Building Use Conference

Building Use Conference

by Bobbi Yeo, Canon for Administration and Finance

Is your congregation smaller than it was 10 years ago, but your buildings are not? This problem is being faced by many churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California, as well as all across the country. Smaller congregations are hard pressed to support buildings that are no longer fully utilized. Congregations are faced with reducing hours or even eliminating their priest in favor of supporting the buildings.

First, I want to tell you about the third annual Buildings for a New Tomorrow Conference, which will be held April 16 – 17, 2012 in Baltimore, MD. Several members of our diocese attended in 2011 and came back energized and with a new network of contacts in other churches and diocese who are trying to address the same issues. We are not alone!

The conference is presented by the Episcopal Church Building Fund (ECBF). If you think you may be interested in attending this conference, please go to the ECBF website at If you would like to talk to me or one of the other attendees about our takeaways from this conference, please feel free to give me a call (916-442-6918 ext. 211).

If you would like to join a local discussion about this issue, we are holding a meeting at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Marysville on Friday, January 20, 2012 from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. Lunch will be provided but you must RSVP by sending me an email to

The Rev. Bill Geisler, CPA, will be the main presenter at this meeting. Fr. Geisler retired from the Diocese of California as the CFO. Today he is a consultant for Church Pension Group and presents workshops all over the country on topics related to clergy and church tax issues.

Fr. Geisler is an advocate of employing our church buildings in their best and highest use, consistent with the mission of the Church, as a path to sustainability. He will discuss the experience of his congregation which uses their buildings to provide a retreat center. This congregation, receives net income (after operating costs) of $100,000 a year from this activity. He will discuss the mechanics of writing a business plan and how to avoid, or cope with the tax implications of revenue generation.

In addition, Tony Burnett, an Associate of the real estate company CBRE, will be available to answer your real estate questions. CBRE provides leasing and property management services to their clients,  and have a whole department dedicated to religious institutions. Tony has helped churches find tenants such as charter schools, other churches, and private nonprofit organizations.

Tony will be working with Church Support Team members to consult with individual congregations who would like to explore their options related to their buildings. I believe the possibilities are endless and I personally find this to be an exciting time for those of us with a passion for their mission and an entrepreneurial spirit.

All are welcome to this meeting. If your congregation has experienced success in utilizing your buildings, we would love to hear how you did it. If you want an open forum to explore ideas, we want your input. If you can’t make it this time but want to see more of this, please let me know.

Many of our buildings are both historic and beautiful. They have provided worship space, social space, and classrooms for many years. It is my hope that we can find ways for these buildings to continue to support the spirit and the mission of our Church in our communities for many years to come.

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