Curt Battles,, discusses Fish Church in Connecticut. Today, many Congregations, Synagogues and Mosques are seeing a decline in their membership and active participation. This is mainly due to changing demographics where the core membership is aging and attendance is down. A challenge for any denomination is determining how to attract younger members from Gen X and Gen Y to reinvigorate their community. Often these institutions suffer financially as well, as it’s sometimes difficult for people to tithe or make consistent donations due to economic circumstances.

Thus, a fresh perspective is needed on how to balance the mission with practical operating costs of often large and outdated facilities. A current project I’m involved in is with the First Presbyterian Church in Stamford. This congregation is known as the ‘Fish Church’ because of the building’s unique architecture.

Fish Church, along with other mainstream congregations, is facing a unique crossroads. Regardless of the reasons, a three-fold problem exists. How can struggling organizations:

  • Continue to pursue their mission?
  • Find the resources to stay in operation?
  • Ensure long term facility maintenance?

What innovative solution can be applied that will solve this unique challenge?  

This particular church sits on a beautiful 10-acre campus, including an underutilized three-acre piece of land that is primarily used as a parking lot on Sunday mornings. Employing my knowledge of the local real estate market, I saw an opportunity to repurpose that land.

Recent trends reveal that the younger generations tend to be ‘renters’ instead of ‘owners,’ partially due to the high-entry cost of a home purchase. I began working with Fish Church’s Land Use committee to assess options available to solve their identified issues.

Furthermore, Stamford is continuing to evolve as a diverse community, with citizens from many different countries choosing to move here. The Fish Church has a legacy as a beacon of multiculturalism and inclusion.  Thus, the existing congregants  is hopeful the rental complex will become a source of new members and activity to help ensure its long term viability.

Ultimately, the congregation voted to sell this parcel of land to a developer that plans to build a 175-unit rental complex. Since then, the main part of construction has been approved by the zoning board and will break ground in late winter/early spring of 2015. A portion of the profits from the land sale will go into supporting the church’s mission to spread the gospel, with the rest being allocated to church renovations and an endowment fund to help pay for future church maintenance.

As a team of advisors, we can help your non-profit or church design new ways to more efficiently use assets that you currently have. Please feel free to contact the New Canaan Advisors team today to arrange a free one-hour consultation to discuss your circumstances and how we may be able to assist.

Curtis C. Battles