Check out the interior of any national chain store in your neighborhood (a grocery store, pharmacy, clothing store, restaurant, etc.). On average, retail businesses remodel their facilities every 4-7 years, and with good reason. There's something about "new": new additives to toothpaste, new vitamin potency in cereal, new models of cars, new versions of software. "New" attracts. By contrast, most churches renovate their facilities every 25-40 years, and some go even longer without an extreme home make-over.

If your church building is over 15 years old, it is probably a growth-restricting obstacle.

When it comes to church visitors, you don't have a second chance for a good first impression. And one of the first impressions visitors have of your church is its building; first the outside, then the inside. Visitors don't need to be professional architects to sense that the ceiling is too low, the halls too narrow, the windows outdated, or the color schemes from a different generation. As Marshall McLuhan once said, "the medium is the message." And your building is your medium.

The design and architecture of your church has a much bigger influence on your visitors than it does on your regular attendees. Why? The longer a person is at your church, the less he or she is able to see the building through the eyes of a newcomer. Members don't notice the rain marks in the ceiling, the chipped paint on the wall, the hole in the carpet. And those things don't really matter to long-time attendees, because they are coming for the people, the relationships, the fellowship, the spiritual growth; not the facilities. But for visitors with none of these reasons to attend, other things shape their first impressions…and your building is one of them.

Facilities also have an effect on a church's corporate self-esteem. The effect is similar to the way your house or apartment subtly influences your own self-esteem. If you live with junk in the backyard, unwashed dishes in the sink, dirty clothes on the floor, rooms in need of paint…it affects how you think of yourself, whether you realize it or not. And, with such an appearance, do you want company dropping in unannounced? Probably not. When you are expecting guests you probably pick up your clothes, clean the kitchen, and put on your house's best face. Why not have the same attitude about your church facility and the guests who are coming to visit God's house?

While nice facilities won't cause your church to grow, poor facilities can prevent it from growing.

What You Can Do About It

An outsider's perspective is quite valuable. Invite a friend or neighbor who has never been on your church campus to walk through the facility with you. The "visit" need not be on Sunday. First, drive by and around the church. Then park and walk toward, and eventually into, the building. Ask the person(s) to "free-flow" about their impressions, sharing what catches their attention, what they like, what they don't like, what they aren't sure about. Either take notes or use a recorder to document their comments. Tell them not to worry about hurt feelings—you want their honest first impressions.

Conduct this exercise at least three times with three different people. That way you don't end up putting too much stock into one person's opinions and taste. See if different people notice the same things. Finally, compile your notes into categories and review them. You don't need to make every suggested change, but you do need to know how visitors and newcomers see your facilities.

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