Research on Indianapolis Congregations' Facilities

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Thu, 02/01/1996
End Date: 
Tue, 09/30/1997

Since its inception in 1989, Partners for Sacred Places has pressed to expand public awareness of the irreplaceable role that churches play within their communities by making available the general use of their facilities. However, the congregations that Partners focuses on occupy buildings constructed before 1940, and their maintenance costs are often prohibitive. If these churches were forced to disband because they could no longer sustain their properties, the greater public would lose an essential resource for the operation of civic services. Therefore, Partners advocates the creation of public policy to help sustain and protect the properties and, hence, the congregations whose commitment to ministry provides the means to keep these services operating within their walls. <p>Partners began research among ninety congregations in five United States localities: Mobile, AL; New York, NY; Chicago, IL; Philadelphia, PA; and the Bay Area (San Francisco and Oakland) of Northern California. The Lilly grant allowed Diane Cohen and Robert Jaeger, co-directors of Partners, to expand their research base with an additional fifteen churches in Indianapolis, IN. Dr. Ram Cnaan and Ms. Gaynor Yancey (University of Pennsylvania) and their assistants evaluated these additional churches to determine the extent to which the churches used their facilities for civic purposes and factors that contributed to such use (or non-use). In addition, Mr. Ken Jacobs, a Philadelphia-based architect, designed and implemented a survey to measure the cost of building upkeep. <p>The research culminated in the release of the public policy report Sacred Places at Risk (later published by Partners) at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., October 30, 1997. The report revealed that, of the more than 110 congregations, ninety percent housed in their facilities an average of four different community and social services. The expected cost for the upkeep of each congregation’s properties was $200,000, while the economic value of goods and services each church already provided in the form of staff and volunteer time, operating costs, donations, etc. averaged $140,000 per congregation.