By NIGEL TAPP
Property can enhance a congregation’s life. But, if it is unfit for purpose or requires significant upkeep, congregations can quickly find too much of their time and money is poured into property maintenance rather than undertaking their mission.
With this in mind the Property Board has launched an Asset Strategy Program (ASP) to support congregations and church communities deliver on their mission objectives and secure long-term financial sustainability
The ASP encourages presbytery leaders, ministers-in-placement and Church councils to consider the contribution property makes to their local and regional missional commitments.
It provides communities with a range of tools to explore future options, taking into account issues such as new initiatives, financial sustainability and current mission. Projects under consideration must be valued at more than $1 million.
The synod has appointed investment analysts Pontier Advisory – specialists in the not-for-profit industry – to oversee the program. Ben Robinson, director of Pontier Advisory, said the ASP was proving to be an integral part of the re-thinking of property for mission.
“Importantly, the ASP inquiry into property for mission is not about getting better answers to old questions but finding better questions about new realities,” Mr Robinson said.
The Banyule Network, which consists of five congregations and a single joint church council, is the first project undertaken as part of the ASP. Like many Church communities, the Network faces the challenge of being asset rich and cash flow constrained.
Since April 2015, representatives drawn from the Banyule Network have been investigating whether missional objectives can be better served by a different use of property while maintaining the network’s financial sustainability. Mr Robinson said a key consideration has been to ensure that the current and desired missional objectives not only continue, but can be enhanced.
“The Network can achieve this through a property portfolio that is adapted to the range of worship styles and mission activities into the future, while also ensuring long-term financial security,” Mr Robinson said.
The Banyule Network ASP group has identified a number of important requirements. These include flexible interior spaces to cater for families and children, the provision of adequate car parking, ease of access, and facilities for hospitality. They have also recognised the need to generate property income and the capacity to rent spaces as required.
“A key benefit of ASP is that, at the end of the day, the network will achieve a renewed and more aligned property portfolio,” Mr Robinson said. “This decreases the time, energy and effort currently spent on property management. Further, surplus funds generated will be available for investment to support the ongoing delivery of mission well into the future.”
The Banyule Network Church council is currently leading an extensive discernment process with members of its congregations about the recommendations from the ASP process.
Manningham, Coburg, South Launceston, Grovedale and Boroondara have been approved by the Property Board for inclusion in Stage Two of the ASP. Work is already underway with a number of these communities in the early stages of the program.
Mr Robinson said the program was proving to be an integral part of the re-thinking of Property for Mission for the current participants.
He said that, within the context of mission objectives, the ASP was facilitating a structured conversation around property use and financial sustainability.
“We have been enlightened and encouraged by the participants in the ASP as they employ their wisdom and courage to imagine an invigorated and sustainable church,” he said.