This was the subject of an interesting conversation I had with our pastor a year or so ago. The Church was planted 17 years ago, since then we have met in homes and moved around from venue to venue in our market town, renting all sorts of spaces: Costa for our Alpha courses, the youth centre for our parent & toddler group, school halls, Town Hall, gyms, conference centres and dance studios for our larger gatherings; we’ve tried everything and as we grow are running out of options. Each venue has its limitations, each has benefits. We don’t have the liability of our own building with the burden of the associated running costs and management needs, on the other hand, we don’t have the benefit of a resource and a hub we can call our own from which to serve our community.
Like so many Churches, we aspire to own our own building. The school we currently meet in works well for Sundays and weekday activities take place at different venues and homes across town. But what if we had our own building? How much more could we be doing in the community? How much would it raise the profile of our Church and our ability to resource all sorts of opportunities, to engage with more people and in a more meaningful way?
So when is it the right time to think about building? How big should the Church be? How much money are we capable of raising and would it be enough to get the building we would need? All very sensible questions with no one-size-fits-all answer.
In my 20-year architectural career, I have walked alongside over 120 Churches undertaking a wide range of building projects. I have seen a Church of 8 faith-filled, committed people step out in faith to transform their tired chapel into a vibrant community and worship hub with no money and a target of £75,000. I have seen a Church of 500 buy a £4m office building and raise another £2.5m to refurbish and extend it to create a new home and hub for the work of the Church in its community.
For every Church building project there is a faith story, often miraculous, always inspiring, of how they turned the seed of an idea into the reality of the finished building and the difference the building has made in transforming lives and growing the influence of the Church in the area.
Often the stumbling block for Churches is the financial resources available to realise a building project – let’s face it, buildings are expensive. But this shouldn’t be an obstacle to faith-filled, visionary people with a bountiful, resourceful God! The perceived challenge of money can only be sensibly discussed when there is a tangible vision to measure value against – it shouldn’t be considered the first hurdle. If the vision is right, the money follows.
A Church of committed members of any size is well-placed to consider a building project. It requires faith and vision. The real question is what building projects should the Church be undertaking? When we think of churches we usually think of congregational spaces, what if our motives changed from Church-centric, congregational spaces to mission-centric spaces to truly meet the needs of the people around us and demonstrate the heart of a heavenly Father? This comes down to understanding the real needs of people and making the best use of the resources we have at our disposal. It redefines Church architecture. Exciting!
(Part 2 of this blog to follow with a few helpful tips…)