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Church Facilities: Helping or hurting your ministry?


Rodney James

Master’s Plan Church Design & Construction

I remember as a child being walked down the flight of stairs to the basement, through the narrow hallways, to the concrete block room where the walls were painted white. My teacher had meticulously spent time cutting out and creating the characters of the Bible story to be placed on the flannel board to illustrate the lesson. I know I am dating myself, but the point is, the way we do ministry today is not the same.

It is easy to observe that the current and next generation that the Church is trying to reach is very different from the last two to three decades. Ministry styles have changed—not just music, but children’s ministry, student ministry, and even preaching/teaching styles. The question we must ask is, “Have our facilities kept up with these very evident changes?”

The first impression people have of your church facilities is critical.

Research from prestigious universities, such as NYU and Harvard, suggest that first impressions are so powerful that they can overrule the facts. If a first impression is negative, it can take as many as 8 positive experiences to reverse that bad impression. So, as we consider our ministry facilities, we must ask what kind of first impression are we making?

There are 5 important areas of your facility to consider when thinking about first impressions.

1. Building Exterior

Consider the number of people that drive by your facility every day. Does the outside of your building accurately communicate who you are? The style, the signage, the parking, and the entrances are all communicating something. Are the facilities, landscape, and parking lots well-maintained? The perception of an unkept exterior translates to the expectations of a non-well-maintained interior.

2. Gathering Space

The culture of today is relational—it’s even in your organization’s name (Network of RELATED Pastors)! There is an inherent nature in us to want to connect with others. This need is either facilitated or hindered by your gathering space. Spaces that are welcoming, warm, and inviting with plenty of volume communicate that your ministry values relationships, connecting, and fellowship.

3. Children’s Ministry Space

Is your children’s space easily identifiable, inviting to children, and safe? These are critically important elements to reaching this generation of families. Security of our children is a real consideration for parents visiting churches for the first time. If your space provides a safe environment that is visually attractive to children, your first impression will likely pass the test.

4. Worship Center or Sanctuary

The worship space is where those who visit your facility for the first time can connect with your leadership, your ministry, and most importantly the Savior. Understanding the critical design elements of this space and getting it right will either provide a positive or negative lasting impression. In the past, sanctuaries were designed for what they LOOKED like—stained glass, bright colors, ornate woodwork. But today, ministry facilities are designed for what they FEEL like. If the space does not allow worshippers to feel engaged, safe, and connected to the leaders, it creates an uncomfortable feeling of uneasiness.

5. Restrooms

Believe it or not, guests remember well their first visit to your restrooms, and that memory serves your facility well or leaves a bad taste (or smell). Ministry facility restrooms are not restaurant or Walmart restrooms. There are elements in ministry restrooms that can make a lasting first impression if designed well. Most importantly is the cleanliness of the surfaces and walls. Using the right materials, with the right touches of design, and keeping it all clean can put a guest at ease with the rest of your facility.

How do we get it right? Whether you are in an old church facility that needs a renovation, looking to purchase a building and re-purpose it, or planning to buy land and build a new building, our team can help you take the right steps in the right order to avoid the common mistakes of church construction projects. I say often, it’s not what churches don’t know that hurts them, it’s what they don’t know that they don’t know! Let us help you know what works in church design, what is the right first step (hint: it’s not hiring an architect), and how to avoid the costly missteps that can be disastrous to ministry.

Looking forward to meeting you at the Next Level Conference in February. I will be sharing about how to put your facilities to work for your ministry! Let’s connect and visit about your vision, your mission, and your facilities!

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