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Are Your Church Facilities an Obstacle to Growth?
Assess the message your building and facilities send to visitors and guests.

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Check out the interior of any national chain store in your neighborhood (a grocery store, pharmacy, clothing store, restaurant, etc.). On average, retail businesses remodel their facilities every 4-7 years, and with good reason. There's something about "new": new additives to toothpaste, new vitamin potency in cereal, new models of cars, new versions of software. "New" attracts. By contrast, most churches renovate their facilities every 25-40 years, and some go even longer without an extreme home make-over.

If your church building is over 15 years old, it is probably a growth-restricting obstacle.

When it comes to church visitors, you don't have a second chance for a good first impression. And one of the first impressions visitors have of your church is its building; first the outside, then the inside. Visitors don't need to be professional architects to sense that the ceiling is too low, the halls too narrow, the windows outdated, or the color schemes from a different generation. As Marshall McLuhan once said, "the medium is the message." And your building is your medium.

The design and architecture of your church has a much bigger influence on your visitors than it does on your regular attendees. Why? The longer a person is at your church, the less he or she is able to see the building through the eyes of a newcomer. Members don't notice the rain marks in the ceiling, the chipped paint on the wall, the hole in the carpet. And those things don't really matter to long-time attendees, because they are coming for the people, the relationships, the fellowship, the spiritual growth; not the facilities. But for visitors with none of these reasons to attend, other things shape their first impressions…and your building is one of them.

Facilities also have an effect on a church's corporate self-esteem. The effect is similar to the way your house or apartment subtly influences your own self-esteem. If you live with junk in the backyard, unwashed dishes in the sink, dirty clothes on the floor, rooms in need of paint…it affects how you think of yourself, whether you realize it or not. And, with such an appearance, do you want company dropping in unannounced? Probably not. When you are expecting guests you probably pick up your clothes, clean the kitchen, and put on your house's best face. Why not have the same attitude about your church facility and the guests who are coming to visit God's house?

While nice facilities won't cause your church to grow, poor facilities can prevent it from growing.

What You Can Do About It

An outsider's perspective is quite valuable. Invite a friend or neighbor who has never been on your church campus to walk through the facility with you. The "visit" need not be on Sunday. First, drive by and around the church. Then park and walk toward, and eventually into, the building. Ask the person(s) to "free-flow" about their impressions, sharing what catches their attention, what they like, what they don't like, what they aren't sure about. Either take notes or use a recorder to document their comments. Tell them not to worry about hurt feelings—you want their honest first impressions.

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Topics:Buildings, Care of Church, Newcomers, Renovation, Visitors & guests
Filters:Facility management, Pastor

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Displaying 1–5 of 9 comments

Al Simmons

April 10, 2015  11:31pm

Is this about maintenance of the present congregation, impressing newcomers, or seeking AND witnessing to the lost. Whatever we do, it should done in accordance Ephesians 6:7. Membership superseding discipleship may clutter the reason for invitation. The purpose of the facility is PART of our catering to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If it is good enough for Him then it is good enough for them!

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Tim Aagard

September 05, 2013  3:41pm

Fluffy Fingers is right. God will grow His church. The fact that we are discussing the need for attractive facilities for a crowd of people to hear a hired expert lecture the Word for 30-45 minutes with zero participation and zero mutuality and zero expectation that anyone grow up to "be like" their teacher (Luke 6:40; 2 Tim 2:2), then we have long left behind God's expectations for what He wants done when His people gather. If saints are going to actually do Heb. 10:24,25 - the "not giving up the habit of meeting" they will be "considering how they can spur one another on to love and good works" and "encouraging one another". If the saints had any awareness that "the word of Christ would dwell richly and with all wisdom as they teach and admonish one another" (Col. 3:16) they would have no interest in a hired expert dominating their gathering or the need for a special building to gather enough people to pay him. They would not try to attract people to a building but to Christ directly

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Fluffy Fingers

September 04, 2013  4:37pm

God will grow His church. We should stop trying to do it ourselves. How about some biblical preaching? If people are only staying at church because it looks 'great', then they've got priority problems. They're their for selfish reasons, and not because they want Christian fellowship, or because they just want to worship God because of who He is. The American church is screwy. Focus on preaching the Word of God, biblically, and God will build.

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Alan Block

August 28, 2013  2:57pm

Guess its time to spruce up Notre Dame, get rid of those old stained windows and put in bright clear ones Stone floors? meh, make it bamboo flooring or shag carpets. And the big heavy wooden door? Replace it with sliding glass.

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Gary Hancock

August 27, 2013  9:03pm

I really think this is an honest acknowledgement of what visitors will base first impressions on. It is not the overriding factor but as congregations prioritize budgets and look to new membership initiatives facilities is a factor. We are all competing and it is important to know on what basis a visitor will decide to 'visit again.' Of course a warm greeting, a cup of coffee and conversation at the end of the service can overcome many things.

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