A church is not defined by its building.
In fact, a church does not require a building at all.
The early Church met on hillsides and shorelines, in homes and upper rooms. Likewise, many modern churches meet in school gyms, movie theaters and community centers.
However, as many former portable churches will attest, a permanent building does equip and facilitate a church in countless ways, serving as a nerve center for external ministries and outreach, corporate worship, and community; they can be beacons in our cities and exude warmth and love to help us tell God's story.
A church's facilities are often its greatest material asset while also being its greatest expense.
So how should you plan, design, budget and otherwise steward your facilities for maximum ministry impact?
A simple first step is education. "If you can learn from other churches that have gone through these processes, or from professionals whose job is to go through these processes, you have access to something invaluable," says Jim Wagner, general manager of the Worship Facilities Conference and Expo (WFX) and its abbreviated version, WFX REACH.
The REACH Conferences are held in distinct regions each year and deliver the essential education of the annual and larger WFX.
"The value of attending, smaller, shorter, regional conferences like WFX REACH is the ability to have a cross pollination of multiple technologies sharing intellectual property. Attendees are able to meet and speak with leading professionals in a closer, tight knit setting," adds Donnie Haulk, president and CEO of AE Global Media and a speaker at the REACH Raleigh Conference.
The year's second REACH will be held in San Antonio and both conferences will offer a robust education track titled, "Improving the Impact of Church Buildings for Ministry".
Sessions within the track will cover security and emergency preparedness, understanding the difference between service providers, designing for millennials, financing and budgeting, master planning, site selection and more.
Each city will offer the same sessions, led by a church leader or industry expert from the conference's region. These sessions will equip attendees with practical, applicable information and advice on how to be good stewards when evaluating facility needs, setting budgets and making decisions.
In San Antonio, Rodney James, director of business and finance for Oklahoma-based Churches By Daniels, will present, "Building Your Project On Budget". James will dive headfirst into the common missteps he and his colleagues have witnessed as they've worked with churches on building projects over the past 35 years. "By knowing the missteps, we can learn to avoid common and often costly mistakes," he says. "When the right steps are taken in the right order, it assures the project is designed and constructed under budget with few surprises and very minor unexpected costs."
For those looking to modify their current facilities, Haulk will share how to cost effectively make the most of an existing facility by simply leveraging what's already there for greater functionality. "It costs a lot less to renovate current worship facilities and centers than it does to rebuild," Haulk says. "It's an effective way of spending [money] by enhancing what you already have."
Understanding God's design for worship is a core component of Haulk's platform and informs the advice he will deliver. "Designing spaces conducive to creating intimate and dynamic worship experiences starts with an understanding of how God created us to worship. Understanding God's physical laws in delivering The Message' gives us insight into how to have the maximum impact in each service," he shares.
Haulk's session will also touch on making more effective use of current AVL equipment by teaching staff, techs and worship leaders the proper usage and functions of technology.
"Growing churches are always looking to build, expand and renovate facilities and these sessions will give them practical information they can apply to be better stewards of their resources," says James.
The 2016 WFX REACH Conferences will be held May 16-17, 2016, at Crossroads Fellowship Church in Raleigh, and May 19-20, 2016, at Westover Hills Assembly of God in San Antonio. Learn more or register for either WFX REACH Conference at wfxreach.com.