Last summer, Barna reported that one in three practicing Christians stopped attending church. But this year, Pew Research Center put out a study that shows congregations are returning to normalcy. According to Pew, three-quarters of church goers say they feel confident attending church safely, and 4 out of 10 Americans say they’ll be celebrating Easter in church this coming year.
You probably know pastors who say their church attendance and giving revenue have gone down. And you might have friends saying their community groups are exploding, a result of missing social interactions. These mixed messages are making you ask, “Should I hold off starting my ministry?” The answer is: you should speak to experts.
Know Your Community
You might be thinking that now is the worst time to start a church or ministry, but that’s not necessarily true. One of the most important elements to consider right now is the community you want your ministry in. Which state are you in and how restrictive is that state? Does the city you want to build your ministry in have strict covid regulations? When speaking with pastors and nonprofit leaders in major cities, you might hear them say their numbers have dropped drastically in comparison to areas further from city centers. This is because major cities tend to have stricter regulations.
You need to collect data from other churches and ministries in the area you’re considering. Are the attendees/clients coming back and if so, how quickly? If they aren’t, is it because it’s an older population that’s more vulnerable to covid? Every community is different, and that’s key to figuring out if you should start a ministry right now.
Your church or nonprofit’s property doesn’t have to be used purely for ministry purposes all the time. You can always look for opportunities to sublease rooms of your building. This is advised to ministries right now who already have a building, but whose finances have taken a dip due to low numbers. Speak with experts about monetizing all the space you’re not using.
While subleasing to secular businesses is fine, this can also be an opportunity to grow God’s kingdom. Many buildings sublease to churches who are just starting out or have a smaller congregation size. Subleasing is a win-win situation. Your ministry stays on top of its finances, and you help another ministry be able to gather and worship together.
Lots of churches are adjusting right now. Some are re-considering how children’s ministry can operate as many churches are noticing their children’s attendance is down (this might change as the vaccine becomes available to young children). Some are hiring or reassigning staff members to run their new online ministries. Nearly all are expanding their online ministry.
The real estate plans you made before covid need to be adjusted. Your footprint might have to be smaller, for example. It may be better to consider a short-term lease instead of making a commitment to purchase. We’re seeing it’s an expensive time to buy in residential, and commercial usually follows, meaning your nonprofit might want to hold off on buying a commercial property. Ultimately, you need a tailored plan for your church or organization, which is why speaking with experts right now is essential.
While this seems like an incredibly confusing time, there are elements that still haven’t changed regarding the “right time” to buy real estate. You should buy based on projection of growth, and if you don’t have that, you need to wait. If it doesn’t make sense to buy today, it probably won’t make sense tomorrow. And never rush. We want you to know that if God’s calling you to start a ministry right now, hope is not all lost. We can help you make the best real estate decision for your ministry.