A Conundrum Involving a Church Nursery

Let’s set the stage.

There is a church congregation of about 400 people.  There are about 200 adults, and about 200 children ranging in age from newborn to late teens. This congregation has been blessed with a decent sized piece of property that is fully paid off.

On the property is a church building where the congregation of 400 worships.  If there is a baptism or other special occasion the building can hold about 450-500 if they really squeeze in. There is also a house on the property for a pastor or caretaker to live in, and an outbuilding that is used as a nursery on Sundays and for some special events throughout the year. The value of the land and the 3 structures is assessed at around $800,000 dollars.  But the outbuilding is in disrepair, there are concerns of rodents in the walls, and the parents of the young ones are rightly concerned – this is the building the church nursery is in!  I certainly would not like my child sleeping in there.

The conundrum:

So, this church council began prayerfully looking into options. Seeking to both glorify God and do the best for the congregation they looked into the cost of fixing the existing structure or building a new one. But they hit a snag and the city would not grant the permits to build a new structure.

So renovation it is.

That should be cheaper right?


The city will grant a permit for renovating the existing structure and adding a meeting room. However there is a catch.  The catch is that the renovations will have to bring the building up to current code. In order to renovate and bring the building up to code, the church council has proposed spending just over $400,000 to renovate the outbuilding. Ouch…can anyone say “#firstworldproblems?”

This congregation has a tough decision to make. Is it wise to renovate a single building on the property for just about half the assessed value of the property? Is it wise to continue to use the old building with it’s health and safety concerns? There are about 100 families in this congregation. The cost works out to about $4000 per family. That is if no one leaves and no one joins. But can a price be put on health and safety?

The building is old and needs to be renovated, or another option for the nursery needs to be figured out… that much is clear.   However with the immense estimated cost of the renovation, this congregation must make very certain this is the correct course of action.

Some questions beg asking.

  • How often is the building used? The outbuilding is used only 4 hours on Sundays for nursery and another 2 hours or so during the week for meetings.  One can assume that there will be more meetings held in the new meeting room so they could up that number to maybe 12-20 hours per week.
  • How unsafe is the current building? Let’s just say it’s no good. There are rodent concerns, there is probably dry rot in some places. It is not ideal for a nursery.
  • Will the cost be reflected in a substantial increase in the value of the property? Not likely. If this congregation makes the decision to renovate, that is essentially a decision that they are probably never leaving that property – because that money will never be recouped  in selling the property.

2 hypothetical questions:

  • What if the congregation outgrows the current church building? Will that building then need to be renovated to seat more worshipers?  What is the cost of that?
  • What if the congregation grows to a point and then splits to form two congregations?  Will both congregations continue to pay for the renovation? Or will increased burden be placed on fewer people who stay?

This focus is mostly on dollars and cents, but what of the health of the babies?  Do they stay home with mom while she watches the worship service via live feed? Or do they go to the old nursery for an hour or two?  Does the congregation spend the money on the renovation? The health of children is paramount, but are there no other options available to this congregation?  Would selling the existing property, and using the profit from the sale combined with the proposed $400,000, and buying a new property for $1,000,000 or so be a better solution?  

Ultimately we need to seek to glorify God with our finances, both personally and corporately as a church.  I cannot help but think of the parable of the talents.

What would you say if this was your congregation?

I welcome your thoughts.


 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.  To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag,each according to his ability.Then he went on his journey.  The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more.  So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more.  But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.  The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.  For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.  And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

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  1. Have you considered just adding a room or two to the main church building? The cost does seem to be more than the use How many times has the church met together to pray for a solution?

  2. Joyce says:

    Can you put an addition on the current church building and upgrade that building instead, doing away with the outbuilding altogether?

  3. Albert Rolleman says:

    sell and buy new property or us portable buildings that can later be sold

  4. Rebecca says:

    Adding an addition to the current building, or converting a meeting room/classroom (or two) into a nursery seems like the obvious answer here to me. But maybe I’m oversimplifying. Our church is about the same size, with a paid off property as well, and we have plenty of extra rooms that could function as a nursery.

    Spending $400,000 on something like is completely obscene in my opinion, and a squandering of God’s gifts. I mean that as politely as possible. 🙂

  5. Anonymous Mother says:

    I agree it makes way more sense to fully utilize the main building rather than spend an obscene amount of money to upgrade an outbuilding. What if the outbuilding was converted to meeting rooms (including consistory meeting room) and library, and the nursery was moved to downstairs of the main building? The existing space of the library and consistory room should be sufficient for the nursery. And to argue that the consistory members would then have to walk across the parking lot twice a Sunday in possible rain/snow conditions is weak, as all the mothers have to do it to drop off/pick up their little ones.

  6. Concerned Parent says:

    Why are the children kept away from the main building? Is there security at this out building? The nursery should be in the main building. Tear the old building down and put up portables if they need offices.

  7. John V says:

    As the women said…that is obscene. I hope this is a fictional church? Buy some portables and send the rest of the money to the CRWRF for the Philippines where the homeless orphan children have to sleep with rats everyday.

  8. From Karen: Sorry, could not figure out how to post on your blog.The need for something to be done is not in question. However, the proposal to get a loan to pay for it is a huge problem! As any other mortgage, the cost can double by the time you pay interest! Would you want to pay $800,000 for the renovation? Not me! I say, get the money first then build. Cash minus tax deductions for donations bring the money-out-of pocket to $257,000. Also, it is much harder to get people to donate to pay off debt than to raise money for a new/exciting project.

  9. Confused Parent says:

    WHy do we have to upgrade to a daycare code? Seriously it is used a few hours a week not like it needs sprinklers and stuff. DO a simple renovation of floors and new doors walls and stuff. Move the kids to the basement of teh main building and move the library and consistry room to the out building or keep it as is. The buidling is not that bad anyway, once it is fixed up a bit it will be fine for the nursery. 400000 doallars is way too much, this is God’s money,

  10. kevin says:

    I’d say it’s time to move, looks like your congregation may need room to expand (or split into two congregations) within ten years. I’d imagine the parking alone will become an issue if there’s steady growth, which means it will be challenging to expand on the existing lot.

  11. teresalynned says:

    I agree it doesn’t make much sense to upgrade to daycare code unless we are planning on opening a daycare or preschool – is this an option? Considering our location, I don’t think so unless we have enough support within the congregation. To upgrade the building to daycare code so we can utilize it for babysitting 2 hours a week is, in my opinion, a waste of money. I like the idea of having the nursery downstairs and moving the library and consistory room across the parking lot, which wouldn’t require a lot of renovations for the existing outbuilding.

  12. CV says:

    How shall we respond to the Lord when we are held in account of how we spent his money? What do you think we will say on that day? Imagine! “Look lord, we know people starved, and our church plantings suffered, our own people struggle to find work, but at least our babies had a nice place to sleep.”

  13. cecile says:

    Just another thought….we live in an era where we are blessed to listen to the service via live feed. Maybe let the babies sleep in their own beds while one parent listens from home?

  14. Bryan Grim says:

    Without knowing what the snag from city hall is, it’s hard to say, but I would fight the permit police first. It might cost some money to get the variance board to meet, but it may save you a lot of problems in the future with the renovation.