Making Space Count

Published on: March 1, 2014

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We are a small church and always have been. Small churches have their own unique challenges, and so do “aging congregations.” A typical attendance is around 20-25. This places great pressure on the congregation to make ends meet.  Here is how we have managed to keep the Unity message alive and our doors open in a very expensive area of the USA.

I came to Unity Church of Chantilly in northern Virginia in 2007. In place at the time was an arrangement with an Islamic academy to have weekly prayer each Friday for a quarterly “donation” (amount prearranged). In 2008, I was approached by a Spanish-speaking Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) group asking if they could rent space to have services on Saturday mornings and evenings, as well as a prayer service during the week. I took it to the board, and we agreed on a “donation” based on the time needed each month. We drew up an agreement.

We also have two 12-step groups. We accept a small love offering from them based on 75% of their monthly collections. It’s not much, but we see it as a way to support the 12-step community. Tuesday night is set aside for A Course in Miracles, and there is a meditation group made up of 12-steppers who meet on Sunday evening, both groups giving a donation as they can.

Days? We are currently looking for a yoga group, tai chi group, or any other group to meet weekly in the space. We can give them a better “donation” arrangement than any rental space can provide. We also offer the space for private gatherings, i.e., birthdays, graduations, wedding showers, etc.

Our idea is to utilize the space at every opportunity. We “suggest” donations for use of the LCD projector, sound system, or any other equipment provided by the church. An agreement in writing is always required, so that guidelines and restrictions are understood. I, as the only paid staff member, am responsible to oversee each event. I don’t always attend, but I make sure someone knows how to reach me or my designee.

Presently, we are in the fourth year of a seven-year lease, which increased by 3% in years 2, 3, and 4, bringing our monthly payment to $4,000. In total, we needed to create about $7,000+.

After struggling for several months, we knew some serious change had to occur. Members of the board and I met with the leaders of the SDA Church and we laid out the situation and a plan that would benefit both of us. If they were willing to become partners on the rent at $2000/mo., we were willing to give them more time in the church and more space for their growing congregation. They agreed!

I gave up my office in the church and now work out of my home. That space has become their toddler room. We are relinquishing our administrative space to accommodate their teen ministry and cutting our administration back to a 10’ x 5’ office for our financial computer, our records and essentials for ministry. We also are limited in the number of activities we can offer.

Overall, however, the whole idea is a win/win. On Saturdays, they use the rooms for their church, and we have the use of these rooms when guests come with children.

More than just income from other religious groups, we are learning first-hand about each other, and even though we don’t approach God the same way, the respect, love and cooperation is incredible! We see this as Unity in action, not just in theory.

Terry Dearmore

Rev Terry Dearmore was ordained in 1996. He is in his seventh year of service to Unity Church of Chantilly in northern Virginia.

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