Space and Facilities (Chapter 8)

I'm guessing that this group reading Small, Strong Congregations are meeting in maybe 16 of Callahan's 28 possible locations.  I'm fairly certain you aren't in brush arbors, wells and village circles, unless it's a temporary necessity because of damage from severe weather.  And I'm not aware of any of you meeting Sunday mornings in apartments and homes.  Each of the arrangements (volunteer, rent, lease, own) with our meeting locations bring their own blessings and limitations.  Donated sites easily become undonated.  Some rented or leased facilities mean setup and teardown each Sunday and "invisibility" for the church during the week.  Ownership means constly maintenance or refurbishing.  People's control issues get carried away in recently constructed facilities.

We have to check ourselves when we start thinking "if only we were in a buidling where..."  If we build it, they may or may not come.  They will rarely come and certainly won't stay just because of the facilities.

This past weekend I was in two churches, each with a 200+ year history and with classic-looking, older facilities.  One church, whose first pastor died just before the Great Awakening broke out in the 1740's, met in a sanctuary built before indoor plumbing.  Bathrooms are in the Education Wing a short walk across the parking lot away.  But they are holding six services each weekend to accommodate all the people who are coming.  The other church, nestled on a corner lot at a small crossroads across from the Methodist church, after a long decline seems to be moving from a survival to a service mode.  There were two kids there Sunday morning, but members were invited to get training in providing a safe atmosphere for the kids that would be coming.  There was enthusiasm about their harvest festival outreach to kids in their town and beginning clubs in the schools.

I think I experienced this past weekend:

  • mission not a mansion
  • family more than facility
  • sacred lives more than sacred spaces

Add your comments

What do you make of the two models Callahan presents:

  • Mission - team - future - service
  • Land - minister - members - building

What do you think of Callahan's advice of developing "generous, enduring gifts" to endow the building?  If any of you have experience in this area, what have you learned?

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Marty Guise on Oct 10, 2008 9:44am

While I was on staff at a church, I attempted to open the building for outside use. Although it looked traditional on the exterior, it was a gym inside.
The Session denied my petition stating that "someone might actually use it" and "It might cost a lot of money if people are in it." (No, I'm not kidding.)

I'm now a member of a church plant that meets at a school. After 5+ years, we are moving into a building phase. My plea to our leadership is to have a 7-day facility. Let's remember our mission and seek to build with that in mind.

I don't know if we will be able to overcome the "sacred spaces" mindset, but I pray we try.