How Do You View Your Kingdom Hall?
LIKE an oasis in a parched land, the Kingdom Hall in each community serves as a place of spiritual refreshment. To this building come people of all walks of life to learn of Jehovah. They see this as a “house” that is dedicated wholly to the worship of our God Jehovah.
Is that how you personally view the Kingdom Hall? Do you look forward to the meetings, to the association with the brothers and sisters there, to assisting with the activities there?
Your Part in Caring for the Kingdom Hall
With the Kingdom Hall in use several times each week, there will naturally be a need for cleaning and maintenance. Do you appreciate the privilege you have of helping to keep it neat and clean? The Kingdom Hall should be cleaned according to a regular schedule, depending on its use and needs. All may have a share, even the children. In this way all will learn the responsibility attached to the upkeep of the Kingdom Hall, and will appreciate it more. How nice it is to step into a clean and neat Kingdom Hall and to invite new ones to such a hall!
Usually cleaning is arranged according to book study groups. The elders may wish to schedule groups to rotate weekly in looking after the cleaning under the direction of the book study conductor or another brother in the group. A list of things to be done in cleaning can be posted. Supplies and equipment should be on hand for use in doing the cleaning. A ministerial servant may be assigned to have general charge of Kingdom Hall upkeep, such as ordering supplies and checking on maintenance needs; but with all having a part in caring for the hall, the burden will not fall on just a few.
The general appearance of the Kingdom Hall should be monitored. Does it need new paint inside or out? Are there repairs needed? Does the yard or the parking lot need attention? If there is a lawn or shrubbery, these need regular care. Are there ways within the budget of the congregation to make the inside of the hall more attractive? Often little things can be done that are relatively inexpensive but that mean very much in making the décor more pleasing. Remember, a meeting place that is clean, furnished in a practical manner, and maintained properly is one that reflects well on Jehovah and his people.
Maintenance will be kept to a minimum if all are careful to avoid breaking equipment or damaging the furnishings. Chewing gum should never be disposed of by placing it under a chair. And you know that dropping gum or candy on the carpet or floor, or spilling the baby’s milk on it, or neglecting to wipe your feet on coming into the hall, are all things that make floor care very difficult. Some walls and chairs can easily be spotted or damaged. Carelessness can make an ugly eyesore, and to fix it may require much time and expense. Each one’s taking a few moments to be careful will be appreciated by all.
Young folks are a welcome sight at the Kingdom Hall. They should be right alongside their parents in receiving instruction from Jehovah’s Word and in learning how to be effective young praisers of Jehovah. But being at the Kingdom Hall is not the same as being at home or in one’s backyard. The responsibility rests upon parents to keep an eye on their children and control them while at the hall. Unnecessary trips to the rest rooms or playing before or after meetings should be discouraged. Disorderly children when “let on the loose” cause shame. (Prov. 29:15) When elders speak to you about these matters, be responsive and thankful, as they are interested in keeping the Kingdom Hall fully representative of Jehovah’s pure worship in the community.
Planning for Expansion
With the steady increase in attendance at the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the time inevitably comes when consideration must be given to arranging for a new Kingdom Hall. Already many halls are filled to overflowing. This emphasizes the need to avoid short-range planning that could result in Kingdom Halls that are too small and outgrown almost before they are finished. There is the danger also of waiting too long before exploring the possibility of getting a new Kingdom Hall, and laying the groundwork for future expansion. We have to look ahead. While we know that we are deep into the time of the end and the “great tribulation” is near, we do not know just how near, and we should plan to be going full-speed ahead when the end of this system arrives.
Different situations exist in each case and current needs and those anticipated will vary. Some may find it more convenient to rent, but in many countries congregations have found it more practical to purchase property and to build a Kingdom Hall suited to their needs.
Who will do the planning? All the elders should feel this responsibility. When they meet, this matter should periodically be on their agenda. How are we preparing to take care of anticipated expansion? Already the Kingdom Hall may be used by two or three congregations. Is a new hall needed? When? It should not be a case of one congregation having a hall and viewing the getting of a new hall as the problem of the one or two other congregations meeting in the hall. This would be a narrow and shortsighted view. Rather, the concern of all should be, What can we all do to care for the grand increases with which Jehovah is blessing his organization today?
The elders or others designated by them will take the initiative in locating land on which to build, but all can be on the lookout for possibilities. Sometimes suitable land is donated. Obviously more is involved than getting land donated or buying it. In what type of neighborhood is the lot located? Land may be cheaper in one area, but will it be in the best interests of the congregation to build a hall there? Zoning laws must be taken into consideration, and at times there are restrictions running with the land as to what can be built on the property. What is required in the way of off-street parking? What about drainage, water supply and other utilities? The congregation should be sure that it is possible to build on the property a Kingdom Hall of the type and size needed and that it is possible to get clear title to the land.
Sometimes congregations have found it practical to purchase an existing building and remodel it to suit the needs of the congregation while conforming to building codes. However, be sure to inspect such buildings and equipment therein thoroughly.
Financing the Kingdom Hall
When the congregation is discussing the possibility of obtaining a Kingdom Hall, you personally may find it possible to make a donation to the project or to loan funds that you may not need presently. In addition, you may wish to determine how much you feel you can regularly contribute each month, with Jehovah’s blessing. While this is not a tithe or assessment, it being entirely voluntary, the elders may seek this information from those associated to help them in making plans. Unsigned slips with the amount thereon would suffice to give this estimate.
After determining the funds that are available locally, the congregation may find that it needs help with additional funds. Many congregations arrange for a loan through the Society. If this arrangement is desired, a letter of inquiry may be sent to the Office of the Secretary of the Watch Tower Society, and information will be sent.
As an example of what has been done successfully in planning for additional facilities and financing, three neighboring congregations in a city in the United States had cooperated in building a Kingdom Hall, most of the publishers being part of one congregation originally. It seemed advisable to plan for a Kingdom Hall in another part of the city, in the territory of one of the congregations. What could be done to assist this congregation?
All together the elders looked into a number of possibilities. Not much money was available in the congregation funds for use as an outright contribution toward the new hall. But the mortgage on the present Kingdom Hall was almost paid off. All had assisted in this. So why not borrow additional funds? This is what they did, and a fine contribution was thus made to the congregation that was making plans to build a new hall. This kept the mortgage payments on the new hall down to a level where the congregation that would occupy it could manage them. And the two remaining congregations in the first hall willingly and lovingly carried the payments on the new loan rather than merely paying off the original mortgage and feeling no more obligation to help with Kingdom Hall financing. This experience is typical of many congregations that are progressively looking ahead and planning for the steady increase in their communities.
In other places, congregations have succeeded in completely paying off all mortgages on their halls and then have been able to open a bank account, perhaps a savings account, for a “building fund” and put any excess contributions into the bank, anticipating the time ahead when the funds will be needed to build another Kingdom Hall nearby. Or, until the money contributed for this purpose is needed, the congregation may wish to have the Society make use of such funds temporarily in advancing the Kingdom work by the “conditional donation” arrangement.
Building a New Kingdom Hall
Careful thought should go into planning the building. Often it is advisable to use the services of an architect in drawing up plans and in working with the regulatory agencies of the city or county in getting plans approved. It may be required by law in some localities. Looking at other halls and inspecting their plans, if available, may prove very beneficial. Suggestions by brothers and sisters may be made to the elders, and in making their decisions it is wise on the part of the elders to consult brothers inside and outside the congregation who have had experience in buying property and in construction. The Society has a few sample designs that may be borrowed, if desired, and these can be obtained from the Office of the Secretary.
The approximate cost of the project can be estimated in accord with the type of building the congregation desires and can afford. Spending money wisely should always be in mind, but an economy building may cost more to maintain in the long run than if a little more was spent to make it enduring or large enough to begin with or to get a little better equipment. Also to be considered is not placing an unreasonable financial burden on the congregation. We want the Kingdom Hall to be attractive, but it is not practical wisdom to spend liberally to make it beautiful while skimping on equipment that must serve adequately and reliably week after week. For example, good lighting, sound equipment, heating, ventilation and seating are essential if those attending are to benefit fully from the meetings.
The elders will often find it advisable to select a building committee to oversee the construction work, designating one as coordinating chairman. It is important to select brothers for this committee who have had some building and business experience, if at all possible. General decisions on construction in harmony with the plans and wishes of the congregation can be made by the building committee on a day-by-day basis. However, there should be good cooperation with the body of elders, to whom the building committee is responsible, and who will be consulted. The elders will make decisions on any major changes felt necessary or unusual developments they should know about. It is understandable that some variation may occur in original estimates as construction gets under way due to fluctuating costs and unforeseen problems encountered.
When two or more congregations decide to cooperate in buying land and building a hall, or remodeling an existing building, there should be thorough discussion by all the elders of what is proposed and an agreement should be reached on type of building, approximate costs, financing, and so forth. The respective congregations should clearly know, through their body of elders, what is recommended, so a final decision can be made by each congregation on the basis of sound information. The general agreement to cooperate on the project and the basic understanding should be set down in writing and signed by all the elders after approval by the respective congregations. We cannot emphasize too strongly the need for good cooperation between the bodies of elders and the congregations involved.
The body of elders may decide that the construction work can be done entirely by the brothers or circumstances may make it advisable to hire a contractor. Or perhaps some work can be done by brothers, with certain installations being done by subcontractors. Are you skilled in carpentry, masonry, plumbing or one of the other trades? If so, likely you can help immensely. But you need not be a skilled worker to volunteer. There will be much work to be done, such as preparing the site, bringing supplies, installing certain things, cleaning and so forth. And sisters may volunteer for lighter tasks and for preparing food for the workers. Making good use of the voluntary efforts of those in the congregation and in neighboring congregations follows the example of the tabernacle construction in the wilderness and the building of Solomon’s temple, when fine craftsmen from among Jehovah’s people were used.—Ex. 35:34, 35; 2 Chron. 2:11-16.
It is desirable to complete the Kingdom Hall as quickly as possible so it does not unduly interfere with the preaching work. The body of elders should be sure that definite arrangements are made for regular service opportunities in the field. Some who are limited in what they can do in the construction work may find they can increase their field service during this time. Care should be exercised, of course, that none work so hard on the Kingdom Hall that their families are neglected. A good schedule will assist in this regard so that family study, meetings and field service are included, even though somewhat limited during the construction period. Long hours of hard work may be needed to finish the project, but Jehovah blesses those who serve him whole-souled.—Col. 3:23, 24.
As you work together building the Kingdom Hall, there will be many occasions to demonstrate the fruits of the spirit, particularly love, patience, mildness and self-control. (Gal. 5:22, 23) There are usually good reasons why things may not be done exactly as you think they should be done. Having this in mind and remembering that there is often more than one way to do things will help you to cooperate with the ones appointed to supervise the work.
When the building is finished, it is fitting to arrange a dedication program. The body of elders can decide what is appropriate. A weekend might be selected for this occasion. Many congregations arrange a few hours for “open house,” when people in the community can come and see the new building and get acquainted. It is optional as to whether invitations are printed for this purpose, setting forth the program. Printed programs would be arranged locally, as these are not printed by the Society. Preliminary to the discourse on dedication, some congregations arrange to hear a few experiences on the building of the Kingdom Hall and the history of the congregation. If the dedication program is held on Saturday, arrangements might be made for a special public talk on Sunday along with the Watchtower study.
Operation of the Kingdom Hall
Who owns the Kingdom Hall? Actually no one congregation should feel that it “owns” the Kingdom Hall. It is dedicated to Jehovah’s worship. The congregation that builds or rents a building has committed into its care a trust in connection with the hall, and the body of elders has the responsibility to manage wisely the Kingdom Hall’s operation so that Kingdom interests are best served.
Before property is bought, it is strongly recommended that the congregation either appoint trustees or form a legal corporation to hold title to the property. If the decision is to form a corporation, officers can be elected from among the mature brothers associated, according to the bylaws of the corporation. The trustees or corporation officers do not manage the Kingdom Hall but the elders have responsibility of oversight. It is not required that the officers be changed from year to year but only as this becomes necessary due to moving, deaths and so forth. (Helpful suggestions are available on request to the Society for its letter entitled “Information Regarding Ownership of Kingdom Halls.”)
In many instances several congregations use the same Kingdom Hall in order to get full use of the facilities and to keep down expenses. The Society deals with only one of the congregations as far as loans, insurance and things of this nature are concerned, and this congregation is usually the one holding the territory in which the Kingdom Hall is located. But while the Society corresponds with only one congregation and the title may be in the name of this congregation, such handling of these physical responsibilities does not provide a basis for this congregation to decide unilaterally when meetings shall be held by all the congregations meeting in the Kingdom Hall, nor how much money each should pay on any mortgage and operating expenses.
How can these matters be decided with loving consideration for all? Some congregations have found it best, where more than one congregation uses the hall, for all the elders in the congregations involved to meet and to decide Kingdom Hall matters. In this way problems resulting from lack of communication or representation are kept to a minimum. Thus, there is a common sharing of the building dedicated to Jehovah’s service and there is common responsibility to take good care of it. Under this arrangement no one congregation dominates while others become mere “tenants.” It would be well that such agreement be in writing, with a copy for each congregation’s file, since elders may move and subsequent elders may not be aware of any oral understanding.
When there is only one congregation meeting in a Kingdom Hall, the elders can consider what they feel will be the best times for the meetings and present their recommendations to the congregation for discussion, possible alteration and final decision (by majority vote of the dedicated publishers), making them as convenient as possible for the majority. However, when more than one congregation meets in the hall, in line with what is stated above, the elders of all the congregations may wish to meet and discuss meeting-time preferences and work out the best arrangements for all concerned. Where there is a choice to be made in times of meetings, of course, the matter rests not simply with the elders, but with each congregation to decide.
Some congregations find that rotating times of meetings, or offering to do so every year or so, is desirable. Good communication and cooperation contribute to mutual understanding and contentment, without the feeling developing that one congregation has certain advantages all of the time. Good cooperation is also needed in connection with meetings during the circuit overseer’s visit, weddings, etc.
Similarly, all elders may meet initially and set up a committee of knowledgeable elders for day-to-day operation and maintenance of the hall. This will prevent the entire body or bodies of elders (if there is more than one congregation) from having to meet often to decide on ordinary matters having to do with general operation and maintenance, and the paying of bills incidental thereto. Guidelines could be established, such as a cut-off point on how much might be spent on normal operations without special approval.
Under this arrangement, if there are difficult questions or unanticipated major expenditures, these could be referred to the whole group of elders for determination. If the elders felt that a major expenditure was advisable, their joint recommendation could be submitted to the respective congregations, setting forth the facts, including the anticipated costs. Then the congregations could make a final decision.
Each congregation could supply an agreed-upon amount regularly for Kingdom Hall operation. To arrive at this, all the elders in the congregations meeting in the hall could discuss together what is needed on the average each month for the mortgage payment and other expenses. On the basis of this, the elders in the respective congregations can decide what recommendation they will make to their congregations. Each congregation will then make a decision on what payment will be made each month. As necessary, and as seems advisable, adjustments can be made in the amount sent to this fund by each congregation.
Funds may be handled through the congregation that sends the mortgage payments to the Society, if that is being done. A separate accounts sheet could be maintained just for the operation of the Kingdom Hall. And if it will assist with the bookkeeping, a separate bank account could be opened by this congregation. Periodically, reports on the operation could be made to the elders and arrangements would be made for a quarterly audit of the accounts.
The Kingdom Hall is one of Jehovah’s provisions that enables us to meet together. The happy and rewarding activities arranged at the Kingdom Hall are part of the provisions of Jehovah’s spiritual paradise. The provisions are there for all to share. But it is not wise to take them for granted. We should appreciate them and look well to the care of the Kingdom Hall. King David said: “I rejoiced when they were saying to me: ‘To the house of Jehovah let us go.’” (Ps. 122:1) Let us all imitate David and other faithful servants of old in how they viewed the construction and use of buildings dedicated to the true worship of Jehovah.