Church Facilities & Church Growth
What is the relationship between a church’s growth and its facilities?
Most of us know either intuitively, or by experience that buildings do not cause churches to grow. If that were true there wouldn't be so many half-empty church buildings. We also know there does seem to be some relationship between facilities and growing churches. If it is not “If you build it they will come”, then what?
Buildings are like containers.
When a container is full, you cannot add more to it without overflowing the container and losing as much as you pour in. The container defines how much growth you can contain. It does not generate the contents.
When a church building gets full, there is no room to contain additional growth. Add to that the element of people's personal space, and many church facilities get to capacity sooner than we may think. This does not just apply to the worship room, but the parking lot, the preschool, and every other part as well.
Buildings are like tools. We all know something about tools. We use tools in our garages, in our kitchens, and around the house. Tools help us accomplish a task. If we have the right tool, the job is easier.
If you wanted to drive a nail to hang a picture on the wall, you would want a hammer to use. If you didn’t have a hammer handy, you might pick up a rock, a shoe, or some other makeshift object to act as a hammer. It would not be as easy, but it might work. The point here is that tools help us accomplish the task, and some tools are more helpful than others, just as some buildings are more helpful to our ministry than others.
Have the right tool for the job.
Different tools help us do different jobs. Scissors are great for cutting paper, but they would make a mess trying to cut a tomato! So, when you want to worship, teach preschoolers, do administrative tasks, or have a fellowship meal, you need different kinds of spaces, or tools for each. Different rooms need to be designed for these jobs in order to do the job well. And doing the job well is what can generate growth.
Preschool rooms need hand-washing and toilet facilities in each room to facilitate children going to the rest room and workers washing between times they clean up spills, “body fluids”, or change a diaper. If you have to go down the hall to a rest room every time this happens in a preschool class, you will not spend much time in the room!
The worship space will be very different from those preschool rooms, with nicer finishes, a platform for good visibility, room for instruments, a sound system, etc. It is a whole different kind of space because it accommodates a different function. You need to have the right tool for the job.
We also need to be sure the tool is sharp. Ecclesiastes 10:10 (TLB) says: “A dull axe requires great strength; be wise and sharpen the blade!”
Chopping down trees with an axe is not a lot of fun, but if you are using a dull axe, it is really a chore. Instead of chopping down trees the church is here to teach, worship, minister, build fellowship, and do evangelism. Church buildings are some of the tools we use to do those things. If they are not in good condition they act like that dull axe, and make the job much harder than it has to be.
A good tool helps you get greater results from the same amount of work. Just as the right tools can make yard work less effort, well-designed buildings can make your efforts at evangelism and discipleship more effective. An attractive building might get people into the building that would be reluctant to go into the “typical” church building.
The sad truth is many of our church buildings are like that dull axe! They aren’t attractive at all. These churches need to sharpen their tools! Some need to build, others may just need to update the appearance. Some churches are doing pretty well in spite of the inadequacy of their buildings. Imagine what they could do if they had the right tools for the job?
What could your church do if it had the right tools for the job?
A good place to start is to evaluate your facilities. This needs to be done in two respects: First in quantity, then in quality. Both are important. To evaluate your space you will need to establish the criteria to judge the adequacy of it as a tool. You may want to get someone objective from outside your church or community to come and help you with such an evaluation. Contact me to discuss how I might be able to help your church.