The Home and Office Rule
Providing Quality Space for Ministry
When you set out to evaluate your church’s space from the perspective of its quality, start by examining the homes, offices and retail space in the area of the people you are trying to reach. Let this establish a standard of quality. The homes they live in, the offices they work in and the stores they shop in can communicate a level of expectation they have for physical space. If you do not meet up with these expectations, you may have constructed a barrier to these people, rather than a bridge to reach them.
The emphasis must be on the people you are trying to reach. Sometimes this is different from the people you have traditionally been reaching. If you have been reaching only senior adults, you may want to look at the expectations of younger generations to broaden your reach. If they are building modest homes, they will be satisfied with modest church facilities. But if they are building large, expensive homes, work in nicely appointed offices, and shop in upscale stores, you can know they will not feel comfortable in dated, aging, or unattractive buildings.
Does it Really Matter?
Some in the church may say this should not matter. The truth is, it does. I’ve heard people in the church say things like “This building was good enough in 1965 when wee ran 800 in attendance. Now we only have 400!” These people need to be reminded that people’s expectations for space today are very different that they were in 1965. Meanwhile, the facilities may have deteriorated due to a lack of maintenance. This puts the church way behind the curve when it comes to providing adequate facilities. Look at the homes, restaurants and shopping centers they see every day, and you may see a great difference.
Some will say that if their hearts are right, they will come no matter what the space looks like. We must remember these are the people we are trying to reach. Their hearts are not necessarily right with God. They may be lost. If we are trying to win them, we must address their expectations, at least to some extent.
It's about being Missional
To have an opportunity to minister to them we may need to be understanding enough of the culture at large to address their basic desire for a nicely built environment. Their culture and expectations for space may be as foreign to us as an African mud hut, but to be effective, we must learn to “speak the language” of the culture and meet them where they are, as long as it is not immorally opulent or inappropriate.
Church buildings can and do have a great impact on the ability of the church to fulfill its purpose. Do not underestimate or neglect to plan for this important element in the life of the church. To provide a place that is a more effective tool for ministry, consider both the quantity and the quality of your church facilities.