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church management


Tomorrow's Church Facilities

The future of church facilities is tied to each church's vision, commitment to excellence, and ability to foster community



SI Stewardship Group and the Cornerstone Knowledge Network brought together some of the most innovative pastors and thinkers in the country for a conversation about the future of church facilities. The churches represented share many characteristics. All have rapidly growing weekend attendance, a proactive missional mind-set, and a passion for reaching the unchurched with faithful teaching. The pastors are risk-takers with a clear vision to pioneer new strategies and methods that minister to their communities in significant ways. The churches are also very distinct. Some place a strong emphasis on their weekend gatherings, but one church said that if they could keep only one ministry, they'd keep their small groups. Some are quite structured with their ministry processes; others are fluid and organic in their approach. Some place significant emphasis on facilities, while others have a wide variety of styles and facility types in their multi-site locations. During our daylong discussion, three principles emerged about how church facilities relate to ministry and what this might mean for the future.

Alignment With Vision

No two churches or church facilities will look the same because no two churches have the same vision for ministry. All the participants affirmed that the purpose of the church is to invite people to be disciples of Christ, but the question becomes "How does God want us to do that?" Churches in the discussion repeatedly emphasized a clear and compelling vision that focused their

Rev! jan/feb 2008


church management

time, efforts, and organization, and this vision includes their facilities. Buildings are part of a church's identity, whether meetings take place in a mall, a theater, or a more traditional facility. The physical meeting place shapes perception of the church, its vision, and its unique DNA. One church talked about how they'd lost the "MacGyver effect"--an informal, pioneering atmosphere-- when they'd moved to their new stateof-the-art facility. Another church said they'd worked to make their new facility feel like home by keeping it in the same proportions as their original worship space, even though the new one was much larger. All buildings make a theological statement, but the final interpretation of that space is in the minds of the users--what they perceive to be sacred, aesthetic, and interactive. So as leaders assess need for space and facilities, it's done in light of their vision for ministry and a keen awareness for how facilities--old, new, or transformed--will affect their character as a community.

The physical meeting place shapes perception of the church, its vision, and its unique DNA.

the primary need is for space that accommodates small groups of people meeting for prayer, mentoring, coaching, and service. During the weekend the primary need is for space to gather for worship. Some churches choose to rent space for the weekend, only purchasing and maintaining space for the small gatherings needed during the week. Others build and maintain space for small groups and large weekend gatherings. The multi-site communities combine renting and owning and use up to seven dramatically different spaces--from a gymnasium to a traditional sanctuary. In order to stay nimble and relevant to the culture, many expressed a need for space that's flexible and adaptable. Some even defined building "success" as the building's ability to change over time to accommodate new ministries. even unexpected ones. One pastor told of a woman who only came as far as the parking lot to drop off and pick up her daughter. Members of the church met her in the parking lot and fostered a relationship that, after a year, saw the woman become a follower of Christ. Urban planners know successful development begins with attracting the creative class, the community's talented artists and leaders. To attract and engage the creative class, church facilities need to provide options and fluidity, which are critical in the process of creation. Creating space that inspires creativity and excellence will spur community growth and connection. There's no question that church facilities are going to look different, perhaps dramatically different, than they did in the past. With accelerated rates of change in design ideas, technology, and public space, buildings will need to "learn"--so they can easily be transformed to meet each church's evolving needs and ministry opportunities.

DOUG TURNER is president of RSI Stewardship Group.


The leaders expressed a desire for their churches to be deeply integrated with their local communities. The strategies for this integration include providing space and services that the community lacks, such as health facilities and performing arts centers. The leaders look for every chance to connect with their communities whether it's attractional, incarnational, or both. Drawing on the observation that many people are willing to belong before being willing to believe, the leaders said that the church needed to be a comfortable place for people to come throughout the week. This plays out by integrating personal and family life, work, social networks, and faith community. When people sense a spiritual need, they'll be more likely to open their hearts to Christ because they were already meeting friends in these gathering places. Effective church facility design will honor the organic elements of how relationships develop in these spaces--


A call to fulfill the Great Commission fuels a voracious pursuit of excellence in every aspect of ministry. This manifestation of excellence will look different in a church of 500 compared to a church of 5,000, but it's the pursuit of excellence that's key. Out of their desire for excellence, the churches we talked with proactively take on the task of leadership development. They view leadership development as a fundamental part of their approach, and the vast majority of their leaders were developed from within. They purposefully seek to identify and train people who are already part of their fellowship. Some of the pastors who participated in this discussion had been members of the church for a number of years before they decided to leave secular careers for full-time ministry. A commitment to excellence and leadership development shapes a need for facilities. During the week


Mark Bankord and Eric Parks, Heartland Community Church, Rockford, Illinois; Charles Dishinger and Ted Beasley, Gateway Community Church, Austin, Texas; Dave Ferguson, Community Christian Church, Naperville, Illinois; Rex Miller, author; Joseph Myers, author; Raul Palacios and Troy Gramling, Flamingo Road Church, Cooper City, Florida; Dave Putnam and Shawn Lovejoy, Mountain Lake Church, Cumming, Georgia; Tim Stevens and Mark Waltz, Granger Community Church, Granger, Indiana.


Rev! jan/feb 2008


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