Financial conditions from recessions historically create difficulties when it comes to remodeling or constructing a new church building, yet many churches have adapted. And the ways they reacted can help all church leaders. Here is a look at some of the changes and lessons that have been learned from these churches.

Smaller Buildings, More Locations

Perhaps the biggest adaptation churches made after the Great Recession of 2008 was a shift away from larger auditoriums. Bigger buildings meant more dollars—not just for initial construction, but also maintenance costs over the building’s lifespan of 50–60 years. Many churches opted for smaller buildings, which are less expensive to build, as well as easier and more cost-efficient to maintain.

This went hand-in-hand with the multi-site trend where churches built a 500-to-1,000 seat auditorium and then opened another location when they needed more space. As they outgrew the second location, they started a third site—and so on.

Remodels and Updates for Midsize and Large Churches

Many midsize churches that weren’t multi-sites built small additions or did a large remodel. If you had an existing building and property, its value may have been high enough so you could borrow enough funds. Some churches were built in a different age for a different type of ministry, so they needed to be updated for modern use. Recent remodels not only involved aesthetic upgrades like replacing threadbare carpet or outdated lights—they often included a reduction in auditorium seating.

Other areas of the church, like restrooms, hospitality spaces, and classrooms were also good parts of existing buildings to update and expand.

Buying and Refurbishing Older Buildings

Another way churches found to adapt to recessionary financial conditions was to purchase existing buildings. This was a great way to get around the problem that they couldn’t afford to build new. They didn’t just limit themselves to buying older churches—school buildings, car dealerships, theaters, and even shopping centers were all good options to convert. From 2008 to 2010, a lot of these buildings were inexpensive and could be quite a deal because the structure was already built, and the parking lot and utilities already existed. The primary expense after purchase was refurbishing the building for the needs of the church. 

Things have changed since then. Prices have risen, and people are again putting money into real estate. But you can still get a deal, especially if you can find another church. Plenty of churches have shut their doors, or merged, so you can sometimes find church buildings that aren’t that old, and which have spaces that don’t require a lot of remodeling. Buying those existing buildings can be a good use of your money.

These are just a few ways churches have adapted to tougher financial situations. In our next post, we’ll cover some other frustrations church leaders have had to deal with in the past 15 years or so due to a changing economy.

Seeking more information and insights? Register for one or more of our free i3 webinars that cover the latest topics in church building, stewardship, and more. These interactive sessions provide a great opportunity to learn from the experts and get your questions answered.