Here is a Philadelphia Inquirer article posted on the “Congregational Seasons” Facebook page about how difficult it is to sell old churches. Can you imagine the judicatory level of a church spending $55,000 per church each year to keep empty buildings insured and maintained?
This story makes me wonder about churches that are struggling with unmanageable building maintenance. Even when the difficult decision to sell is made, a sale may not easily take place. (The church I once served has now been leased to a young congregation that is wary of purchasing real estate–and what young church wouldn’t be cautious about that!!). Even when a building is empty, it still bears a cost to the wider church until it is sold. I think this must make Jesus very sad.
Some churches choose to give away their buildings to new church developments. This is a wonderful answer if the building you’re giving away is worth more than its maintenance costs. But that isn’t always the case.
I once interviewed a new church development pastor whose congregation had received their building as a free gift. Part of our tour on that rainy day took us through deep puddles of water on the linoleum floor of the Sunday School wing. It was a bleak reminder that some gifts have strings attached.
On the other hand, I have seen some wonderful ministries come out of re-purposed old church buildings, including homeless shelters, childcare centers, community centers and local theatres.
One organization working on preservation and asset enhancement of historic church buildings is www.sacredplaces.org. If God is calling you to maintain your building for future ministry or historic preservation, they might offer some education and capital campaign assistance. Here’s a page from their website with some information about a church preservation project in Johnstown, PA.
What if you decide you need to sell your church building? Who do you think might buy it?