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Partners for Sacred Places

New Dollars/New Partners Program
by MHPN and Partners for Sacred Places

The Michigan Historic Preservation Network, through the generous support of The Kellogg Foundation and the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs sponsored and coordinated two rounds of training in the Partners for Sacred Places New Dollars/New Partners program. Recognizing that the places of worship are frequently the oldest buildings within a community, the program is led by the nationally-known Partners for Sacred Places and provides innovative training and partnerships to participating congregations from across the state.
Participants in the most recent training, conducted in 2007, represented a wide geographic distribution from across Michigan’s lower peninsula as well a broad range of religious denominations. Representatives from congregations located in Lansing, Newaygo, Kalamazoo, Manistee, Detroit, and Grand Rapids participated in the training.

Bob Jaeger, Sacred Places Executive Director led the training program along with Assistant Director Tuomi Forrest and MHPN Executive Director, Nancy Finegood. Partners for Sacred Places is the only national, non-sectarian, nonprofit organization dedicated to the sound stewardship and active community use of America’s older religious properties. Partners was founded in 1989 by religious, historic preservation and philanthropic leaders. The organization provides assistance to the people who care for sacred places and promotes a greater understanding of how these places sustain communities.

Workshop participants learned in the first of their sessions that over 90-percent of sacred places in the United States open their doors to non-members regularly; over 80-percent of the people who participate in their programs are non-members; and on average, sacred places in the U.S. each provide 5,300 hours of volunteer service annually within their communities. One participant put it well when he followed with: “We are not IN our community, we are OF our community.”

During the first -day workshop, congregants are taught how to prepare a “Case Statement.” This statement includes information on the congregations’ community heritage, assessment of outreach programs, the significance and physical condition of their buildings; how the congregation serves the community and what dollars and cents values those services hold, and developing new leaders. With their new understanding of how to look at their building, participants leave with a homework assignment to develop a case statement to fit their specific needs and community. The congregations are coached by MHPN staff throughout the year long program, helping them work through the creation of their case statement and determining their value to their community.

In the second of the two-day sessions, held about five months later, the participating congregations meet again to discuss how their case statement can form the basis for finding new partners and new sources of support in their communities, to help them do a better job at fundraising. A job that is all too often carried out in urban congregations whose buildings are big, beautiful — and costly to maintain; whose memberships have shrunk, and whose finances are stressed.

When these participants graduate from New Dollars / New Partners they not only know a lot more about their congregations, their programs and their buildings, but also how to better care for them all. The congregations will know how to better express their role in the community so that they can strengthen that role. They will also have the skills to develop effective partnerships and collaborations; determine their readiness for a variety of activities; identify key roles and plan for a capital campaign; and how to prepare for and work with community funding resources.

It is with great pleasure that MHPN, along with the generous support of our funders, has been able to offer this program to so many interested and active congregations. For every historic place of worship which is saved, and hopefully restored, its historical and economical importance is spread well beyond the few members of the congregation who attended the workshops to members of the entire community. MHPN continues to educate congregations about the New Dollars / New Partners tools and can offer a training video. To learn more about the Partners for Sacred Places programs, please visit or email