Turning Obstacles into Opportunities: Church Real Estate Lessons with Andy Wood

Thanks for joining us for this week’s unSeminary podcast. Today we’re talking with Andy Wood, founding and lead pastor of Echo Church in California.

Many times in ministry, the thing that should be an obstacle actually can become an opportunity if we think about it differently. Echo Church held strongly to this idea when it came to finding a building in the pricey San Francisco Bay area. Listen in as Andy shares how the spiritual and the strategic can work together to uncover God-sized opportunities.

  • Look for opportunities. // When it came to finding a location that the church could afford, Andy first turned to God in prayer. Echo Church held the mindset that if Facebook and Google could get into a building, they should be able to as well. As he sought God, the Lord began to speak to Andy’s heart to be like a Joshua or a Caleb in the Bay Area. This idea meant instead of seeing only the obstacles in the real estate market, they had to look for opportunities.
  • Spiritual and strategic. // Meanwhile on the strategic side, Echo Church looked at what kind of facility they would be able to afford so they could pack it out with services. The spiritual and the strategic need to work together in these situations. Use eyes of faith to see possibilities, and then on the strategic side look at your trajectory of growth and what you could raise in your budget.
  • Invest for the future. // Echo Church ended up moving into a 54,000 square foot building, though they could only afford to use 22,000 square feet initially. Yet they saw an opportunity there. They established a relationship with the owner of the building and asked if they could be the master tenant and pay the landlord what he was making to rent out the whole building, some of which was empty. Echo Church did a giving initiative, signed a 35 year master lease, raised the value of the property through improvements, and found companies in the area to fill the open 20% of the building. As the church grew it eventually brought the cost down so it could begin to invest in other properties.
  • Generosity begins with the leader. // It’s easy for leaders to lean too far toward the strategic and forget about the spiritual aspect of these opportunities and giving initiatives. The bottom line is generosity has to begin with the leaders. Andy has found that as he works on his own personal generosity, God moves to stir generosity up in the church too. Remember that your health as a leader influences everything you touch and everything you lead.
  • Fundraising. // The spiritual and the strategic partner in capital campaigns as much as in any other area. Raising funds needs to begin with prayer and working on your personal generosity. From a strategic standpoint, seek training on fundraising. Every time you’re raising resources or casting vision, however, it has to be deep in your heart and not simply strategic.
  • Be aware of the trade-offs. // The more aware you are of the different trade-offs in going into debt, the better decisions you can make. In some contexts it might be wisest to pay off all your debt, and in other situations it’s wisest to absorb debt. Extremes on both sides (having debt or not having debt) can become an idol. At the same time you don’t want so much debt that it cripples other areas of your ministry. Whatever your unique situation, recognize that there are trade-offs for every financial decision you make.

You can learn more about Andy, Echo Church, and leadership at

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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: Carey Nieuwhof

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.