Across the nation congregations face a range of pressing questions about their ability to steward and care for their older properties while attending to their mission and ministry. Growing numbers of congregations are closing, and buildings are increasingly lost, often harming the legacy of members and the surrounding neighborhood alike. Partners can help congregations reflect on—and answer—pressing questions such as:
- How does our congregation sustain itself and its building while our membership continues to shrink?
- How can we put our underutilized or vacant space to better use? Can it generate revenue or support our mission?
- Can we afford the maintenance and necessary repairs to keep our property in good condition?
- Are there ways to partner with other congregations, nonprofits, or real estate developers in the use or ownership of our property?
- Should we begin to plan for closure or merger in the coming years?
In response to these issues and questions, Partners has produced a ground-breaking guide—Transitioning Older and Historic Sacred Places: Community-Minded Approaches for Congregations and Judicatories. In addition, Partners offers a portfolio of resources, tools, and guidance that can empower faith communities to proactively address these questions and adopt a successful, community-minded approach that helps to sustain
the civic value of sacred places.
From Discernment to Action: Tools for Transition
Partners customizes its tools to provide the best fit for sacred places and their communities. We can directly serve a single sacred place or help judicatories and civic leaders develop strategic efforts that support a larger group of sacred places facing related questions about sustainability, mission, and the long-term public value of their property.
Discernment And Transition Planning
Partners can serve as a support and facilitator as congregations work to discern their trajectory and their options, asking helpful questions, providing reflection and guidance, and managing strategies for property transition that include the input of community leaders and institutions.
Asset Mapping And Community Advisory Group
This tool can identify new stakeholders and develop strategies for connecting congregational assets, particularly underutilized buildings and spaces, to other institutions and assets in the community—revealing new options for the future of a sacred place. Partners begins by working with the congregation to convene an Advisory Group of key community leaders that provides high-level guidance, opens doors to new resources, and invites key civic leaders and local stakeholders to participate in Asset Mapping gatherings. These events bring together stakeholders and leaders from across the community to produce a highly valuable, systematic inventory of resources for ministry, mission, and new or expanded use of a congregation’s property. After the Asset Mapping events, a congregation receives a report with prioritized, actionable guidance for maximizing the value and impact of its property and a roadmap to establishing new collaborations that leverage additional resources.
The Design Charrette
Following the Asset Mapping work, an intensive design workshop or charrette can be organized to generate schematic drawings and plans that illustrate how the congregation’s property can be shared, reused or developed in new ways. Architects and designers respond directly to the outcomes of Asset Mapping, generating a vision for capital investment that supports reuse or redevelopment of the building. Partners also works to ensure that design concepts respect the historic and artistic heritage of the building.
The Discovery Study
This tool helps a congregation understand its place in the landscape. Just as a lawyer might gather information in a “discovery” phase to strengthen their case, Partners’ discovery study helps a congregation better understand its role within the wider community and identify community assets they can leverage for funding, partnership, or development. Partners analyzes the community’s perception of a congregation, its work and property, generates insights about trends in the community, and makes strategic recommendations.
Market-Studies and Space Assessment
For some congregations, new ways of using and sharing building space with other partners may be a viable option to explore. In these cases, Partners brings expertise on space-sharing to give congregations insights on opportunities to share space and begin new partnerships. Partners facilitates deep conversations on mission and vision alignment, impact, and values that inform potential space-sharing partnerships, while also facilitating assessments of what congregations offer in terms of physical space, amenities, hospitality, and welcome. Partners also helps congregations consider the suitability of their space for various new uses and strategies for generating interest and engagement with potential partners. This can include conducting market studies that incorporate research into local markets that can inform a business strategy for generating revenue and operations. Partners can also advise on rental agreements and fees, including Memorandums of Understanding and other agreements.
For congregations that want to pursue sale of their property, Partners can assist in finding real estate professionals, preparing Requests for Proposals, and vetting proposals from potential buyers or developers. Partners can also assist with challenges or questions about artistic elements such as stained glass or sculpture that might need to be protected or relocated when a congregation decides to sell their building.
Town Halls and Convenings
Partners can collaborate with faith and civic leaders to convene community-wide conversations that generate attention and visibility for the future of religious properties. A Town Hall can cultivate civic conversations about the future of sacred places, encouraging the interest of civic institutions, philanthropy, and other nonprofits with an interest in real estate.
Inventories and Surveys of Religious Property
Partners is also ready to work with judicatory or civic leaders to create inventories of sacred places across a city or region, capturing important information about their physical condition, use of space, and institutional strength and capacity. This information can inform strategic efforts to support congregations and proactively address the stewardship and long-term viability of religious properties.