One aspect of the life-cycle of churches has to do with their possessions.
- Early on the church has almost nothing. The church is typically pretty open about sharing its resources (loaning chairs and tables for instance) with others.
- When the church gets buildings and even more possessions, the church develops policies which guide when and how the building can be rented and items loaned. The ultimate goal is to protect the church from litigation, but these procedures usually evolve to protect the church from outside groups or non-members who might damage the building or items.
- Finally, a church shrinks so that eventually everything it has is given away in its last act of generosity. Its possessions and buildings are sold or handed to another church.
All churches struggle with providing a balance between being generous with what it has to help its own members, its community, and other churches—being cautious so that what it has accrued over the years is not lost or damaged. That is a fine line to walk, and it requires a lot of active decisions.
I can’t offer an easy answer to this. I can ask churches to share as much as possible with others just as others shared with them when they were a young church. Don’t give everything away, but don’t be stingy either. Develop a balance by asking one question: What is the motive or reason someone wants to borrow or use something your church owns?
If it is meant to help one person have personal profit and it isn’t church related, then the church should walk away from that. But if the goal is to help the community or another church, then the church should seriously consider (but not rubber stamp) that opportunity. Be generous, but don’t give away everything. Don’t be greedy, but seek times when you can genuinely help others and other organizations.