Churches and synagogues often serve as incubators for soup kitchens, food pantries, nursery schools, retirement homes, arts programs, and other worthy ventures. Once those ventures are established, how much control should a congregation have over them?
As a strategic planner, I encourage congregations to look for places where their gifts and skills can meet the particular needs of their neighbors. As a human service provider, I watch my clients trudge all over town, piecing together services they need. I worry that despite our good intentions, sometimes congregations make life harder for our neighbors than we should.
Congregations that started a “new community outreach” in the previous five years were much less likely to report a significant conflict than similar congregations that did not.
Congregations start nonprofit organizations for many worthwhile purposes: to feed the hungry, care for victims of domestic violence, care for and educate children, build health care facilities in distant corners of the world, and so much more. Starting a nonprofit often is the most effective way to carry out parts of the congregation’s mission. However, the relationship between a congregation and the nonprofit it creates can become a tangled mess quite quickly if they lack a clear contractual agreement.