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Preparing to Gather Again

By John Muzyka

During this crisis, the Church has not been able to gather in person. For many people, this has been a sorrowful and distant season. In some ways, it has been instructive and fruitful for ministry. While we continue in this new normal, we must look ahead and prepare for how things will be different when we are able to gather. Here are a few things we must consider in the days ahead.

Your Meeting Place

As a church plant, you likely meet in a school, theater, hotel, or other temporary space. Meeting in a space that is rented one day a week and owned by another entity brings a different set of circumstances to your paradigm. After the peak of this season has passed, I encourage you to engage in a proactive plan with your tenant on how you will use and clean the space when it is reopened.

Many entities that lease space to churches do so to generate income and opportunity. While some are like-minded, most are not missionally motivated. With a heightened sense of responsibility, we must understand that cleaning the space we use will be more important than ever. I suggest creating a cleaning team or hiring a cleaning company to disinfect and clean at a higher level than before. While your budget may be in a downturn, this expense may be the difference between having a space and not having a space. 

Sometimes entities have a negative view of church tenants. Be the church that changes that perception. Be generous and go above and beyond to treat the space better than they would. This is your witness. Understand that they look at you through both an income lens and a liability lens. Be an asset, a contributor, and a partner.

People Over Place

As we return to our gathering space, we expect new people may join us. This season has shown that many people are searching for hope and joining online services. Develop a strategy for your ministry that continues to demonstrate that the Church is the people and not a place. How can we do that?

  1. Continue to connect with people online. They found you here and it may take time before they rush the doors of your place once it’s open. While we all have dreams of packed gatherings after a crisis, we may experience a slow return as some people may still be fearful to gather. When a person or family joins a church, it may take 6 months or more before their tithe follows. That rule may apply here as well. People may be following and joining you online now, but it may take additional time before they join you in person.
  2. Offer ministry opportunities. As we come out of this season, there will still be thousands of people in need. Engage your members and those who are following online to be the hands and feet of Jesus. While some may struggle to give financially, the opportunity to physically serve those in need can be a catalyst for your community.
  3. Equip for evangelism. Expand your ministerial reach by making sure your members see their role as a minister of the gospel. This is a season to light the match and watch your people step up to minister to their family, neighbors, and co-workers.

Budgeting Today

Your budget likely looks drastically different than it did in previous months. While we usually create an annual budget for ministry, the focus on the monthly budget is usually priority. The monthly budget will need to be looked at weekly by a team. If you do not have a finance team, gather a team of wise people to make recommendations for the current and coming months. Do not shoulder this burden and decision-making alone.

You may need to revise your budget to 50% of your current budget. Maybe it needs to be more drastic. Only you and your leadership team know your situation. Making decisions around personnel and other expenses are critical today. Create a budget that expects a significant dip in giving. Moving forward, live in a posture of surplus budgeting. By that I mean plan a budget that is under what you expect to receive and save the excess funds.

Financial Stewardship

Your church’s giving has likely taken a plunge. In many cases, ministry has expanded while giving has gone down. Cash reserves, if you had them, have thinned or disappeared. Take this time to revise your budget. Look for ways to trim the current budget moving forward. If you were not building a cash reserve, then add it into your budget at the next opportunity. 

As you take wise steps to prepare for the season ahead, be transparent with your people and let them know their giving is critical to the ministry work of the church.  Again, this is about people, not the place. People are critical to supporting, funding, and doing the work of ministry.

What If We Do Not Have a Place to Meet? 

If there is a change in your leasing agreement during or after this season, what will you do? We must have a contingency plan if an entity reverses course and decides not to rent the space any longer. We know we can minister to our people regardless of space. Yet we long to gather as the church. You may need to consider a new space, facing the reality that it may be smaller or look different than it did before. Change may come, and we must prepare for it now. 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Muzyka

John Muzyka (@JohnMuzyka) serves as a Senior Director at Church Realty in Plano Texas since 2006. John serves churches as they sell excess property for commercial use, sell existing church facilities, purchase buildings to convert to church use, purchase land, and lease space for church plants. John specifically focuses on serving church plants and multisite churches as they pursue facilities to launch new churches and campuses. John assists the church by identifying options, defining market areas, and counting the cost of the options as they seek to address their ministry and facility needs. Simply put, John helps church translate their mission, vision, and values into a real estate strategy. John currently resides in Frisco, Texas with his wife and two sons. www.churchrealty.com

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