, your church will be associated with anything that happens at the event. The experience of the guests and the event hosts is a reflection of your church.
Deciding what to charge for an event is important, but it's certainly not the only consideration to make when allowing others to host events at the church. Calculate the costs, decide what to charge, determine and document expectations for both parties, and follow-up with the event hosts before, during, and after the event to make sure expectations are understood and met. Taking the time now to plan how to handle non-church sponsored events will prevent miscommunications, frustration, and additional expenses along the way. It's well worth the upfront investment of time and energy now to prevent problems in the future.