By Bob Smietana
1. Mission comes first. Use the building to expand your church’s ministry and outreach. If a ministry goal is being accomplished and you are not just trying to make money, you can probably avoid any negative consequences.
2. Money is helpful but comes with complications. Renting out space can help enhance a church’s budget and ministry. But it also comes with added expenses—more maintenance, scheduling complications, and other hassles. Be prepared for hard work.
3. Be aware of public accommodation laws. Renting space to secular groups could make the church a place of public accommodation that has to be open to all groups, even those whose beliefs conflict with the church’s.
4. Explain the church’s broader mission. Non-religious people tend to think churches focus mostly on religious activities, like worship, prayer meetings, and Bible studies.
Be sure the broader mission—having a positive impact on the community, serving those in need, etc.—is part of the church’s founding documents and description of mission.
5. Talk to a tax expert. Some outside income for a church may be subject to “unrelated business income” tax. There are some exceptions: income from a thrift store, investments, and most rental income. Be sure to talk to a tax expert and pay the taxes that are due.
For examples of churches using their buildings well, read “Sacred Spaces: How Your Church Building Can Bless Your Community 7 Days a Week.”
BOB SMIETANA (@BobSmietana) is senior writer for Facts & Trends.