Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Hey Fletch … We’re re-working our policies that deal with who can use our facility, how often, what to charge, if anything. It’s partially a stewardship issue, but also the common perception is that opening up our facility to the community is a good evangelistic tool. The thinking is, the more you can get unchurched people into your building, the more likely they are to attend a service. Do you believe that’s a correct assumption? Is there any data to support it? Also, another church in our community lost their non-profit status by charging people to use their building. Do you have any info on where that line is between when it’s okay to charge and when it isn’t? Thank you!

DRF—There are lots of views on this issue. As for the church that lost their non-profit status, I would ‘wager’ that it was more complicated than charging for the use of their building. You can charge for building use and may need to pay UBIT—Unrelated Business Income Tax. See this IRS article about UBIT. You can also allow groups to use your facility for free. 

Make sure that you have a good policy about who can and cannot use your facility, especially if you charge for it. What type of weddings will you allow? Alcohol on the premises? Will you allow your local police to hold a police training activity in your gym with armed officers? What types of groups or activities will you exclude?

Check in with your insurance agent. They may have both advice and tips for you. Your policy may require the company to be informed if you allow non-members to regularly use your facility.

As for the effectiveness, there is that adage that if someone comes on your campus for a non-religious activity, they are more likely to return for worship. I have doubts about its veracity. People tend to come and stay when there is a personal relationship with one who invites them. Think of it this way. A church down the block is holding a rummage sale and you buy a sweater from them. If the clerk at the cashbox is blasé and unfriendly, would you be likely to return? 

It reminds me of a saying by my favorite Rabbi, “Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 NET Bible®.

Followup—Thanks for the quick reply, Fletch. That was so kind of you! Thanks too for the link about UBIT and great advice. I agree about the personal connection. I’ve gone to plenty of meetings in various church buildings and—while I was grateful they offered their space—I never attended one as a result of being allowed to have a meeting there. It did satisfy my curiosity though! Who was that Rabbi again? LOL!