. . . posts on faith and life
The sub-prime mortgage crisis and the receding economy have revealed at least one thing, we have probably overbuilt during the last several years. Some of the situations that builders find themselves in are terrible. One of my friends was telling me about one of his friends who has over ninety brand new houses on the market…and we all know what the current real estate market looks like. So, what’s this builder doing? He’s still building, naturally. Turns out that the day he stops building he stops getting his lending and the lenders start collecting.
Likewise, there seems to be a corresponding correction coming to many churches, ministries, and institutions. Administrators everywhere are scrambling in order to prepare for what they perceive to be a major correction. A friend of mine started a web design business several years ago. She found a niche and carved out a nice little monopoly for herself. When she first started she had to convince businesses and churches that they even needed a website. Things took off and she established not only a nice business, but a brand new, top quality building to go with it. Today that building is for sell. I have not spoken with her in some time now. So, I’m not sure what’s going on with the business. But I can’t help but wonder if she is also scrambling to get back in front of the curve. Today almost any kid with a basic home computer can build a pretty savvy website. I suspect her business model has changed, or it must change. And I also suspect that an expensive building is not in the future plans.
There is also a lavish piece of property recently opened and dedicated that is owned and operated by a well known evangelist. I have not been in it, but I have some friends that are huge fans of his. They have given sad reports of attending special events and services there and the place being almost completely empty. They don’t know if he is struggling or not. But they worry that he is. I think about that every time I pass by (or I should say under) his towering ministry center with its empty parking lot. Again, I don’t mean to sound critical of these cases. I really don’t know what’s going on with them. It’s just that all around there seems to be these little signs that some serious downsizing (pruning) is coming.
Steve Parrish recently asked the question on his REPlant Blog: Why own church property? He notes the reasons that most businesses choose to lease instead of own as strong reasons for churches to consider leasing options as well. You should check it out. It seems to me that in light of the current downsizing of our economy in general, churches would want to think twice before launching into a new building (though I balance that by saying that we are successfully navigating a huge building campaign at my church).
Still, besides the practical timing issues of our current economy, I wonder with Steve if a church building is always even necessary? I wonder if it’s always the best model? I wonder what changes we would make without our buildings? I wonder what might change in our concept of what it really means to be church in the first place? I wonder what other options are out there?