Do you have a realistic idea of how many groups use your church’s building and facilities each month? Hopefully, your church building is in use for a wide variety of groups and activities each month. After all, providing a place to meet for groups such as the Girl Scouts, is a way of expressing Christian hospitality and stewardship of your resources. However, it is important that you have a thorough and well-developed Building Use Policy to guide you in making decisions about how your facilities will be utilized safely.
Churches often receive requests from groups in the community to use their buildings. Groups might want to use your facilities for children’s activities or sports, family reunions, polling places, study groups, or any number of other activities. As a threshold matter, the church must decide whether or not to allow non-church uses of its buildings and facilities. If your church’s decision is to allow non-church uses, then the next step is to develop a Building Use Policy to guide the church and the non-church users in planning their meetings and activities.
There are several basic components to include in your Building Use Policy. First, decide who ( a church staff person or a committee) will be in charge of approving requests for non-church uses of the facilities. Include who has responsibility for maintaining the calendar for use of the building so there is always up-to-date information available as to who is scheduled to be using the building. The committee will also need to decide whether any deposits, rental fees, or clean up fees will be charged, how much such fees would be, and who will be responsible for collecting those fees. Will you charge the same fee for every group and use, or will the fee be determined by the type of use and the level of services (such as security or custodial or food services) being requested. The committee will also need to establish guidelines for the days and times the facilities may be used. For example, how late in the evenings will your facilities be open? Are there any activities or uses that are absolutely prohibited? For example, would your church prohibit the use of alcoholic beverages in the buildings? If so, then the Building Use Policy should explicitly state the prohibited activities and uses. Does your church have child care policies already in place? If so, then, groups requesting use of your facility should be informed of your policies and that they will be expected to follow your standards for child care when they use your facilities.
Your policy should include a written application form to be completed by the leader of the group requesting use of the building. On the application, ask the group to provide specific information on their liability insurance coverage for use of the facilities, a request that the group provide a certificate of insurance showing their coverage and the company providing the coverage as well as naming your church as an “additional insured” on the group’s policy. The application will also need to include terms such as rental or deposit costs, cleanup costs, security costs, child care costs, food costs, the dates and times the group expects to use the facility, and the name and contact information for the leader of the group requesting use of your facility.
You can make your church a welcoming place for a wide variety of persons and activities. Make planning for these uses simpler by developing a solid Building Use Policy and implementing it consistently.