I have been in church buildings every week of my entire adult life.
I have served four churches in my three decades of being a pastor. I have rented, constructed and renovated church facilities in every one of the churches I served. For the past 10 years, I have consulted hundreds of churches that have rented, constructed and renovated church facilities. I have partnered with church architects and construction companies to help build, renovate and recycle church facilities. I love church buildings and have thousands of church photos in my photo library to prove it.
Here are my conclusions about church buildings.
Buildings don't reach people, people reach people.
"Build it and they will come" is a myth. So is "launch a multisite campus and they will come." We have defined church success as a building, and the bigger the building, the greater the success. It's all about incarnational ministry, not a building.
Buildings don't change people, Jesus does.
The first three centuries of the Christian faith changed the world without constructing or owning a building. They met in existing facilities and homes.
God does not live in church buildings.
God dwells in human beings. The Apostle Paul made it very clear on Mars Hill in Athens, "God doesn't life in man-made temples" Acts 17:24. He explained it further to the believers in Corinth, "Don't you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?" 1 Cor. 3:16. The Apostle Peter concludes, "And now God is building you, as living stones, into his spiritual temple." 1 Peter 2:5
Buildings are a means to the end, not the end game.
Buildings are tools. Church buildings are public places for corporate worship that establish presence and commitment to a local community. Worship places in the Biblerocks, tents, caves, temples, river banks, schools, houses.
Local churches are local.
The majority of church attenders live within 15 minutes driving time of their church building. The rest live within 30 minutes. The majority of a church's time, resources and energy are spent locally. Church success is not defined by a building, but by transformed lives and communities.
Here are the trends I am observing in church buildings today.
- Giga-size churches on multiple smaller campuses.
- One church in multiple locations in suburban, rural and urban settings.
- Fewer seats per location and spread over multiple venues at that location.
- Multisiting and church planting through existing facilities such as schools, theaters, commercial space and churches.
- Successful mission-driven church mergers, as opposed to the failed survival-driven mergers of the past.
- Multi-purpose, local community-centric and environmental-friendly buildings.
- The pew has left the building for more comfortable and individual seating.
- High-tech and intimate worship settings with large lobbies and wide halls.
- Multiple high-quality community gathering spaceswifi cafes, conversation pits and conference rooms.
- Cutting-edge children's environments that are open, colorful and secure.
- The decline in building church parlors, fellowship halls and gymnasiums.
What are the building options for churches that are plateaued, declining or growing?
- Revitalize through a ministry turnaround.
- Renew through a strategic partnership.
- Rebirth through a church merger.
- Recycle and renovate current facilities.
- Release through legacy (selling church property and giving the money to other kingdom endeavors).
- Reproduce by facility expansion, multisiting or planting new congregations.
- Rent and retrofit commercial facilities.
What's in your church building future?