Should a growing church stay or move?

Options for a growing congregation

As your church grows you will eventually need to consider whether your existing property can continue to provide the needed space or whether you need to consider relocating. Perhaps the size and quality of the current building falls short or there is limited parking. A church can only grow as large as it’s capacity to provide the needed parking. In order to effectively address all the issues and concerns raised by these questions, it is important to conduct a detailed Feasibility Study which will have as it’s mandate the requirement to study and compare the options.

Gather information

The Study should analyze the option of ‘staying’ including a detailed analysis, design and cost estimate of what can be done within the existing property.  The second option to be considered is that of ‘relocating’. The major issues that surface in this option are the availability of new land and the overall cost of construction. When considering the relocation option, the first question is whether land is available within the desired distance of the old building and does it’s zoning permit a church use?  Is it close to or within a growing area of the community? Does the new land provide good visibility? Does it contain good soils without environmental problems? Are there easements or setbacks that might restrict what can actually be built?

Provide analysis and supporting data

A congregation needs to know that the options have been analyzed in order for them to make an informed decision. If the options are not properly analyzed and presented with supporting data, there will always be some who will question the decision.  Building consensus is critical to any successful project and will ensure a successful stewardship program. 

Value of existing property

The ‘rule of thumb’ in relocation of urban churches is that the value of the existing property will only pay for the new land and not the cost of constructing the new building. This requires careful consideration of your funding capabilities.

What about parking expansion?

Parking is a primary need and a Feasibility Study must consider what can be achieved on the  existing property. If the current property is restricted in size, are there nearby properties whose owners may allow the church to use their land for parking during certain times of the week? Remember that land owners are unlikely to allow your use of their parking to be added to their title, so the agreement can disappear if the property is sold. Are there adjacent properties available for purchase? If so, the cost will not just be that of land purchase but will also include the demolition of any existing buildings plus the cost of constructing the new parking lot.

Municipal parking requirements

Each municipality will have minimum on-site parking requirements for Places of Worship. We recommend not less than one parking space for every three seats in the sanctuary. Based on this minimum, a 1000 seat church will need 333 spaces. How much land will this mean? An acre can accommodate an average of 100 cars, so 333 spaces would need a minimum of 3.3 acres and a 1000 seat church with gym will be approximately 30,000 square feet or 0.7 acres, for a minimum total site area of four acres.

Next steps

There are many details to consider so be sure that you choose a knowledgeable consultant to assist you in the preparation of your Feasibility Study.

By David Parker, architect

 

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