Until recently, churches responded to growing attendance by building larger facilities. But the faltering economy makes raising large sums for building projects harder to accomplish. And combined with the aversion of younger churchgoers to the bigger-is-better ministry philosophy, these tight-money days are demanding imaginative alternatives. For some churches, the question has become, "Should we build at all?"
"We have told many clients in the last couple years, 'You're not ready to build, because you aren't sure what your ministry is,'" said Ed Bahler of the Aspen Group, a church design firm. "So what once took a few weeks has become a six- to twelve-month process: determining what their vision is and what they really need to do that ministry." The firm now focuses on guiding church leaders through the vision process.
"People ask us what ministry will look like in ten years—with the impact of technology and the desire to attract younger people driving many of the choices they make today," Bahler said.
"For some of these churches, the answer is not a new building. They can't afford it, and it won't accomplish their true purpose. It may be renovation of older sanctuaries, or holding services on multiple sites and venues."
And for those who do build, it may be a very different building.
Instead of a larger worship center, one church built an additional, smaller worship space complete with stained glass, as an additional venue. Their study before building showed the Catholic backgrounds of many potential attenders created a desire for a church that feels like "church."
That's also a common desire among younger people, partly in reaction to the big-box multi-purpose warehouse-church decades.
Does this mean goodbye to the cafegymitorium? Perhaps. And perhaps, too, to the giant fundraising thermometer-tote board in the lobby.
Ed Bahler and Bill Couchenour, presidents of two independent church design and construction companies and co-founders of the Cornerstone Knowledge Network, have decades of hands-on experience when it comes to creating effective ministry space. Skye Jethani will be interviewing Bahler and Couchenour about what church leaders should do before they decide to build or renovate their facilities.Sign up for the live webinar on November 17th.
- Monthly issues on web and iPad
- Web exclusives and archives on Leadership Journal.net