There are about 350,000 churches in the United States — that’s 7,000 for every state, or one for every 900 people.
That’s a lot of space.
Of course churches, as communities, vary widely. There are thriving congregations and dwindling ones, established churches and “startup” churches, young and old, urban and rural, encompassing hundreds of groups and denominations. Each group uses its space in different ways. Some church facilities are occupied only on Sundays, standing empty the rest of the week. Others may have a lively schedule of meetings and activities during the week. But most churches, we’d wager, have significant blocks of time when their facilities are unused.
They may never have thought of boosting their community’s revenue by offering these spaces to other local groups. They may be wary about whether renters will respect the religious nature of certain spaces, or they may want to rent out the space during off-hours but not know how to go about doing it — how to get the word out, how to make the spaces attractive to potential temporary tenants.
This week the SPACES blog will be running a special series on this topic: how churches can solve their underutilized space problem!
To start off with:
TEN SPACES EVERY CHURCH CAN SHARE
Some churches have an entire school building full of classrooms that are empty during the summer and on weekends. Others have just a few classrooms that are busy for Sunday School, but empty during the week. Either way, those classrooms may be just what a local music teacher needs for giving lessons, or a book club for hosting discussions!
2. Meeting rooms or town-hall spaces
In addition to classrooms, many churches have a large meeting space that gets used for occasional events and receptions. Why not let a local study group book it for a lecture? Or perhaps a family might want to book it for a retirement party, or a child’s birthday party.
Some congregations may have theological reasons to avoid renting out their sanctuaries for purposes other than worship. With the remarkable religious diversity of the United States, however, this won’t be the case for every congregation, and a church with a beautiful sanctuary may wish to make it available for events like weddings and musical performances.
4. Parking lots
Especially in an urban area where parking spaces are scarce, opening a parking lot during unused hours can be an immediate draw for potential renters. There are a number of ways the arrangement could be made, for instance charging a monthly fee to individual tenants for weeknight parking, or renting it to groups for parking during specific events. Parking lots aren’t just for cars, either. A local farmer’s market or craft bazaar might need an outdoor space to set up, and your parking lot may be just perfect!
5. Organ/Choir Loft
The organ and choir setup that a lot of churches have can be a great space for musicians who need to practice. The acoustics in a church are often excellent and hard to replicate, and may be exactly what a musician in your community needs. Consider offering this space as a music rehearsal space for organists, pianists, and other choirs and ensembles!
6. Courtyard or garden
An outdoor courtyard or garden, especially if it’s nicely landscaped, can serve as a venue for parties, weddings, or popup markets.
Churches with a lot of buildings may have unused storage spaces — mysterious closets in basements, outdoor sheds or garages, etc. These, too, can be made available to renters! They might be just what a Little League team needs to store their equipment in the off-season, or what a young entrepreneur needs for inventory storage.
Licensed commercial kitchens can be hard to find for young caterers or others just starting out in the food business, and most churches have one — and don’t use it very often. This is the perfect space to offer for rental during the week!
Many churches have a stage, perhaps used only a few times a year for school plays or a Christmas pageant. And many towns have theater groups looking for an affordable place to stage performances. It’s a perfect match! A stage could also serve as a venue for dance rehearsals or photo shoots.
10. Gymnasium or basketball courts
Last but not least, a church may have outdoor basketball courts or an indoor gymnasium, especially if there’s a school affiliated with the church. For some communities, this may be a very busy space and not practical for renting, but for others (perhaps where a former school is no longer in use), the sports areas could be used by local teams who need practice space, or they could host a seasonal festival like Oktoberfest.
ShareMySpace helps churches make connections with their local communities through space sharing. The community gets a wonderful range of spaces to use, and the church gets to stay involved, build relationships, and maybe even welcome a few newcomers to their congregation. Interested in learning more? Check out the Old First Reformed United Church of Christ’s listing on ShareMySpace. It’s a fantastic example of what churches can do to share their space today, with a minimum of hassle!