Rental Space Has Become a New Source of Income and Welcoming for CT Church

Rental Space Has Become a New Source of Income and Welcoming for CT Church

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The large Foundation room is set up for a wedding reception. Renters bring their own linens and decorations.
A remote Super Saturday workshop given two years ago by the Conference resulted in a new source of income, more recognition in the neighborhood, and fulfilment of a needed service in the community, especially for minorities, for one church in Connecticut.

Anne Kirkpatrick, a member of the Somers Congregational Church, UCC, attended what she called a “well organized, helpful, and positive” Super Saturday workshop.  The session, Renting Your Church Facilities, was led by Bridget Johnson, who was the Director of the Center for Transformational Leadership for the Conference at the time. 

“While renting a church's facilities is not a new concept, considering it a sustainable source of revenue may be considered a new approach for some,” explained Johnson. 

After returning from the event, Kirkpatrick sent the information to members of the church’s Communications Committee, who then “recruited” Laura Driscoll, a church member, to be the volunteer coordinator for Church rentals.

“I had recently decided to take an early retirement and so the request to help with the site seemed liked a reasonable request and something that I could help the church with,” Driscoll said. 
 
Driscoll acted as the “Rental Agent” monitoring a rental space referral website called Eventective that promoted their space, handling all the phone calls, emails, showing the different rooms, getting the contract signed, and taking the deposit. Kirkpatrick was charged with greeting the renter on the day of the event, collecting the final payment and reviewing cleanup instructions for the renter and then returning at the end of each event to close up the building.

The two created a rental contract, decided on rental rates for the different rooms available, and agreed to charge additionally for room setup/take down, vacuuming, etc. because they did not have enough volunteers to take care of setting up all those details. The added expense usually resulted in groups doing their own setup and take down in order to save money. Driscoll developed a spreadsheet to handle inquiries, site visits, renters etc.

Although most renters prefer the biggest space, the church offers six rooms for rent that range from $50 to $450:
  1. The Sanctuary, rich in history, has been used for concerts and theater groups. (Any weddings must be first cleared through the pastor before being booked.)
  2. The Foundation room (referred to as Banquet Space), which is carpeted and air-conditioned, can host social events, meetings and other large group activities.  There are enough tables and chairs to seat over 150 people. From experience, they learned it was better to charge one fee for up to 6 hours in their “Foundation Room” with an additional $60.00 per hour extra if they wanted to come in the day before to decorate. 
  3. A certified commercial kitchen features a walk-in refrigerator, large workstation, 8- burner gas stove, two large ovens, convection oven and commercial dishwasher. 
  4. The chapel, which is an intimate space which can host small services and gatherings.
  5. Pilgrim Hall is a parlor-like room for families and friends to gather before a baptism, wedding or memorial services.  It can also host meetings and gatherings and offers a feeling of being at home.
  6. Various sized classrooms can be used to host meetings as there are enough spaces to handle small to medium conferences with wi-fi and other amenities.
Driscoll notes that they have adjusted prices as they analyze the number of rentals and money that is generated.  Johnson advises that rates should be determined in part by the characteristics that make your space different from other spaces available for rent in your area, and by the amenities offered.

After almost two years of renting out space, the church has realized that most of the rentals are for the Foundation room to host wedding and baby showers, birthday parties from 1- to 90-year olds, and wedding ceremonies and receptions (renters do not need to use the church minister as the officiant).  They have also rented out to local businesses who needed to hold training sessions, yoga and exercise instructors who do not have their own studios, and other community organizations looking for monthly meeting space.  One Hispanic church group rented the chapel and microphone system on Sunday afternoons for 8 months until they found a permanent home closer to their base.

At the end of the first year the church held 51 single events and 4 recurring events generating $18,325. With expenses totaling $905 their net income from rentals came in at $17,420. In 2022, they booked fewer events but made $6,700 more due to price increases.

Two additional teams have been added to help with opening and closing up the building and they make sure the renter is called several days before the scheduled event to confirm final payment, time of arrival etc. An additional challenge is making sure church activities are booked before taking rentals.

The church is now looking at joining the Chamber of Commerce so they can be considered as a conference venue. Since the building has handicap accessibility, wi-fi, and a large parking lot, Kirkpatrick believes businesses will be interested in utilizing their space for conferences with break-out sessions. “It’s been a learning experience, so you need to go into it with flexibility and adaptability to make it better,” said Kirkpatrick.

There was some concern initially by some members about having strangers in the building, but those fears were alleviated over time as members saw that the groups were respectful of the facility and the rules. Most renters heard about the availability from word of mouth and through family and friends who had held events there. 

One unplanned benefit is that the church has been able to experience other cultural traditions.  Many of the renters have been minorities and some church members have seen firsthand how moving an experience a Quinceañera can be for family members or how some cultures are less focused on timeliness and schedules so they feel less anxiety during a celebration.

“This has been a win/win for our church,” said Driscoll.  “Not only have we brought in much needed funds, but we have also opened our doors to folks both in and outside of our community.”

“We’ve been looking recently at our Mission statement and we think that this is an example of being church,” said Kirkpatrick.  “We are reaching out not only to our church community, but beyond to different people and cultures, to being welcoming and sharing.”

“It’s one thing to say that all are welcome here, but it’s another thing to really do it,” says church member Jo-Ann Hornyak. 

Kirkpatrick urges any church to contact them if they are interested in taking on this type of program. “Our church needed additional income.  And it has been a great project to make our building available to people outside of our community. When a church does something and is successful, they should share it.  It’s not a secret,” said Kirkpatrick. 

Johnson noted: “Regardless of whether a church is just beginning to consider space sharing or if they've already been renting space but want to maximize its income potential, different options, location factors, and possible tax liabilities should be considered.” (See pages 144 and 160 of the Church Finance Handbook for more information on these issues.)
 

Author

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Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane

Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane writes news articles for the SNEUCC website. She is also the editor of the Starting With Scripture newsletter. Contact her if: Your church has a great story to tell about an innovative ministry. You have a prayer request to ...

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