Have you ever heard this or maybe even thought it? Especially if you are a business owner and you learn that a church is moving into that empty “Big Box” space in the shopping center just down from you. I have firsthand experience of landlords, real estate brokers, property managers…and particularly tenants, who have had moments of panic and dismay at the prospects of a church becoming their immediate neighbor.
“ The Shopping Center must be in financial trouble if they would allow a church to move in”
“ Those contemporary churches play such loud music…they will be a real distraction and disruption”
“Traffic and parking is an issue already…this is just going to make it worse”
“ We can see it now…all those holy rollers will be putting flyers and approaching all of clients, and we will loose their business”
“ This is not fair…they are going to use an unfair share of the CAM (common area maintenance)”
“They obvious are not a ‘real’ church if they don’t have their own building”
I have heard all of the above…and yet I wonder if the above are the rule or the exception? Are these unfounded fears and myths? How do we know?
Well, earlier this year Josh Blackson (Operations Pastor at Elevation Church) came to me with the idea of conducting a “blind survey” of local business that are in immediate or close proximity to the 2 Elevation Church campuses. He wanted to see how the occupancy of Elevation Church, in their 2-predominately business oriented locations (one a shopping center and one in an office development) impacted the local merchants. We structured and sent the surveys from our company and not under the opuses of the church so as to not influence the responses. The survey cards were returned to my attention and then we disseminated the data. No spin or filtering.
What we found was very encouraging. In fact, we believe that this data may help other churches in their quest to secure a lease or purchase of commercial properties. The survey showed that the impact was positive and did not have an adverse affect on the businesses…actually quite the opposite.
Here is what we learned from these businesses since Elevation Church opened in their community:
1. Approximately 70% of all issued surveys were competed and returned
2. Of the respondents, 81% were restaurants or some type of food service
3. 87% indicated that they had experienced an increase in customer traffic
4. Almost 90% reported an increase in sales.
5. Over 85% told us that they had seen an increase in repeat customers
6. 100% of all of the restaurants responded with an affirmative answer to the questions in #3-5 above.
7. 0%…that is zero…nada…zilch reported any adverse impact on their business since the church moved in.
Obviously, every community, section of town, business types, business mix, church, local government, etc. can impact these types of results, but the above would indicate that the locating of a church in an otherwise business setting can be an asset to the church (by being in the center of culture and the community…as well as occupying empty retail space) but also the community and its businesses.