Encouraging, Living, Reaching

Why Your Building Matters

Why Your Building Matters
Dec 18 Tags: buildings | 3 Responses Print Save as PDF

Scott’s post yesterday Is Small the New Big? made me think of a conversation I had with a full-time worker recently. He travels throughout North America and he shared some thoughts similar to Scott’s about the condition of and use of our assembly buildings. I asked if he would write down his thoughts which are shared below. Due to the sensitive nature of the thoughts, I thought it best to post these without mentioning the worker. His comments give us food for thought as we seek to win souls for the Lord.

This reminded me of another conversation I had recently with a parent of some children in our community who didn’t send his kids to our kids club. The dad’s comment was simple, “We don’t send our kids because your church building looks suspicious, old and we wouldn’t feel comfortable with our kids inside without any way of checking in on them.”  A valid point and maybe one that is more prominent than we think.

Here are the thoughts from my friend…

A desire to grow

Every assembly I have been in or involved with wants/ desires / prays for people to get saved and for the assembly to grow. I personally do not know of any assembly that is content to be comprised only of older saints with no visible hope for the future of the work. My observation is that in all the assemblies I know of personally the Lord’s people are interested in the gospel going out and in living godly lives.

Many assemblies that have primarily older saints were once thriving works and these seniors have been part of the past work.  There were large Sunday Schools, young people’s groups, gospel outreaches, ministry meetings, and the buildings were full. Now in a number of places there are declining numbers and advancing age, the buildings are under used and it is hard to get outsiders to come in for meetings of any kind.

For the first hundred years of the “assembly movement”, buildings were not of great importance. A number of works started in homes or rented halls and people were reached with the gospel. It was not uncommon at all for assemblies to start this way.

By the middle of the 1900’s, it started to get more difficult to get outsiders to come to a “home church” and chapels or halls were built that looked like “churches”. This process gave a “face” to the work and identity to the assembly in the community. We know the church is not the building, but for those outside it was an important point of reference.

Aging buildings

It seems now, in 2014/15, that a number of assemblies in many of these “churches” built 40 to 80 years ago are ones that are struggling numerically and have few young families. The buildings tend to be in older neighbourhoods and have little visible exposure. The buildings lack visual appeal or, in some case,s repel those who have never been inside. For those outsiders that do come in there may be little that appeals on the inside and facilities, basements, stairs, and seating may leave a negative impression. In many towns/cities the majority of the unsaved would not even know where the building is located.

To generalize the situation, experientially it seems to me that the assemblies that have experienced numerical growth and have young families have a building that is conducive to outreach. Buildings that are visible in a town or community, those that have plenty of parking and easy access are, generally speaking, the ones with larger numbers and younger families.

There are exceptions to what is presented here but again I would say this is more the norm. We also know the Lord is not limited and the building is only a means to an end but the current situation is worth some thought.

These thoughts hit home to me. Have we become so blind that we fail to see the very obvious practical issues that face us and create barriers between us and those seeking the Lord. Are we so complacent that the thought of moving, renovating or even building new is just too much work?

Did the Lord care about logistics?

I often think about how the Lord did things. He could have performed any miracle he wanted, but he still took the time to deal with practical details.  When he fed the 5000 (and more) he asked them to sit down in smaller groups. He did this because logistically it was much easier to disperse the food that way.

Being realistic

Let’s face it, people are skeptical about “Church”. With all the scandal in the news, people are cautious about going into buildings.  If there’s not clear visibility and access to see what’s going on, it could be a barrier to them coming in. If the foyer is cramped and there are a lot of people milling around it could make a person nervous to go all the way inside.

I would also like to suggest that if a building has an old “churchy” feel to it then it will be less inviting to many today. A person told me recently, “My colleagues I work with would think they are walking into an episode of Little House on the Prairie if they came to our church.”

Evaluate, Pray, Listen

So what are we to do? Firstly, evaluate. Take a look at your assembly building and ask the basic question of what kind of an atmosphere it creates. What changes could be made to help the assembly be more inviting and easier to access. Secondly, pray. Ask the Lord to give direction and wisdom as to whether or not he wants some changes. And lastly, listen. Be open to whatever the Lord has in store.

Maybe it means ripping out the pews and getting chairs, new lighting, audio/video system and decorating with a modern décor. Maybe it means tearing down a wall to the entrance and building a new glass foyer with a larger space that is more inviting. Maybe it means moving to a new location that has more visibility, access and land to build new.

Seek the Lord for even the logistical things so we can better glorify him and grow the kingdom of God.

Crawford Paul

Crawford is an elder at Rolling Meadows Bible Chapel in Ontario and has a passion for the assemblies. He and his wife Beth serve in various ways within the assembly to build up and encourage the believers. He is president of Legacy Ministries Canada, an organization focused on helping individual Christians, local churches and Christian organizations with financial, legal and governance matters. Check it out at legacycanada.org

3 Responses to Why Your Building Matters

  1. Barefoot Hippie Girl

    These are very practical thoughts. Our building is an old one room school house. Bathrooms, a kitchen, and an office has been built in, but there is no room. Not for a nursery. Not for SS classes. Not even for parents to take their children who might be acting out. I think it is a factor inhibiting our growth. Some people subscribe to the line of thinking that we should be grateful for the building God has provided. (we should). Gratefulness includes no improvements. Also, a building 40-80 years old is obviously much more spiritual than a newer building. I say that very tongue in cheek. But, I have heard more than one person say things along both those lines. Stubbornness and tradition does not equal godliness.

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    If we’re honest, buildings are also often such financial burdens. Why do we feel like we have to “go to the grave” with them? The roof needs replaced, and we put the stress of 15 grand on already financially limping families. Why are we doing this to ourselves? Sometimes, you’ve got to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. It is a temporal object that should not be held in higher priority than the spiritual condition of the actual members who are the Church. In addition it takes so much upkeep, which tires out and frustrates our best men and women who would much rather be involved in changing lives than carpet colors or shrubbery arrangements.

    Church buildings also cause issues with ever-changing geographical dynamics. What was once a local gathering has become known as a “regional assembly” and members are forced to travel near an hour to fellowship, and others are travelling an hour from the other direction – creating (at times) a two hour gap between the spiritual family. This puts strains on fellowship opportunities, and completely negates (in some cases) the outreach ability in the neighborhood of the building itself.

    Church buildings also can turn Spiritual gifts into custodial maintenance. What once were spiritually edifying empowerment’s are now bill paying and lawn mowing. The gifts of administration, helps, leadership, and service are much more kingdom of heaven advancing than we give them credit for. And what about the Spiritual gift of giving? There are men and women in the church who seek the face of God, and out of joy and desire, give and give again for the furtherance of Christ’s name: are we honoring their calling from God with our use of their offering? The answer may be yes in a variety of situations, but not every. Church buildings can be so helpful, and I understand that there are cycles to attendance, giving, and even body-life vibrancy, but may our allegiance be to Christ and each other… not earthly investments.

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    Ryan Hagey

    I’ve provided a similar comment in a different post, but I think the outward appearance of the people attending the assembly may also be an impediment keeping some people away. Not only do the buildings themselves look “traditional”, but the people attend many assemblies look traditional (e.g. suits and dresses). Simply put, I don’t think this is overly appealing to most people today and could be a barrier keeping some people away (I don’t think it is the only thing, but I do believe it’s on the list).

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