GROWING WITHOUT BUILDING
Faced with the costs of a building project, many churches go into "blueprint shock," somewhat akin to "sticker shock" for new-car buyers. With costs close to $80 per square foot, growing churches are looking for alternatives to construction. Here are some of the creative approaches.
Extra use from present space
The most cost-effective alternative is to maximize the use of the present facility.
Russell Rosser pastors First Baptist Church in Flushing, New York, which has grown to nearly a thousand in a plant where the sanctuary holds four hundred. Every square foot gets multiple use. A secretary's desk is in the hall, worship overflow space is used by four classes during Sunday school, and a congregation of two hundred meets in the basement while another congregation of five hundred fills the sanctuary and overflow.
"Our congregation is committed to utilizing facilities rather than protecting them," Rosser explains. "We had to give up the fortress mentality. It's impossible for groups or individuals to 'protect their turf' here, because so many people use the same turf. For instance, teachers have given up storage closets. That means the rooms don't always look neat because there isn't a place to put everything away. But we feel ministry is more important than keeping toys in order. Once people become committed to the bigger picture-reaching out-they can share facilities. We can replace a carpet that's getting worn; we don't have to guard it."
That commitment begins with Rosser and the staff. Some offices at First Baptist contain day beds or couches, allowing them to double as bedrooms at night for interns and visiting missionaries. The same offices, with the addition of a few chairs, become classrooms several times a week. "When the pastor models this freedom from ownership," Rosser reasons, "it's easier for the rest of the church."
Renting commercial space
With the burgeoning cost of land and construction, especially in rapid-growth areas, some churches have chosen to lease space.
School districts vary in their receptivity, but in some communities, an overflowing church can lease several schoolrooms for around $100 a Sunday. New churches often begin in a school; mature churches can use schools for expansion space.
For years, Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles leased classrooms and parking from two nearby private schools. No one found it particularly convenient to walk down the street to get to class, but the church could continue to grow.
Other churches need to lease space for all their activities. Jim Carpenter, who planted Chino (California) Fellowship Baptist Church, tells his story: "Three to five years into a new church's life, people get restless; they want to feel permanent. If they just rent space for Sunday, they feel vaguely unsettled-especially the pastor. When we came to that point, we didn't have the capital for land or buildings. But I discovered a half dozen congregations were leasing warehouse space in local industrial parks. The new ...