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July 29, 2007


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Our church is a small (but growing!) church in rural South Georgia. Out main building is more than 50 years old, our "fellowship hall" is more than 30 years old... We dedicate 5% of all offerings to our "building funds". These funds are used, mainly, for upkeep and renovation. Our church also owns a 30 year old parsonage (pastor's home). Our church was designed to hold about 150 people, but we've had between 175 and 215 every Sunday for the past year. As you can see, it would be nice to have a newer building... but we are "making due" with what we have. Personally, I believe that the church has a positive impact on a community, and having a nicer (but not ostentatious) building is a positive thing. Do I think that Christians should build elaborate, gaudy buildings, designed to draw attention to the building and not to God? No way! But, I do think that believers should strive to have nice, neat, safe, clean buildings that facilitate worship and study!
(My golf club has a super-nice clubhouse that only gets used once or twice a month. No one there seems to be complaining. Our local school building lies dormant for 3 months a year. No one there seem to be complaining.)

I think there are very few Christians who would complain that a building with lights and heat are necessary. I think the more wasteful issues are things such as elaborate landscaping and state of the art lighting and sound systems. Some might even questions huge video screens. What ever happened to a simple microphone system, hymnals, and actually reading our Bibles instead of having it displayed on a larger than life TV screen? And what about the cost to maintain these expensive toys? I recently heard about a women's shelter in my city closing and talked to a friend who is on the board. Apparently churches in the area can't be bothered with regular donations to take care of poor women struggling to do the right thing and keep their babies. Maybe if it came out of the hollywood light show budget...hmmm... Sorry, a bit sarcastic but Christ did not call us to make the most comfortable churches and the biggest auditoriums.

i work for a general contractor that specializes in church construction. as a christian, it is often hard for me to see churches poorly steward their resources just to 'remain competitive' with other area churches - especially when the livelihood of my business contradicts my gut. i do, however, really appreciate your point #3. i may even suggest this to churches that we work with, as most churches seem to have $500k set aside for a 1.5 million dollar project (and then want us to get it in budget). good suggestion.

as for point #5. the church i attend has explored another option. as they have grown, they have used pseudo vacant church facilities left behind in the after math of the mega church. it is important to realize that the large churches that we see popping up everywhere in the US are not being fueled by people coming to christ, at least not here in the bible belt south. there is a steady ebb and flow of membership transfer - usually to the latest & greatest. this generally leaves many dieing churches with facilities they can no longer afford. reasonable renovation of these facilities is far more cost effective than new construction, if your body can be flexible to the imperfections.

@ Andy C.
the theatrics are a very expensive toy. but it is all part of the latest & greatest that i mentioned above. in my mind, that is where a church mission statement comes in. if your church has god-given mission to reach the homeless, then stage lights and a sound booth are wasted resources. however, if your church has a mission to build a self contained christian compound on the highest point in the city, where your members can live their whole lives and never have to encounter non-christians, then the broadway quality theatrical equipment is an excellent option (again sarcasm).

regardless, it is really easy to be critical of the leadership in your church. we are all fallen people, pastors, elders, deacons, & members alike. the best suggestion i could give to someone who takes issue with what their church is doing, is get involved. be a leader yourself. it seems that many church committees are formed by the same dozen people, because no one else will step up.

I totally agree with you. Our church building is really old, and we do need to spend a fair amount of money for upkeep. We just spent a bunch of money to add fans to the sanctuary, because it was miserable in there during the summer. We decided against A/C, because it was too expensive.

I also agree that overly ornate buildings are a waste of money. But I do think keeping the building up to date is important. An example is our church nursery. We repainted, added new curtains and rocking chairs, and made a few other improvements a couple of years ago. Some in the congregation complained that it was a waste of money, but I don't think so. If a visitor comes and drops off their baby, if the room is outdated and looks, well, old...the visitor may wonder if the toys are up-to-date and safe for their child. If the room looks like it's taken care of, the visitor will probably feel more comfortable dropping their baby off.

If your church is at all outreach oriented (and I think all churches should be), then you do have to think of how visitors will feel when they walk through the doors.

Finally a post about churches that I found interesting.

I have a few churches nearby, and each one tries to outdo another. Some are so big they take up a whole block. I always pass them by and think, "I sure pray that you are paying real estate taxes on that." I heard that churches don't pay taxes, but I hope that real estate taxes are an exception of that rule!

And then in the mail I get letters from CARE or other organizations that say, "Every minute, 6 children die from hunger and luck of medical care. A donation of $10 will provide food for 1 child for 4 weeks. Please give... blah-blah-blah..."

And I usually give. I receive 3-4 letters like that a months (from different organizations) and I try give something to each one.

Now, I am not a Christian, but let's imagine that I am. Let's say that I can afford to give $100 per months top. Should I use them up to keep 10 children from starvation for that months, or should I give them so my church could pay the air conditioning costs for all its 50,000 sq feet of nice looking buildings? What a dillema. :(

Just remembered one more thing.

I used to give to ASPCA. I signed up for their monthly-give program or something like that. And they started sending me stuff that I never asked for: my own personalized coffee mugs, button, my own personalized wrapping paper, mailing lables, greeting cards, teddy bears.... I wrote them a letter saying that I am cancelling my membership because I would rather take that money and go buy a few bags of dog food and drop it at the local animal shelter than to buy myself teddy bears and coffee mugs.

I can see what they were trying to do, but I hope that my letter allowed them to know (although of course they may not care) that they are getting away from what I really want to see them doing. I think it is the same about churches. They want to grow, and it is fine, but if I was a Chritian, I would cancel by membership and go look someplace else.

>>This post reminded me of how hypocritical I thought it was of the Catholic Church's Los Angeles diocese to build an extravagant church - actually, it's a cathedral - downtown.

How about a beautiful cathedral that's a gathering point for the community and for all manner of events bringing in diverse members of the city? Isn't that Christian and spiritual? And that's EXACTLY what happens at the Catholic cathedral in downtown LA. So the Catholic diocese of LA should have a crummy, decrepit, outdated cathedral (and as the seat of the diocese, a cathedral is NECESSARY, not OPTIONAL, according to Catholic doctrine).

Lots of events that benefit the entire community happen at that gorgeous new building. So it's not necessarily a "waste."

I also dislike posts like this one that ASSUME money that went into a cathedral could have gone into anti-poverty programs. The Catholic church contributes vast amounts of money to anti-poverty programs. Why is it always an either/or? That's "poverty" mentality on the poster's part....

To answer the original question, "Is Spending Money on a Church Building a Wrong Way to Use Tithes/Gifts?"

All you need to ask is if there would be better things to spend this money on?

Are there women and children living in poverty all around the world now? What about the US?

Are their hungry women and children out there right now?

Are there sick people needing health care all around the world now? What about the US?

To use a tired cliche, What would Jesus do? How did Jesus spend most of his time? Helping the poor, the sick, the hungry, the sinners.

How do modern "Christians" spend their time and money? They drive up in their Lexus cars to their mega churches to sit in climate controlled rooms with big screen projection screens so they can properly see and hear the "gospel" of which they practice little of or ignore....It's really pathetic and Jesus warns throughout the gospel of the complacency and danger but it's pretty much ignored or forgotten by today's "Christian." There really aren't too many *real* Christians out there anymore.

Our church has plans in the works to add onto our church building to accomondate maybe 50% more families.

It's neither right nor wrong to use tithe money for this purpose. We as a congregation had the option of designating whether our money would go toward the general fund or toward the building fund.

For the time being, we fell short of continuing with the project, and we and the elders (wisely) put it on hold.

Whatever is done with the offerings must be under the direction of thoughtful prayer. If building/improving is in God's will, it will be done. If it isn't, it won't.

"How about a beautiful cathedral that's a gathering point for the community and for all manner of events bringing in diverse members of the city? Isn't that Christian and spiritual?"
Depending on what kind of "events" we are talking about! :)))

There are people dying without food or vaccines somewhere in Asia or Africa. Here in the US they estimate about 30,000 homeless I last heard, many of them in bad need of mental health care.

Spending the money on building a gorgeous place for "community events" instead of helping those who are completely without any hope in life is showing me (as a non-Christian) what your faith is about... entertainment of yourself and others. The comments in this conversation are the best proof of that to me.

I wonder how many churches are total in the U.S.A. Within the walking distance of where I live there must me at least 20-25. I wonder how many total in the state? Country? If there are about 30,000 homeless, it very well may be there there are more churches than there is homeless. If each church took 1 homeless person into its care... wow! light bulb alert!

Money needs to be spent on many things to do with church buildings. Giving to religious organisations not really (IMHO) the same as giving money to charity for that reason, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't do it. You should do it, if you are part of the community and you think its important.

If you don't like the way your church spends its money, do something about it. Get involved, after all its the people that make up the church, and at the end of the day, they make the decisions on where the money goes.

Yes, there are thousands of churches that waste money daily. Yes, If the church stopped wasting money and practiced what they preached, people would see Christ in the church. I believe the intent here was to encourage us to look past the errors in our churches, and look towards Christ. I hope all of us (especially those who are not Christians) will stop looking to humans and expect to see God. God himself tried that many times, but decided He needed to send His son to die for us and bear the burden of our sin. Even the sin of excess that is lived out by the majority of people and churches in a country that prints "In God We Trust" on it's currency. He is coming back. I hope you are ready!

I'm from a Presbyterian upbringing, my father being a minister. But since college I have worshipped in house-churches and among Plymouth Bretheren "open" assemblies. Our particular meetings of the church do not take place in a "church" at all, but we rent a local public library or municipal building, or meet in an elders home. We strive (and like all Christians, at some times fail) to adhere to the New Testament teaching regarding teaching, format, and leadership in the church.

Needless to say, our meetings are small. While renting has its problems, like lack of permanence and presence, our monthly cash flows out to local bible camps, missionaries, and families in need at a much better clip than if we owned a facility ourselves. And because our meeting is small (100), rent is cheap at about $250 per month for Sundays and Wednesday nights.

In our monthly men's meeting, we discuss various business and financial matters, teaching plans, spiritual growth, share prayer requests, and plan upcoming giving needs. It is apparant from these meetings that the lack of space and our growing numbers are becoming more difficult. Several men bring mini-vans, full of chairs, each Sunday in order to supplement those provided by the facility. And there is no "nursery" for nursing mothers or young children. The idea of leasing or buying a small, good-valued building and fixing it up has often come up.

But in the grand scheme of things, these little "annoyances" are nothing when compared with the awesome mission that God has given us, to "Preach good news to the poor", to love our neighbor, to look after widows and orphans, to send and be sent as missionaries abroad, to give "sacrifically", to put it as you do so well. And ultimately, if we outgrow our current facility, we probably ought to Thank God for growing us to such an extent, and split up via a church-plant. Where, exactly, do we get the idea that the goal of a church is to grow so magnificently large that people get lost in the crowd, and relationship is non-existent? Jesus emphasized "go and make disciples of all nations", not "make all nations members of your church in order to cover the building costs." But maybe I am just mis-interpreting Matthew 28:19-20.

While traveling Europe, I marvelled at the architecture of the ancient Gothic churches. In St. Petersburg I enjoyed watching the orthodox icons, and stoic worshippers. But if only the beauty of these buildings were matched by the beauty and rigor of the local churches. We in the U.S. may be dealt with even more severely for our corporate (and individual) "hording" of wealth, our building of superfluous centers of worship that do not add but detract to the true worship of God, which is in "Spirit and Truth".

Jonathan C.

Jonathan C.,

Wow, a Christian who does not mind being personally inconvenienced by bring their own chairs or giving up the LCD screens and the state of the art stereo system to worship the God of Humble Peopple? I actually feel like shaking your hand! I feel like some ray of light just touched this conversation.

I am from Russia (speaking for St. Petersburg churches). People younger than 90 are prohibited from sitting down during the whole 2-3 hour cermon or whatever you call it, and many spend half of that time standing on their knees on the cement or wood floor... you can forger about air conditioning or ever head during the winter time... parents are carrying their children in their hands (no child centers). People are discouraged from laughing or striking a conversation, because it is a place of quiet and respect. And people still come by hundreds and thousands. So, aparently the air conditioning does not make or break the deal for some Christians!

I have seen Western churches in Russia (we were intived there for "free Bible and food give-away" - we was there for the gifts, not the the Bible, of course. We were living below powerty line and a bag of candies and oranges was the biggest thing for my family for that week). We were at first taken aback that we were allowed to sit, and then to sing songs. When the preaches started to dance on the stage, we figured it was all some kind of spoof. Then they made group pictures and played songs on guitar, and of course by then all kids were running around wild, the parents (Russian) were just chit-chatting making fun of singing and dancing "monkeys" on the stage. In Russia, the prist would rather die than seen dancing.

In any even, I was just writing to say to Jonathan C. that if I ever was to go back to Christianity, I would join his group for sure. Thanks for posting, Jonathan! I feel a little better about Christianity as a whole actually.

When I said "if I ever was to go back to Christianity" that was a very remote possibility. If I, for example, ever go to jail and need to show some good behavior for the probation board, I will consider it. I personally would rather join Wicca or something like that, but I am afraid that won't earn me too enough points. :(

Just kidding. :)

The church I belong to has always steered away from the "latest and greatest". Biblical preaching, no fancy stuff. A sound system that meets our needs: half-a-dozen mics, including 2 wireless lapel mics, a few speakers & monitors. A recent addition is a direct-to-CD recorder to replace the aging tape deck. Our most luxurious equipment is the A/C and stackable cushioned chairs.

Unfortunately, we're starting to burst at the seams. We don't want to turn people away or discourage them from coming, but we can't expand our building or our parking lot. And we don't want to break the law by cramming more people in than are allowed by the fire safety codes. The church leadership discussed splitting into 2 smaller churches, but overall it was decided that we'd rather build a new building than deal with the politics of splitting a church for non-doctrinal reasons (ie. which group gets to "keep" the building and/or the lead pastor). We're hoping that we find land closer to the city to allow us to more actively serve the community through our building, not just through our people.

I've seen plenty of church buildings, new and old, that were far too large and ostentatious for their current congregation's needs. If one of those churches in our area was willing to sell, we would gladly buy the building and fill it up with people hungry for the word of God. But the churches with paid-off buildings have no incentive to sell.

I think it makes sense for smaller churches to rent out space rather than building/owning it. But when you get to the point where the church is large enough and using the building 40+ hours/week, renting makes less sense than buying. Of course, building a new building should be done with good stewardship in mind - quality construction, but not ostentatiousness. Maybe 500 years ago a cathedral could truly be built for the glory of God. But today, it is far too easy to build for the glory of man instead.

I'm in the business of live video production. Generally when we get a call from a church (or corporate church based organization), they're spending between $10k to $70k for a weekend to a week of video. That's three cameras and lyrics w/ fancy backgrounds on two 13ft screens.

That's a lot of starving children for something so trivial. At least that's what most of us in the production business say. I stopped attending church about two years ago. Currently, when I deal with churches, it's mainly mega churches who are trying to have the coolest and biggest production.

It sickens me a little to know that there are struggling people out there who genuinely need the money that are tithing and truly sacrificing, and their money is being spent on giant high definition screens. I doubt Jesus is into high definition screens.

70k in a week? How many meals for the poor is that? Especially for something as trivial as live production.

While extravangant churches have no justification, believers do need a decent place to gather and worship God. Those who do not have the salvation experience or relationship with God, may find it difficult to pay for the utilities etc to run a church and may say that feeding a poor is better. Jesus's answer to Simon who complaint about the costly perfume poured at Jesus's feet is what I have to say. God desires worship and as a benefactor of the relationship with God I would (and others like me ) spend any amount to worship Him. The cost for that cannot be compared or used for anything else.
Of course money spent for show off is not something I would justify.


How does the worshiper determines whether or not the church is "decent" or "extravagant"?

If I was to following your the Simon example logic, no amount of money is too extravagant as long as it glorifies your God.

Just curious.

By the way, I apologize for all the typos and mistakes in my posts! I have been getting very careless in my typing lately. It is because I read what I wrote, edit, and then click Post without making sure that all the revised parts run smoothly together.

I will try to do better.

Thanks for your response.
A church building does not glorify God. Jesus says (John 4:21-23) the time is come for people to worship in truth and spirit not on this mountain or Jersusalem. So spending on a church building to make it luxurious or looking great does not glorify God and as such it is a waste and misuse of talents given to people..

Now, when I said we need a decent place to worship, I meant a place we can assembly with normal comfort and convenience (not on a wayside or uncomfortable environment if we can afford) so that our concentration is not directed to swating fles or wiping sweat etc. May be in China or India where they have limitation of funds they have to do so but in the US, a decent place is a decent place which normal thinking can understand. It does not need lush thick pure wool carpets and redwood hardwood carvings etc etc and multimillion dollar projection or audio/video systems etc etc.
I hope you get the point.

Our church is building right now, but we aren't using any of the tithe for it. Instead, we are taking a seperate offering, and when there's enough money in the account we will build. (The land was donated)

The reason we go to the church that we do is because of the missions focus, ever since the church was founded it had devoted an additional 1% of it's budget to missions and (if I remember right) will continue to do so until they get to half of the budget.

My home church in Nashville met in a movie theatre that it rented on Sunday mornings on a long term basis. Great for the movie theater because they never make money on Sunday AM anyway (they're not open), and great for us because the facility makes alot of sense for a congregation and the cost is relatively cheap as long as we don't trash the place.

I have since moved to Atlanta and have yet to find a local congregation with similar ideals. I don't know that I ever will.


Thank you for answering.

Here you say, "God desires worship and as a benefactor of the relationship with God I would (and others like me ) spend any amount to worship Him. The cost for that cannot be compared or used for anything else. "

Here is another lightbulb idea: you can worship him for free at home 90% of the time. Or does "worship" requires a crowd? Not like your saying a prayer to him before going to bed (I don't know if you do, but let's say you do) is any less "powerful" that when you come to church to say the same prayer in the church building. I don't think that God will hear you any better. But, of course, I may be totally wrong on that.

But back to expenses. So, basically all you need is a building large enough to hold an X number of chairs (and I would say buyng is better than renting, but why not to buy some run-down building in the 'hood - would be better for the entire community), a podium, and a parking lot. If you are so big you need a mic and spakers to reach "the audience," you could get on Craigs List and get them for maybe $50 (used, but usable). All the rest if fluff and feathers, it seems to me, at least as far as the actual benefit to your prayer quality, and the money that could have been spent to fight hunger, poverty, illeteracy, and wars, go into massive building projects, cute fountains, gorgeous landscaping, cool LCD displayes, etc.

Well, on the other hand, it is not my place to judge, I myself could be donating more if I skipped on a few pleasures of my own. So, I am shutting up to go and revise my own budget to see if I can donate $150 next month, before lecturing others! :)

Nice talking, everyone!


So, you are the second one so far who came from a congregation where they try to keep the meeting expenses to a minimum.

What does your church do with the money they collect? Do they tell you at all, or how does it work?

I hope you will be able to find a congregation similar to your old one in the future (and I hope there will be more congregations like that around the country), good luck!!!

There is no reason for the Church to actually OWN the building they are conducting services & events in. This is a common and UNFORTUNATE misconception. If a Church sold their building to a real estate investor who's primary purpose is to manage and own the real estate and in turn paid him a lease fee, my calculations show that church after church would actually have MORE cashflow every month PLUS the extra million and more dollars they would receive from the real estate investor. Building maintenance would be the regulated and handled by the real estate investor and every church I analyzed would seriously have MILLIONS to spend to new staff, new programs, program and staff enhancements.

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