Creative Leadership

From a Building Perspective, Empty Car Dealerships Might Benefit Local Churches

With the vast number of Chrysler and GM car dealerships closing, going out of business, or selling, this could be a great opportunity for local churches who are looking for a new building or expansion of existing facilities.  While every case is different from a design point of view, in many cases, car dealerships have made excellent church buildings, and during this financial crisis, the prices might never be better.  Here’s some things to consider before you investigate a local dealership.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on the issue:

Car dealerships are usually in high visibility locations with easy access.
Because off their car repair equipment, they have solid electrical power for your A/V, lighting, audio, and video equipment.
They have large areas to convert to a sanctuary – like the car showroom or the mechanical bays.  Both have high ceilings.
They’re often modern, contemporary designs.
Because of the car display lot, parking is good.
There are usually staff offices already in place.
Most have large signs already in place that can be easily converted.

If it’s an old dealership, there may be environmental concerns from years of bad fluid disposal.  Be sure and do an EPA evaluation.
Also, if it’s old, it may not look very attractive or have other shortcomings.
Depending on the architectural design, it may not work as a functioning church building.
There might be a need for classroom space.


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  1. I remember hearing how many Chrysler dealerships are closing here in the DFW area and was shocked.

    I think it’s a great idea; I’ve been around a few churches that have moved into a facility like a dealership and you’re spot on with all the pros.

  2. Don’t know that it will help the misconception of preacher’s sometimes being seen as used car salesmen but there are some synergistic opportunities that could make it attractive. For example we could now legitimately advertise ‘trade in your old life for a new one’ etc etc.


    I also think draining the used baptism water into the bad fluid storage could turn that pro into a con  : )

  3. Some good points. But for those who follow Workplace Ministry, less businesses means less profit, which can result in less financial support for the local church. You can add that to your "negatives" list. The "pro" being they should now be a lot cheaper to rent.

  4. The church I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma did this 25 years ago. We converted an empty car dealership into a church building. The service bays worked out great for a sanctuary and other large meeting rooms. It took a lot of work and yes, we had to deal with the oil situation, but it all worked out great and served the church well for several years before moving on to larger facilities.

  5. Architecturally – Favorite aspect of the typical dealership design is the amount of glass, window, open air designs – inviting and encouraging people to come and see what’s inside. I pass a small “storefront church” several evenings during the week. Always enjoy being able to drive by and see the people in Bible Study or worship and praise. The open space is great for larger gatherings and yet flexible enough for small groups, breakout discussions, and easy equipment movement. Most include numerous offices for either staff or small classrooms. Parking would never be a problem. And remember the key words of “location, location, location” – usually along familiar main thoroughfares. The other most positive reason – it DOESN’T look like your typical church, and the stereotypes that go along with that perception.

  6. Of course when we get the Government involved, and force businesses to close because of their political donations or the Governments idea of who should be open and who shold not…we are making these decisions in a biased political way. Taking away the rights of these families who have built their family businesses for years and years. Then we also get into the legal end of undermining contract law which is unconstitutional. Property rights issues crop up and we began to butcher the Constitution. Jim C

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