Multichannel Community Site Use
Think boldly. Think creatively.
Every community needs inexpensive space. Startup businesses need small offices with furnishings and technology available. Catering firms need professional kitchens. Health-related activities like dance, yoga and exercise need space for movement. Educational offerings for children need classrooms and activity rooms.
You will want to investigate which needs your space can reasonably meet. An education and office building with numerous small rooms will be appealing to small entrepreneurs. In New York City, such one-room offices rent for $1,000 to $2,500 a month. Some outlays for standard business office furnishings and connections for Internet and telephone will be required, though not costly.
A big downtown church can do offices, rent kitchen space to caterers, invite neighborhood groups to use meeting space, invite not-for-profits such as Red Cross to make regular use of space, and welcome political groups.
The point is to rationalize the ownership of facilities -- have them in use seven days a week, instead of a few hours on Sunday plus staff uses -- and to increase the lives your congregation touches.
Tenants use space hard, of course, but rents should make outside use a net gain for you.
Don't expect tenants to become church members. But do expect your reputation in the community to improve.
Outside use of church facilities is nothing new. Many churches have established protocols for handling agreements and leases. They should check the tone of their protocols, however, and make them more welcoming and less grudging. Some churches specifically prohibit any for-profit uses, but you will want to examine state property tax rules and consult a tax lawyer before ruling out for-profit users. Establishing a business incubator, for example, might well qualify as an acceptable use. Some churches have started for-profit restaurants.