EVERYONE knows that a church is not the building but the people who worship in it, but that's not to deny that churches are organisations that own and run properties and assets.
And it's a tricky balancing act to evaluate property matters and mission to find the best outcomes, yet that is just what Gary Adsett, Queensland Synod Property Services Manager, and Stephen Peake, Queensland Synod Property Resources Manager, do every day.
"Gary and I have spent a lot of time asking not just what we want to do, but how do we know that what we have done is successful," says Mr Peake.
"We have used and continue to use language like, 'We'll know we're effective when …' . The wise stewardship of property and financial assets is a theological issue as much as a business one.
The biblical basis, for example, Matthew 16:16; 24–25, is that God owns all creation and that human beings are its stewards.
Resources are for the service or needs of others, especially those with the strongest needs.
This also entails the responsibility to make the best use of our gifts of creativity and effort and the resources of which we are stewards for the betterment of the world (for example, Luke 20:9–16).
And, as Mr Peake points out, these responsibilities are encoded in Vision 2020 of Together on the way, enriching community, in Priority Direction C: Organised for mission – Developing sustainable mission-oriented organisation for the Church in Queensland.
"While it may be the case that you can't measure mission, you can measure indicators that form part of mission," Mr Peake says.
"If we want to be in 'business' into the future to do the work God calls the church to do, we have to be much more intentional about what we do, what we need to do it, and what the work looks like when it's done."
So how do you measure missional returns?
"That's a very good question," says Mr Adsett. "Indicators of missional returns might be things like the number of people who come through a facility each week, the income that is generated through that facility, the amount of money that people put into the collection plate, or the number of hours the facility is used."
"But other congregations might have a meeting space, for example, that they want to use for training.
In that case the indicators could be: How many training courses am I running? Or how many people running those training courses are directly involved in missional activity right now?" he says.
"Stephen and I work together developing congregational property strategies," he says.
"If we can minimise the capital investment but still allow the same level of activity to support the missional endeavour, that's a better missional return on investment."
Multi-purpose facilities often enable congregations to maximise both missional goals and return on investment.
Mr Adsett cites the example of Lifeworks Uniting Church in western Toowoomba, whose congregation are clear in their intention to work with families with young children.
"Their first foray will be into a multi-purpose space from which they will run an out-of school care program for children that will also host a mothers' group during the day and have the capacity to transform into a worship space.
"And once they get going with that, they will aim to provide a day-long childcare program in a dedicated space.
"It's becoming possible for them because as a congregation they were very clear from the outset about their missional priorities."
Mr Adsett says sometimes making the most of property and mission is to accurately determine the development potential of a property that is no longer meeting a missional need so as to reduce uncertainty and risk for its potential purchasers before selling it.
An example of this is the property of the Trinity Uniting Church in Camp Hill that was no longer being used for worship.
"It's highly unlikely we'll develop it, but it has a unique location on a major road close to a soon-to-be built bus terminal, creating an opportunity to obtain council planning approval for a transit-oriented development.
In our experience, if we can remove development unknowns in this way, which we call adding value to a site, we get a higher sale price."
A lot the work of Finance and Property Services, says Mr Adsett, "is asking what else can we do here? If our people are open to it, how can we reimagine being a community of faith in this place?"