Church as “landlord”

by the Rev. Phil Hirsch

Many of our congregations rent to other churches and organizations. Space rental is an agreement different from joint ministry, partnership or outreach. While there are a lot of examples of good relationships that are formed and ways in which the “landlords” see the renting of space as part of their ministry, it is best to be cautious and careful and not jump in too quickly.

1504propertyissuesThose asking for space can be described in three groups:

  1. Non-ELCA affiliated (some in sync and others out of sync with basic Lutheran teachings);
  2. ELCA affiliated, but not a formal part of the congregation’s ministries; and
  3. Members of same congregation who worship in another language.

Please prayerfully consider terms more favorable than market rates if potential renters are affiliated with the ELCA.  If potential renters are not ELCA, and their teachings are very different from Lutherans (i.e. they don’t recognize infant baptisms), build ministry partnerships accordingly.

Some suggestions:

  • Build relationships.
  • Go slowly.
  • Have a written agreement that is very specific as to which spaces will be used when (including storage).
  • If you’ve not heard of a group that claims Lutheran connections, call the synod office.

A useful collection of building and property FAQs can be found on ELCA.org. Resources include tax discussion, a sample building use agreement, cell tower leasing considerations, and zoning, renovation and incorporation issues. More at http://www.elca.org/About/Churchwide/Office-of-the-Secretary/Legal-Issues/Property-Matters/ .

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