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Building for What Future?

Expectations and the economy are forcing churches to ask foundational questions.

As Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park, Illinois, began to max out its suburban Chicago facilities, leaders discussed construction of a larger worship center. But before fundraising began, a shift in the expectations of the congregation and early signs of a downturn in the economy caused the team to ask bigger—and deeper—questions.

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- ...

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