Poll: Church Use

Do you ever wonder if some of the occasions that church buildings are used for are really appropriate? Have you ever been aware of something that was downright improper? Some members consider LDS meetinghouses to be open for their personal indiscriminate use because they pay tithing. Do you think this is how it should be? Where do you draw the line? Should our buildings be more available to the public? Should we be more restrictive on what they are used for, or more flexible?

Vote this week on the types of use you consider to be in line with church values and goals, or just what you think is appropriate. And remember that you can choose more than one answer if you do it before submitting.

Corktree

Corktree is exploring life and spirituality in new ways and new environments while studying midwifery, reiki, yoga, homeopathy, herbology and evolutionary nutrition. She has 3 daughters and one son, which add up to what now feels like an enormous family of 6.

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24 Responses

  1. spunky says:

    This is a tough one, and I voted more wiht my head than my heart. It is my understanding that church buildings have minimal insurance, so if someone is hurt at a class, private function, etc. there is no insurance to cover the injury, and it opens the church to lawsuits. I am not opposed to filing a lawsuit when necessary, but in today’s culture, I do think this opens the church and church members to excess liability (i.e. let’s sue the indvidiual church member who opened the building). If insurance policy changed in the church, or there was resident clergy, I would be more comfortable with opening the building up for wider uses.

  2. Sanford says:

    I’m newly released from a two year stint as a stake center scheduling coordinator. I was essentially the gate keeper for the building. The only acitivities of the poll I allowed generally were funerals and weddings. Of course, I was implementing the policies of the Stake President and my Bishop but I did at times use my discretion. When a stake member requested the facility for a Junior Jazz practice due to a scheduling problem elsewhere, I said no because I believed the Junior Jazz charged participants a fee. When a stake member needed a large venue to practice for a dance concert for a local studio I likewise said no. When such requests came in I looked closely at whether the entity was a commercial or non-profit venture. The liability issue was also loomed large. Private parties had to sign liability waivers although I question their enforceability so I always carefully considered possible injury. I suppose if there was a hierarchy of use, it was 1) official church uses (meetings, choir, stake and ward sports, mutual, scouting, baptisms, etc.) 2) uses by stake members (weddings, family parties) 3) uses by members outside the stake (basketball, scouting, weddings, parties) and 4) others uses. I get the sense that each stake and ward house follows general rules but implements specific ones based on the views of the Stake President or Bishop. I also think its possible that a ward house is a looser on approved uses due to the volume of events.

  3. aerin says:

    I have a different perspective. My children attended pre-school at a Methodist church for three years. They had a great time. It was an amazing service for families and young kids (like a mother’s day out type of program).

    In our area, the local Catholic church had a carnival that we attended. There were bounce houses, food stands, games for prizes. It was awesome!

    Finally, many churches in our area serve meals or allow homeless people to spend one night (per week or month) in their building.

    The safety of children and members is important. But I also think that churches that allow themselves to be community centers are doing a great service. From my understanding, each church votes or decides on which events they will support (financially or with their time). And it’s possible that over 30/40 years ago, some LDS churches also allowed for many of these activities as a local decision. I’m not sure exactly why that changed, but I would like to see it changed back (to more localized control/decision making).

    • Ziff says:

      From my understanding, each church votes or decides on which events they will support (financially or with their time). And it’s possible that over 30/40 years ago, some LDS churches also allowed for many of these activities as a local decision. I’m not sure exactly why that changed, but I would like to see it changed back (to more localized control/decision making).

      I assume the change was part of Correlation. It’s kind of startling to look back sometimes and realize how much changed. We really were leaning more toward a Protestant bottom-up model before Correlation, at least in some ways.

  4. chanson says:

    One time when my extended family was visiting, we used the local LDS church building for some reunion activities. It was the only building we had access to that was big enough for all of the uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. We filmed a family Star Trek episode there. That was cool. I’m not sure who was in charge of getting permission to use the building or whether they had any difficulty getting said permission.

  5. Caroline says:

    Personally, I think it would be a great service to the community and the members to allow people to run preschools in the churches. Think of it — moms in the ward that want to be stay at home moms but need some money could be the preschool workers, and moms that need some high quality child care could feel good leaving their kids with their friends in an environment that’s way more suitable for a preschool than someone’s home.

    People always bring up the liability issue, but other churches seem to work around the problem…

  6. EM says:

    I’ve seen the mess and destruction LDS people make when they use it for weddings. They think just because it’s “their” building they can do whatever they like. And they think that it’s the responsibility of the “janitor” to clean up after them. As for community use, not sure that’s a good idea. A bishop suggested that the building be opened up to the youth of the community and mix with the ward’s youth. LDS youth and the community youth have very different values. So in practice it’s a nice idea but in theory – a disaster. Graffiti and blocked toilets are the least of the problems, to say nothing about moral issues with the youth. For pre-school purposes it would be okay, but I think there would be issues if money was involved as far as the church’s tax exemption would be concerned. And you would have to have some one who is diligent about keeping the building clean and in order – removing all the “school type stuff on walls” is a must prior to Sunday services.
    It’s the Lord’s house and therefore should be treated as such. As an LDS community I’d like to think we have a higher standard. I’ve been in a few of the community churches and I have to say there is no feeling of reverence in and for the building, it’s just another building housing people and their activities. I like order and neatness so I really appreciate it when I can find it there also – and do my part to keep it that way by sharing in the cleaning.

  7. ssj says:

    Every year my stake center is opened up for a local jazz festival and allows performances there. It is in conjunction with a local university. I’m guess the stake presidency thinks its a good idea to just get people through the doors. I think I agree with them. The only issue I would have is holding functions that would charge people a fee for entrance.

  8. Sanford says:

    Given that my wife and I work full time, daycare or preschool at the church would be great. Although it would cause me pause if it was just an extension of junior Sunday School. I always appreciated the daycare at the local Presbyterian church my oldest daughter attended and found it a welcome program for neighborhood parents. I think Mormon churches could run a daycare without too many scheduling problems. Church buildings are rarely used on weekdays and a day care could operate while accommodating the odd other use. I do think that there are legitimate liability concerns that the Church would just as soon avoid (former lawyer in me coming out). Because I now work for a non-profit that provides daycare as part of its operations, I don’t think a daycare would create issues with the Church’s tax exempt status if it were set up properly. I think the Church just doesn’t see the benefit as being worth the trouble. In fact, my get feeling is that the church institution doesn’t want to make it easy for women to work outside the home by facilitating daycare for their children. And if that’s the case, I see it as an unfortunate failure to recognize and meet the needs of many members.

  9. Starfoxy says:

    As much as I would love for local church buildings to be local centers for community building and public goodwill- I am keenly aware of how much maintenance and work goes into that. Janitors, scheduling, staffing, insurance, and general wear and tear on the building itself. As long as we’re committed to being a lay church on a local level then that vision is just unrealistic. We have a hard enough time getting people to clean building once a week after moderate use.
    I am also very uncomfortable with people who use the church building (free of charge) for for-profit uses. But I wonder how that is qualitatively different than using the building for wedding receptions and the like. Why is using the church building to save money on family functions really different than using the building to save money on, for example, a family business?

    • Amy says:

      It is different, because a person is not making money by having a wedding, and it is hopefully a one time event for those people. And the church is definitely held back from many things because of liability reasons. We, as a society, have oversued so many times that we are now overregulated. And there is the non-profit status of the church. And there is also the separation of church and state….I don’t know exactly how other churches work things so that they don’t have these same issues, but we are a lay church and at our church, the members have to do the majority of the cleaning.

  10. val says:

    I really like going into community and churches that open their doors for neighborhood activities. I wish our church could be more community involved. I feel that we talk a lot about “member- missionary” work, but little to no effort is made to represent the church leadership well in public. I guess the whole lay clergy thing has a lot to do with that.
    I have no official authority to represent my church at a prayer breakfast or graduation ceremony, The actual leaders are busy with their lives, and so there is no participation.
    Perhaps this part of why the whole gay rights thing was such a fiasco- The church doesn’t make political or community associations that are positive, then something terrible comes along and it is all that we are known for.

    I think that community involvement is great, but it sometimes it seems like even associating with people who believe differently is frowned upon.

    I am a little bitter right now- I have been protesting the budget bill here in Madison,WI, and several members of my ward are staunch vocal supporters of the opposing side.

    • Amy says:

      I’m sorry that is the case in your community. The LDS church in our community is very involved here. We have an inter-faith breakfast that our stake president and other members and leaders attend, as a church we work with charities, we do Mormon-helping hands at least once a year.
      As for the budget bill, I don’t think there is a perfect answer. However, I don’t know where all the money is going to come from to support all these union programs. When these baby boomers retire, who is supposed to support all of them when the population making money is smaller than the reitred people who are now living to older ages? It is a thought worth taking into consideration. I am very scared of the debt we are heaping upon our children because of the “now” mentality of our society. Unions have definitely served a purpose in the past, but I think they have become too powerful and are definitely a thorn in the side of democracy and free enterprise. But, at the same time, my heart goes out to people who have been taught to rely on the services that the unions provide and don’t know how to find work or services otherwise. But, at what point can we decide to wean our population from this?

      • Amy says:

        But, I am sad that it feels like we can’t associate with people who think differently than us. The church defnitely doesn’t espouse a political party. There are a few moral issues the church takes a position on, but other than that, I think we are able to agree to disagree on many things.

    • sar says:

      val – I’m also in Madison and I’ve also been up at the capitol all week. I don’t know if you’re in my ward or not, but I feel like most members of my ward live in hopes of leaving sooner rather than later, and so make little attempt to reach out to the greater community. Some of this comes from the large number of “transient” graduate students but some of it is also from the members with “real” jobs who pine for the intermountain west.

      Our ward building also houses the local family history center, which is open three days a week. I volunteer there once a month and in my experience the majority of the patrons are not members. The building is also used by a local genealogical society for a monthly meeting.

  11. Anita says:

    our stake in Virginia put on stake plays and charged for admission tickets (in the church building). don’t know if they still do that.
    it bugs me how the Scouts can light candles in the church (every month as someone advances and they have their little ceremony!), but we can’t do that for RS or weddings–why should a bunch of rambunctious kids be a safer forum for flames or why should Scouts be allowed to flout the building rules?

  12. IdahoG-ma says:

    Good luck, Val. I don’t want to add to any political argument, but feel it is important to tell you that many of us are impressed with those of you standing up for your rights. Hang in there, and good luck.

  13. Ziff says:

    My ward works with some other nearby churches to care for people who are temporarily homeless. The people are moved from church to church every week. The program only happened because of the initiative of my bishop. He’s said that the stake presidency approved us doing it, but they (or someone higher up) said we could only assist, we couldn’t actually house the people in our church.

    Just more anecdata…

  14. EmilyCC says:

    I teach piano lessons and often do recitals in our ward building. It probably helps that I teach the bishop’s kids. I know other piano teachers who aren’t so lucky and have to pay for a space.

    As long as people clean up after themselves, I don’t have a problem with people using a building for free non-political community events. But, I’m one of those people who uses it for just that reason, so I’m biased.

  15. jks says:

    I am the ward music director and the official position of the church is that it is ok to use the building for musical recitals even if the teacher teaches for pay (of course final decision by local leaders). It is important to the church that members are learning music for the next generation!
    If someone wants to use the building for something and the building is free and they clean up after themselves great! Using it to run a business (unless it is piano or organ lessons) is inappropriate.
    There are many daycares and preschools. The church doesn’t need to get into that business.

  16. Laura says:

    I wish our churches would be used as polling stations more often than they are. I’ve voted in a number of different churches, and I’m grateful for the service they provide to the community. I think it would be great to also get involved in this type of service–especially since it imposes low costs in terms of clean-up/liability/etc.

    I’m with starfoxy on the cleaning/maintenance issues. I really, really don’t like building cleaning. But my ward schedules cleanings by auxiliary, and with only 10-12 adults in primary (we have a small number of kids–and some staffing issues), I would feel guilty about leaving the work on the others if I said no.

  17. Matt says:

    Ahh, remember the good ol’ days when LDS chapels were used as polling places. Would seem so out of place these days, though, as others have mentioned, I’ve voted inside a non-LDS building as recently as 2003.

    What changed?

    • Laura says:

      My current polling place is the 7th Day Adventist Church next door to my apartment building. Convenient! And interesting to see what their building looks like on the inside.

  18. TopHat says:

    Our building is a huge multi-stake center on temple grounds, so it’s used for lots of things (http://www.templehillevents.com/). In addition to performances Last weekend there was a United States Open Music Competition (http://www.usomc.org/) there. In a couple of weeks, the BYU Folk Dancers will be performing in the auditorium- and while many of the events are free, that one isn’t. I was just looking it up yesterday and prices for seats to that range from $12-$24.

    So we don’t have a normal building, so it’s not really the same as a simple chapel, but we do have lots of public events.

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