“35. Care and Use of Meetinghouses,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020).
“35. Care and Use of Meetinghouses,” General Handbook.
The Church provides meetinghouses so that all who enter can:
Meet together (see 3 Nephi 18:22–23).
Teach and minister to one another (see Moroni 6:4–5).
Participate in other approved uses as described in this chapter.
A meetinghouse can take different forms depending on local circumstances and needs. It could be a Church-constructed or Church-purchased space, a member’s home, a local school or community center, a leased space, or another approved option.
The Meetinghouse Facilities Department at Church headquarters establishes principles and guidelines for providing and maintaining places of worship. This department operates under the direction of the Presiding Bishopric.
Meetinghouse Facilities employees are responsible for providing and maintaining meetinghouses and other Church buildings. This is done under the direction of the Area Presidency and the area director for temporal affairs.
A Church-employed facilities manager helps each stake operate meetinghouses. He or she arranges major repairs, deep cleaning, and routine building maintenance.
As needed, the facilities manager helps instruct stake and ward building representatives on how to clean the building and perform other local tasks. He or she provides instructions, materials, and equipment.
The facilities manager works with the stake building representative to manage these services and the overall care of buildings. He or she may also review building expenses with bishoprics.
The assigned Area Seventy works closely with stake presidents in the master planning process (see 35.3).
The stake presidency guides bishops in the use, care, and security of meetinghouses. They assign a high councilor to be the stake building representative (see 35.2.5). They counsel with him to review related needs and projects.
If members need additional space for worship, the stake presidency provides information to the Area Seventy. This is done through the master planning process (see 35.3).
The stake building representative assists the stake presidency in the use, care, and security of meetinghouses by:
Instructing ward building representatives in their duties (see 35.2.9).
Distributing keys to unit leaders.
Communicating with the Church facilities manager about maintenance and operational needs of the buildings.
Stake and ward technology specialists help set up and maintain technology in buildings. When new equipment needs to be installed, they coordinate with the facilities manager. For more information about these callings, see 33.10 (see also mhtech.ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
The bishopric (or the ward building representative) teaches members how to use, care for, and secure the building. The bishopric also distributes building keys to ward leaders.
They make sure that activities in the building and on the grounds are conducted safely (see 20.7).
They communicate with the Church facilities manager about maintenance and operational needs. They may also review related expenses with the facilities manager.
If more than one ward meets in a building, the stake presidency selects an agent bishop to coordinate assignments with the other bishops. These assignments include scheduling, cleaning, and securing the building. The stake presidency periodically rotates this responsibility among the bishops whose wards meet in the building.
The bishopric determines whether to call a ward building representative. If they decide to extend this calling, the bishopric may call an adult male or female member. If a ward building representative is not called, the bishop may assign this responsibility to one of his counselors, the ward clerk or an assistant ward clerk, or the executive secretary.
The ward building representative organizes members and volunteers to clean and maintain the building. He or she teaches them how to do each task with the available supplies and equipment.
If needed, he or she receives instruction from the stake building representative in operating sound, heating, air conditioning, and other building systems.
Under the direction of the bishop, adult and youth leaders encourage members to help with building care and maintenance. The bishopric and the ward building representative adjust tasks according to the skills and abilities of those doing the work. Regular care by members helps Church resources last as long as possible.
Meetinghouses vary in size and type based on local needs and conditions. A meetinghouse may be a Church-constructed or purchased space, a member’s home, a local school or community center, a leased space, or another approved option.
Area and local leaders strive to fully use existing meetinghouses and be wise in recommending additional space. They follow the “Principles and Guidelines for Providing Meetinghouses” (Meetinghouse Facilities Guide).
Leaders prepare master plans annually using the Meetinghouse Master Planning Guidelines to ensure that meetinghouse space is adequate. Leaders also use the master plans to evaluate future needs for meeting space additions or redeployment, which is selling or allowing other uses for meetinghouses and property.
See “Providing Meetinghouses and Other Places of Worship” (Meetinghouse Facilities Guide) for more information.
Groundbreaking services may be held before construction. Once complete, new buildings and major additions should be dedicated as soon as possible. Leased spaces may also be dedicated.
Local leaders and members, including youth, have a responsibility to help keep each building clean and in good condition. This helps:
Preserve the building’s sacred nature as a place where the Spirit can be present.
Present an image of dignity and respect.
Extend the building’s useful life.
The cleaning schedule should not be a burden on the members. For example, if travel to the building is challenging, members might clean as part of weekly events when they are already at the building.
See “Maintaining Meetinghouses” (Meetinghouse Facilities Guide) for more information.
Members of ward and stake councils can report needs for building repairs. This can be done by using the Facility Issue Reporting (FIR) tool. FIR enables leaders to submit, track the progress of, and give feedback on repairs and other requests. Council members can also contact the facilities manager for assistance.
Every building is inspected annually by a facilities manager. The intent is to identify long-term building needs and repairs. The facilities manager then discusses inspection results and needed actions with the stake building representative or agent bishop.
The Church strives to conserve water, energy, and other resources. Leaders encourage members to conserve energy and water in the building. For example, when members leave a room, they should turn off lights, water faucets, and heating and cooling equipment or settings used during the meeting or activity. Members report to their leaders any conditions contributing to waste.
Members may also support community-sponsored energy and water conservation projects. These efforts can reduce utility costs.
Leaders and members may contact the facilities manager for more information about water and energy use and conservation.
Leaders and members should:
Keep hallways, stairs, exits, and utility rooms clear for safe entry and exit.
Not use or store hazardous or flammable materials in buildings.
Establish and follow building lockup procedures.
Secure Church-owned equipment from theft.
Know how to shut off utilities such as water, electricity, and gas or fuel.
As needed, the facilities manager can provide a map showing fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and locations to shut off utilities. More information about safety is available in “Security and Lockup Procedures” in “Maintaining Meetinghouses” (Meetinghouse Facilities Guide). See also 20.7.
Church meetinghouses are sacred resources that should be used to help God’s children draw closer to Christ. Welcoming people to join us for activities at meetinghouses and using our meetinghouses to bless our communities are ways to “let [our] light so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [our] Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
This section contains general policies for meetinghouse use. These policies also apply to all Church-owned property and facilities surrounding the meetinghouse. More information is available in the sources listed in this section.
Church meetinghouses are private religious property dedicated for worship, gospel learning, fellowship, and appropriate activities that help bring people to Christ. The use of Church meetinghouses is a privilege.
All uses of Church meetinghouses must meet the following basic requirements:
Be consistent with the doctrine, policies, and practices of the Church, including the sacred nature and purposes of Church meetinghouses.
Be within the bounds of the law.
Be consistent with the Church’s tax-exempt status where applicable.
Comply with other conditions and limitations provided by the stake president or bishop.
Church meetings, programs, and activities have priority over other meetinghouse uses if there is a conflict. Church uses include:
Worship services and other Sabbath meetings.
Relief Society meetings and activities.
Priesthood meetings and activities.
Primary, Aaronic Priesthood, and Young Women meetings and activities.
Seminary, institute, young single adult, and single adult meetings and activities.
Family history work.
Missionary meetings and events.
Emergency preparedness activities.
Wards and stakes may also offer other Church programs that benefit members and the community. These include:
The stake president seeks guidance from the area office to ensure compliance with local law.
For more information, see A Leader’s Guide to Sharing Church Resources.
In some locations with a high concentration of Church members, a meetinghouse may be used by more than one stake. In such cases, the stake presidents counsel together about the use and scheduling of the building. They may contact the Area Seventy for direction as needed.
Approval from the director for temporal affairs and the Area Presidency is required before using a meetinghouse to establish a gathering place for young single adults where additional nonstandard equipment or resources are being requested. To seek approval, the stake president contacts the facilities manager.
All who use the meetinghouse should show consideration for others. Every effort should be made to accommodate others’ needs. Such efforts include scheduling the use of spaces, controlling noise, and keeping use within the scheduled time.
For more information about Church activities, see chapter 20.
Members may request to use a meetinghouse within their stake for personal or family activities. To seek approval, they contact a member of the bishopric of a ward that meets in that meetinghouse (or someone he designates). The following conditions apply:
The use must comply with the basic principles and requirements in 35.5.1.
The use must be supervised in person by a responsible adult member of a ward that meets in the meetinghouse.
The use must not interfere with scheduled Church activities.
Users have full responsibility for any damage to the facilities or any injury or liability in connection with such use.
Users must clean up and fully restore the facilities to pre-use condition.
Users must comply with direction and requests from local leaders, including requests by leaders to monitor the use.
Church leaders may ask any individual or group to stop using the property if they are not complying with guidelines.
For approved activities, ward and stake leaders should make arrangements for meetinghouse access. Keys to the building should be given only to designated ward or stake members.
See 38.3.4 for use of meetinghouses for weddings and wedding receptions.
See 29.5 for use of meetinghouses for funerals and other services for the deceased.
Area leadership may permit nonprofit organizations, community and other groups (such as sports teams), or individuals not described in 35.5.3 to use Church meetinghouses for wholesome activities or service. The conditions listed in 35.5.3 apply.
To seek area leadership approvals for such use, the stake president contacts the facilities manager.
If area leadership approves a use by a nonprofit organization, a Temporary Use Agreement will be required. This agreement is available from the area office. A certificate of insurance from the nonprofit organization is also required unless the director for temporal affairs confirms that the Church Risk Management Division has approved an exception.
Groups in the community that are not qualified nonprofits, as well as individuals not described in 35.5.3, must satisfy any requirements communicated through the facilities manager.
Church meetinghouses may be used for essential community service during an emergency. For example, a stake president may allow meetinghouses in his stake to be used by disaster-relief agencies and others in associated efforts (see 35.5.4). In these circumstances, he works with the facilities manager and the welfare and self-reliance manager, as well as with other Church representatives as needed (see 220.127.116.11).
If meetinghouses will be used for emergency purposes, stake leaders are encouraged to coordinate with community leaders.
Church property may not be used for commercial purposes. For example, meetinghouses may not be used to support any kind of business. Nor may resources within meetinghouses, such as bulletin boards, be used to support a business (see 38.8.5). Such use does not align with the purposes of Church properties. It could also conflict with local or national laws that may allow tax exemption of Church property (see 34.8.1).
The following are examples of commercial uses that are not approved:
Promoting or sponsoring businesses or investments
Buying, selling, or promoting products, services, publications, or creative works
Holding unauthorized fundraising activities (see 20.6.5)
Hosting or accommodating choirs, speakers, instructors, educational groups, or other service providers who receive a fee for seminars, lessons (except for private piano or organ instruction; see 19.7.2), classes, or other activities
Renting space for weddings or wedding-related events
The Church strongly supports education and families. However, meetinghouses are not used for homeschooling or as childcare facilities.
Adherence to this policy will promote safety and avoid tax liabilities for the Church.
The Church is politically neutral. Church property may not be used for political or advocacy purposes. Prohibited activities include political meetings and use by political campaigns and advocacy groups. Announcements related to political purposes may not be made on Church property, such as on bulletin boards.
The following uses of Church meetinghouse property are generally not approved:
Providing overnight shelter (except in emergencies; see 35.5.5)
Renting or leasing Church buildings and properties
These guidelines apply to the meetinghouse itself as well as to all Church-owned property and facilities surrounding the meetinghouse. If the stake president feels an exception may be warranted, he may request it through the facilities manager. For example, an exception may be granted to use a meetinghouse to assist members traveling long distances for temple trips.
Chapels are rooms where members worship and partake of the sacrament. Meetings and activities held in chapels should be in harmony with these purposes. For guidelines about holding cultural arts events, concerts, and other presentations in chapels, see 19.3.5.
Firearms and other lethal weapons are not allowed on Church property. This includes concealed weapons. This does not apply to current law enforcement officers.
Kitchens and serving areas may be used to serve meals and refreshments and to keep food warm or cold.
In some locations, food preparation in kitchens is allowed. However, in the United States, Canada, and some other countries, food-handling regulations often require certification, commercial equipment, or government inspection. In these areas, food should be prepared elsewhere and brought to the meetinghouse. Food preparation demonstrations are an exception and are allowed even where these regulations exist. Facilities managers can provide guidance for each area.
For more information, see safety.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Use of Church parking lots should comply with the guidelines in this chapter. In addition, parking lots should not be used for commuter parking or other similar uses without permission from the director for temporal affairs. Leaders may contact the facilities manager with requests. Personal vehicles and other personal equipment may not be stored on Church property.
For more information about parking lots and accessible parking, see “Meetinghouse Parking Lots” (Meetinghouse Facilities Guide).
Only maintenance equipment and approved supplies may be stored in buildings. Welfare items may be stored in meetinghouses during emergencies (see 35.5.5). Leaders may contact the facilities manager with questions.
More information about using Church property is available at “Other Information Related to Meetinghouse Facilities” (Meetinghouse Facilities Guide). This resource includes information and instructions about artwork, decorations, equipment, flags, fees, signs, use of vacant Church property, and other topics.
For policies about recreational property use, see “Recreational Camps” (Meetinghouse Facilities Guide).