Who you allow use your facility can have major impacts on your church. If you rent to a for profit organization or even a nonprofit organization that doesn’t align with the stated mission of your church, you could lose the property tax exemption on your church. Then of course, there is the outside group that wants to rent your church to host an event that does not align with your values. But what about when a member wants to use the facility? What if they want to offer a free program?
Generous gifts from talented members are always a blessing until there is a misunderstanding about expectations, questions of motives, or a surprise during the presentation arises. And then, of course there is the chance of hurt feelings by someone else who offers the same kind of service who feels the other was given special access. Then there is the situation where the presenter whose theology doesn’t align with the congregations.
Obviously we want to protect the congregation from harmful people. That is a given. Yet it isn’t always easy to say no if it based solely on a gut reaction to what is being offered. We want Good policies around such events to help the church council make good decisions that don’t become mired in personal confrontation. If the policy dictates a “no thank you” it is because it is the policy, not because we decided we don’t want you to make this presentation (but later we let someone else).
The policy should answer these questions:
- Who can use your facility? For what purposes?
- What portions of the facility can be used? At what times?
- Who has priority in the event of conflicts?
- How will rental fees be determined? Are rates different for different groups (members, affiliated churches etc.)?
- How will the church leadership vet the qualifications of the one offering workshops for the congregation?
- What will be guiding principal for what is allowed to be presented? That is a broad question but there should be some reflection on values of the congregation and how the presentation fits into those, along with culture.
- Does the event conflict with current strategic initiatives or distract from them? (maybe it isn’t, “no”, but, “not now”)
- How will any theological views be presented? Do they create conflict? Do they cause harm?
- Are there legal limitations that prevent the presentation being made? (e.g. a candidate for elected position)
- Will other follow-up services (for hire) be allowed to be promoted?
- Can certain products, services, vendors, or companies endorsed? Who will vet those?
- Will there be any disclaimers required?
- Will there be limitations for the presenter in topic, recommendation, referral, etc?
- Who will be responsible to monitor the event?
- What would cause an event to be stopped? By who?
The bottom line is that church council members have legal mandates from the State of California (similar in all states) to Duty of Care, Duty of Loyalty, and Duty of Obedience. Every decision must be weighed in the balance with clear reflection and awareness of the potential consequences, and comply with these duties.
Duty of Care – Take care of the nonprofit by ensuring prudent use of all assets, including facility, people, and good will; and provide oversight for all activities that advance the nonprofit’s effectiveness and sustainability.
Duty of Loyalty – Make decisions in the best interest of the nonprofit corporation; not in his or her self-interest.
Duty of Obedience – Ensure that the nonprofit obeys applicable laws and acts in accordance with ethical practices; that the nonprofit adheres to its stated corporate purposes, and that its activities advance its mission.