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Build or Buy: Is One of these Really Your Best Option?

by Mike Boblit


September 6, 2017

Owning your own home has been the desire of many American families for generations. But if ever there was a time for your heart to get ahead of our head, this is it. You want that home so badly that you either fail to see key factors that should be considered or you ignore clear signs that this isn’t the right choice for you today.

This dynamic has also been in play at many churches and other ministries. Renting has a rap for being the less desirable alternative, so all the focus is on finding or building the ideal facility. But these aren’t your only options, and once you do your homework, you may discover that neither is best for your organization. Here are three questions you need to answer to find out.

Is your mission clear?

Yes, you’ve heard and read that mission must drive ministry, and you agree. But have you done the hard work of confirming that yours is clear or of clarifying it if you know it’s not? You simply can’t align all your ministry efforts to your mission if everyone doesn’t agree on what it is. Like the ECCU member church that was growing and looking to expand. They found a great piece of property on the edge of their city, began the process of purchasing it, then were reminded that God had called them to reach the heart of the city. So they relocated much closer to downtown.

Is your leadership strong?

Leading a church or ministry organization well is hard enough. Leading it through a facilities change makes it even tougher. You need the right people in place to do it. Are your leaders careful about keeping your mission primary and never compromising it by over-leasing or over-borrowing? Have they demonstrated a commitment to meet your financial obligations? Are they realistic about how much the organization can afford to spend on facilities? And is a succession plan in place in case the senior leader leaves or is suddenly unavailable?

Can you afford to take on a loan?

In addition to considering whether a loan would compromise your organization’s ability to pursue your mission, you need to gather and crunch the numbers to see if you can actually borrow. Qualifying for a loan means demonstrating the ability to handle not only the monthly payments (based on the interest rate you’ll pay) but also the expenses of securing the loan. These expenses include things like appraisals, loan fees, cost of required improvements and cash required at closing. Each loan scenario is different, so the costs and their amounts vary widely. Step one is to meet with a ministry financing expert who can walk you through the process.

Once your mission is clear and you have a handle on how a loan would impact your ability to stay on mission, you’re ready to look objectively at renting as an alternative option. Would leasing enable you to pursue your mission as well as owning? Would it cost more or less? Would it allow you to focus more of your people resources on ministry and less on buying or building? Answer these questions and you’ll have a good idea of whether to rent or buy your facilities.


Category: Ministry Matters