By John Sprecher

Is it a good or bad idea to let another congregation use your building?

On the one hand, the theory sounds good; maximize a church’s square footage (which sits idle for many hours each week) by letting a second church utilize the space, thereby contributing to the general overhead cost. But there are complications, some of which are: what if both churches want the same room at the same time? Will the outside community be confused by two different “brands” at the same address? Who controls what equipment, i.e., sound systems, kitchen facilities, musical instruments? And, what if there’s breakage, or even theft?

Can two congregations get along smoothly under the same roof?

Rock ChurchRock Church in Rockford, Illinois has been involved in space sharing for nearly twenty years with different congregations. The first venture began in 1996 when a young Laotian congregation used the original sanctuary, which had been converted for Sunday school use. They met at 1:00 in the afternoon, which required some turn-around work in removing mobile partitions and resetting chairs for their congregation of 70-80 people. The arrangement worked fairly well. The biggest challenge was when they needed larger spaces for additional days or nights for special events. After six years they were able to purchase their own church building and have been doing very well in their new location. Rock Church was able to be the incubator for a church plant with a different language group.

After the Lao congregation left, Rock Church constructed a “Family Life Center” that included a gym, thereby doubling space to 40,000 square feet. The addition also provided additional parking, making more than enough room to handle the congregation’s needs. So when Community Bible Church, a congregation of approximately 150, needed a place to call home, it turned out to be a positive option for both congregations. CBC has been in existence for about 20 years, but has never owned a facility. In their previous location, they could only meet on Saturday night, which was not ideal for them. They currently are using the original sanctuary and can hold their service concurrent with the second Rock church worship service. The restrooms are used by both groups since they are located between the two spaces.

Due to the layout of the building and a separate entrance, there is very little problem with overlap, even though Rock Church uses part of that area for children’s Sunday school, which is before their service. The majority of the space they use is available to them all morning. They also use a small portion of the building on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.ChurchOpen

Community Bible is an evangelical church, though not charismatic. However, there are many friends and family who attend each congregation, so there is a natural relationship with them.

Here are several points that we have found important to consider before you share space with another church:

  1. Recognize that there will be a certain amount of inconvenience to both congregations. It is just natural that some of the prime spaces and times will be desired by both.
  2. Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more! Make sure there is a very clear understanding as to what each group expects regarding access, equipment and responsibilities. These must be in writing and signed by both groups so there is clarity on what each side will be providing. The Rock Church youth use Community Bible’s Sunday morning space on Wednesday night. Agreement is essential on things like sound system, computer, video, and other technical equipment that doesn’t need to be duplicated for each group. In the areas used by the guest church, they are responsible for set-up and tear-down.
  3. Establish a point person for communication. Someone from each congregation must take primary responsibility so there are not miscues. One system in place is to use different colored building use forms so it is easier to track who has space reserved.
  4. If major adjustments are needed in the facility, talk about what is a fair split of costs. Community Bible advanced 13 months of facility reimbursement (the term “rent” is not used) in order to help renovate the primary space they use, as well as to make modifications to areas that were needed to replace the space used by them.
  5. Set the termination rules in advance. A 60-day notice for either party was established, should there need to be a change. The agreement with Community Bible also says that should they leave in less than five years, the cost they expended on equipment that is needed for continued functionality of the room, such as the sound equipment, would be prorated and reimbursed.
  6. Remember that this is a kingdom venture that needs to honor the Lord and benefit both parties. Rock Church is thankful for the opportunity to be able to help them and has done some needed renovations and will have some resources to help with ongoing expenses.

Of course, you may decide that the complication of space sharing is more trouble than it’s worth. However, most communities need more gospel-centered churches – not fewer, so from a Kingdom perspective space sharing is a win-win, even apart from the financial considerations.

If you would like additional information, this LINK has a number of articles for purchase. You can also contact Jared Katke, Lead Pastor of Rock Church by email.

Written by John Sprecher Pastor Emeritus of Rock Church, Rockford, Ill. and Lead Elder of the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies USA.

One thought on “To Share or Not to Share

  1. …any arrangements for water and electricity usage, e.g. a contribution towards the monthly utility bill? With one community group that we considered helping, a minor issue that arose was their members smoking in front of the building.

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