How to Get your Portable Church into a Permanent Building

I used to think that a church did not need a building. In fact, I spent the first five years of our church plant telling people that we didn’t need a building because the “People are the church and not the building.” This is theologically true. But after 5 or 6 years I began realizing that being a portable church forever was not the wisest long term way to plant a church. Most churches struggle to survive past ten years without a semi-permanent facility.

Having coached hundreds of church planters, I now believe that securing a longer term facility is most often essential to the long-term survival of a church plant. If you buy into this line of logic and have the goal of securing a permanent church facility over the next five years, read on.

Here are are four steps that I recommend If you are looking to move from being a portable church to a permanent location:

Step 1 – Create a Financial Goal

Where do you need to be financially 4-5 years from now? The time to begin preparing is now. If you are looking to finance a building, you will need to have saved 20-30 percent of what you plan to finance. If you are planning to lease a building, you will need to have money on hand for the buildout. How much money do you need to have saved in 4-5 years. 250K? 500K? 750K? Work through this with your leadership team and figure it out. Coming up with the number and writing it down is the first step toward accomplishing your goal.

Step 2 – Organize Your General Budget toward the goal

One of the biggest mistakes that church planters make is failing to save. The wise church planter allocates money for savings from day one. If you have never saved, now is the time to begin. I suggest crafting your church budget according to the following guidelines.

  • 50% Staffing: Salaries and Benefits
  • 20% Operations: (All the boring stuff) Rent, Building payment, Utilities, Insurances, Supplies, Copiers, and anything else that has more to do with admin than people.
  • 10% Missions: (Everything that is outward) Global missions, Local missions, Mercy Ministries, Church Planting, etc.
  • 10% Ministries: (Everything that is designed to facilitate community or equip believers) Youth Ministries, Small Groups, Men’s Ministries, Women’s Ministries, Children’s Ministries, Staff ministry expenses, etc.
  • 10% Savings: Working toward your financial goal

If your church plant is brand new, it may take a couple of years to get to these percentages. But work toward these guidelines. Keep in mind, saving is always costly. You will have to sacrifice something else to save. But if you are serious about getting into a permanent facility, aim to save 10 percent.

Step 3 – Raise Money for an Opportunity Fund

A friend of mine pastors a church in the Western US. This past year, his church raised 800K for what they are calling an “Opportunity Fund.” The plan is to have enough money in savings that when God brings the opportunity for a more permanent facility the church will be prepared and ready to act. When the perfect facility drops in your lap, it won’t matter if you are flat broke and can’t act on it. Embarking on a short-term fund raising campaign to raise money for an “Opportunity Fund” combined with regular savings (from step 2) will help you get to the goal you set in step 1.

Step 4 – Commit to a Capital Campaign

The last step toward finally getting into a permanent facility is to consider a fundraising campaign. A few years ago, I learned about Generis, a group that helps churches create cultures of generosity. I have referred at least a dozen of the pastors that I coach to Generis, and they have all come back with rave reviews. Generis has an innovative way of helping a church increase overall stewardship. You may want to give them a call and get a conversation started.

One of the greatest challenges in church planting is securing a long-term facility. It will seldom be easy, but following these four steps will set you on the right track.

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Posted by Brian Howard

My focus is to help YOU move forward one step at a time. I write about church excellence, personal productivity, and family leadership. I coach leaders, start churches, and help organizations break growth barriers. My goal is to draw on this experience to help YOU move forward in life, leadership, and productivity.