How to Evaluate Your Church Property for Development

By DCG Strategies, Inc. | October 12, 2023

Are you ready to take the next step? How to Evaluate Your Church Property’s Potential for Development

DCG has been working with churches for almost two decades. In our experience, there are two aspects that determine a church’s potential for development: real estate factors and congregational factors.

It is crucial to determine early on whether your property is well-suited for real estate development and – equally important – whether your congregation is called, gifted, and ready to move forward at this moment in time. Housing developments will stall and months of money, time, and work will be wasted if the congregation does not have a shared vision for development that is in harmony with its theology and sense of mission.

Real Estate Factors

Here are a few steps you can take to begin to evaluate the real estate development potential of your church property:

  • Undertake a needs and resources assessment: what physical spaces does your congregation need? What physical spaces are currently underutilized? This process will provide a realistic assessment of your current state and future goals.
  • Consider the location and size of your property and your underutilized / unneeded land: An ideal site for residential development is:
    • At least 1 acre in size
    • Flat and level
    • Free of buildings and other structures
    • Good access to nearby transportation
    • Good access to major roads
    • Consider the context surrounding your property: an ideal site for residential development is one that is surrounded by residential development. A promising site would be located in a residential neighborhood and in an area free of undesirable uses (like industrial uses).

If your church – or other religious institution – has a promising site and the will and the grace to embark upon housing development – the next step (after congregational discernment) is to select a real estate partner and undertake a technical analysis of your property.

Congregational Factors

The number one most important thing to identify before investing any time or energy in real estate development is whether your congregation is called and gifted to embark upon a housing development project on your church property at this moment in time.

The real estate development process is lengthy and complex. Serious discernment is necessary to know whether your congregation has the will and the grace required to see it all the way through. Here are a few questions to ask of your congregation:

  • Do you as a congregation have a highly-functional, formal decision-making mechanism in place? Do you have a well-established practice through which you regularly reach consensus about difficult decisions?
  • Do you have dedicated professionals in church leadership who are willing to volunteer their time and expertise in the real estate development process? The most successful real estate developments on church property benefit from expertise from church members whose professional backgrounds (in law, project management, accounting, etc) are brought to bear on the project.
  • Do you have committed leadership? Is your pastor or leader committed and ready to shepherd the congregation throughout the development process?
  • How are you governed? If you are under regional authority (like a diocese or synod), is that leadership or judicatory body in support of your efforts? Do they have resources to assist you in your efforts?
  • Is the mission of providing real estate development in the form of affordable housing to your neighbors something that is in harmony with your congregation’s mission and sense of call? We all have different gifts and not all are called to provide housing or undertake development as part of their ministry. It’s important to identify the vision for the property that’s at the heart of the congregation’s sense of purpose and ensure it is aligned with development.

We’re ready. What do we do next?

If you’ve considered these factors – both real estate and congregational realities – and are ready to take the next step, it’s likely time to select a real estate partner and undertake a technical analysis of the Property.

DCG’s mission and passion is to help congregations through this process at every turn. Please get in touch with us today to schedule an informational interview and learn how we can help you in the development process. We offer discernment services and feasibility studies for your congregation.

Email us at [email protected] or call us at (925) 479-1350. We look forward to hearing from you!