Does your church allow its facilities to be used by outside groups for meetings or events? Any church that allows its facilities to be used for functions beyond traditional church services, prayer meetings, and Bible studies should consider:
Who Uses the Church and How
Your church should determine both who can use the facilities and how the facilities can be used. Allowing your church to be used by outside groups can be a great way to minister to your community. The key is to only allow uses that do not contradict your churches sincerely held biblical beliefs.
Keep in mind that even though your church’s services are open to the public, your church facilities remain private property. This means that opening your facilities for some community uses does not require doing so for all uses. For example, your church could offer the building for a local non-profit organization’s event, but you do not have to open it up to a group that holds views contrary to your church’s sincerely held biblical beliefs.
Facility Use Policy Implementation
Consider creating a facility use policy that is grounded in your church’s beliefs and practices. The policy should refer to your church’s statement of faith and include a facility purpose statement that explains the facilities were provided by God and should be used to glorify Him. Among other things, your policy should outline guidance for groups who want to use your facility and describe why certain activities are not permitted on church property.
Anyone who uses your church facilities, outside of the traditional functions of the church, should sign this policy to certify that – to the best of their knowledge – they will not use the facilities in any way that violates the church’s religious beliefs.
Fees for Facility Use
Your church should carefully consider what – if anything – it will charge for use of its facility. A church that charges market rates might look less like a ministry and more like a business. It is critical that your church avoid the appearance that it is a business or operates as one because businesses do not have the same religious freedom legal protections that churches do. Consider limiting fees to the amount that covers the costs of ministering to the community by making the facility available to the community, so the fee structure is clearly ministerial and not commercial.
Churches have significant freedom to use their buildings. And to help your church take advantage of the strongest legal protections available and avoid pitfalls, we recommend consulting a religious freedom attorney.
The SBC of Virginia has teamed up with ADF Church Alliance so your church can get legal guidance on this and other religious freedom legal protections – at a discounted rate (use promo code SBCV20).
ADF Church Alliance is an affordable membership program that provides religious liberty legal help so you can freely preach the Gospel and operate your church in accordance with Christian principles. Members get direct access to attorneys, resources, and more – its virtually all inclusive for religious freedom issues.