With many Black churches possessing vacant and under-utilized space while also facing economic hardships, especially during the pandemic, with attendance and tithes dwindling dramatically, Day Edwards had the idea to be a facilitator.
Knowing that several businesses and congregations were looking for steadier and/or more permanent brick-and-mortar locations, Edwards thought such entities were perfect partners for churches with unused spaces. Hence, Church Space was born.
The Defender scored an exclusive interview with Edwards, the co-founder and CEO and Emmanuel Brown, the other co-founder, to get the history of Church Space, and its ongoing story.
DEFENDER: What is Church Space?
DAY EDWARDS: We are a mission-driven, marketplace design to help churches rent out their under-utilized space. We do that simply because we realize there’s such a heavy burden on church leaders and pastors and all across America. There’s this issue happening where church real estate is sitting vacant and unused. So, we come in and we help churches and communities connect via space.
EMMANUEL BROWN: Both Day and I come from families of church leaders and planters, and we witnessed, specifically Day, the burden that it places on church leaders all across America. We we’re coined by the Washington Post as “the Airbnb for churches,” but we’re much more than a rental platform. We’re really about helping church leaders get back to their mission. We call that “mission over maintenance.” So, we’re trying to clear the path for church leaders and pastors to make more community impact, to rent out their under-utilized properties and church buildings and to focus on the things that matter most to them.
DEFENDER: Can you go deeper into what Church Space is all about?
DAY EDWARDS: Most people don’t know that one in five churches are facing permanent closure within the next 18 months. So, we’re not just helping churches earn extra revenue, but we are teaching churches that their church building can also be their greatest tool of outreach. And when you think of churches, when you think of pastors, their number one goal is to outreach to their community to get more discipleship, to really just engage. Most often, you see church buildings as almost a very beautiful venue, but it’s locked up with gates around it. We’re teaching churches that they can actually open their building to do a number of things: to increase membership and to also increase extra revenue. And it’s not just earning money that makes the impact. It’s what they’re able to do with that money. Many of the churches are able to host more community drives, different initiatives, more missions. And they’re also able to not just help their congregation, but they’re also able to reach outside of their church doors and help the community in which they sit in.
DEFENDER: How did you two meet and give birth to this incredible idea?
EMMANUEL BROWN: We’ve seen over the past year or two, unconventional, untraditional work styles, working from home become very prevalent for everyone. And just the ergonomics and the living situation for everyone is not the same. But people continue to work and thrive and live. And that’s very similar to how Day and I met. It was through this unconventional working style called Zoom. We met on a LA Urban League Zoom meeting where Day was actually the guest speaker talking about pitching. I was in the process of working on my own startup at that time. Day and I immediately connected. We both come from ministry and backgrounds of faith. And we began to talk virtually for about a year and we realized that not only our passion, our mission and our goals, but also our work style was really synergized.
DEFENDER: Can you speak on the awards and national recognition received by Church Space?
DAY EDWARDS: Yeah, we’ve won, oh my goodness, so many awards. Specifically, here in Houston, we won the 2019 City of Houston Business Plan competition. We were also finalists for Project Flourish with First Presbyterian Church. Then, we won the New Voices pitch competition during the Essence Festival, the very last Essence Festival that they had. It was so amazing. It was so awesome that the owner of Essence, after hearing our pitch, he actually gave us the prize money, but he also gave an additional $5,000 of his own money just to support and be a part of Church Space.
DEFENDER: Why is church space such a potential game changer?
EMMANUEL BROWN: We are a company that is founded by church leaders, pastors and clergy that have lived out these problems firsthand and experienced them. We understand the nuances of protecting churches and safeguarding churches, their most valuable asset, which is their people and their space, and make making sure that they’re compliant to IRS nonprofit regulations. We really have examined this problem space and really make sure that we’re not just creating a general solution, but we’re creating a solution for the people that are really suffering from this problem that we’re solving for.