Owning or Renting: 5 Differences Between the Two

Owning or Renting: 5 Differences Between the Two

When my wife and I were first married, we lived in several different apartments before purchasing our first house. With all the excitement of that first house also came the responsibility of home ownership. We discovered in our first house that there is a big difference between renting and owning. One of the biggest differences that we discovered early on was who was responsible when things are not working like they should.

As a renter, when something is broken, you are “hands off” because there is a landlord who is ultimately responsible for fixing problems as they arise. However, as an owner, when something is broken you are “hands on” because you are ultimately responsible for fixing problems as they arise. Another difference is that renters don’t develop the property; they just live there. Renters have very little vested in the property because they are just living there temporarily, but owners have a long-term view and invest in the property because they want to build equity by making the home better for themselves and everyone who would come after them. These fundamental differences between renting and owning exist not only in homes but also in churches. In fact, one thing we talk about in our Covenant Members Class here at Redeemer is that as a church, we need more owners and fewer renters.

What does it look like to take ownership? Let me give you a few answers.

  1. Move from “I” to “others”

One characteristic of a church renter is that they focus exclusively on their own experience in the church and how personally fulfilling it is for them. On the other hand, owners focus on the experience others have as a first-time guest or as a longtime member. When you buy a ticket to a sporting event you are “renting” a seat in a given venue for a particular game, match or contest. As a “renter,” you are first and foremost concerned about your experience, however, as the owner of the franchise, you are concerned primarily about other people’s experience. What has been lost in many churches as a result of consumer-oriented approaches to church life is a willingness to love and serve others—even those who aren’t like us and even at a cost to myself—because what comes first in a rental culture is “I” not “others.”

  1. Shift from taking to giving

A second characteristic of church renters is that they tend to be takers, not givers. Renters are always looking for the greatest benefit with the least amount of investment. In the housing sector, that is always a wise approach. But in church life, it creates a culture where people expect to get more out of a church body than they are willing to put into a church body. What church renters have yet to understand is that they will only experience in a given church what they are willing to invest in a given church. On the other hand, owners are givers. Owners invest in people, programs and places, and by God’s grace see renewal come to and through both themselves and others. Owners invest their time in others as they care for, serve and disciple them. Owners invest their talents into developing helpful processes or programs to fill in the gaps that they see so that things work better. Owners invest their treasure in places where they want to see renewal. As a result, owners have a front-row seat to watch God work firsthand, and they experience a return on their investment in terms of spiritual and relational equity. Renters know nothing of spiritual and relational equity.

  1. Bring problems and plans to the table

Another characteristics of a church renter is that they have many critiques or concerns but have not invested enough time or care in the people or situation of the church to bring with them a solution. Other renters may have an idea about a solution to the problem, but they are not willing to participate in implementing a plan to address the problem. On the other hand, owners see the problems and have enough time and care invested in the situation of the church to participate in constructing and implementing a plan. As our young church grows, we need people to move from renting to owning by bringing problems and plans to the table along with a willingness to be a part of implementing those plans.

  1. Move from volunteering to leading

While every church, including Redeemer, will always have a need for people who are willing to serve on a team—there is also a great need in our church for people who are willing to move toward leading a team. Moving from serving on a team to leading a team is something renters will not do because with leading comes responsibility…the one thing renters don’t want. On the other hand owners, albeit sometimes hesitantly, are willing to lead because they are willing to accept responsibility for places and people. While there will always be a need for people to participate in outreach ministries in our community, we need people willing to own those opportunities, actively seek them out and coordinate the logistics for them. While we all need to invite people into our Life Groups and open our lives to new folks who are our guests at Redeemer, we also need people who are willing, when necessary, to own new groups and help create space for new people to connect. While we will always need people to serve as a greeter or work the info desk, we also need people willing to be responsible for the hospitality process from start to finish and the people who are serving on that team.

  1. Think long-term

Renters tend to operate with a short-term approach, while owners have a long-term approach. Church renters consistently approach where they will reside spiritually by looking at what is there now rather than what could be there in 5 years. Renters evaluate a church only on the basis of whether or not it fits them and their family in a given season of life. However, owners think long-term and live by this principle: let us not overestimate what we can accomplish in a year or underestimate what we can accomplish in five years. Most middle class Americans, at least those who try to live on a budget, cannot do everything to their homes they want to do right away. It might take them 5 to 15 years of investment to move from what they bought to what they want. The same is true in churches. Renters evaluate churches on the basis of what is there now and forget that it took time, sacrifice and labor to build it from what it was in those early years to what it is when they see it 10 to 30 years into the process. Owners know this and invest for the long-term, precisely because they are not only concerned primarily about “I” but primarily about “others”.

Let me leave you with these 6 questions.

  1. Are you temporarily renting space at Redeemer on Sunday mornings or are you taking ownership in this local church?
  2. What would change in your life this week if you began to look through wide-angle lenses of “others” rather than the narrow lens of “I”?
  3. How can you bloom where God has planted you this week by investing your time, talents and treasure to build equity rather than just shopping for the best deal?
  4. What do you see that needs to be fixed, and are you willing to creatively think and faithfully work towards a solution?
  5. Where do your gifts and passions align, and might that be a place where God is calling you to lead rather than volunteer?
  6. Do we want Redeemer to be here in 10 years, what do we want her to look like and how can we begin working today to take small steps in that direction?
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