How Important Is Your Building?
By Thom S. Rainer and Sam S. Rainer III
Editors Note: In many churches, the Men’s Ministry helps the pastor oversee church building maintenance and repairs. This article is presented to assist the Men’s Ministry Leader in assisting in this vial area.
The e-mail in our inbox began with a simple question: “What do the unchurched say about church buildings?” Asking the question was a group of church builders, including Cogun, Aspen Group and The Cornerstone
Knowledge Network, who wanted to convey to pastors what features, if any, of a church building help or hinder unchurched people in coming to church.
A study of this nature had never been completed, but our team knew based on a previous study that 42% of those currently attending a Protestant church were unchurched prior to their decision to attend that church. With such a large portion of congregations consisting of people who are new to church, could the actual church building have anything to do with attracting or pushing them away?
Recognizing this tangible aspect of how the unchurched view the Church is crucial to reaching them for Christ. So our researchers began the task of interviewing more than 350 people of different age groups from 45 states. The interviewees were all formerly unchurched and had recently joined a local body of believers.
In this artoc;e we’ll discuss their four main insights about church buildings.
1. The church facility plays an important role in attracting the unchurched. Each church body’s unique situation calls for a different type of style, venue and size, but in short, attractive, organized and well-maintained church facilities help attract the unchurched.
2. The church building is not the primary motivating factor for the unchurched. While the appearance of the church building is clearly important, it is not the primary reason the unchurched choose to attend. They go to church due to feeling a void in their lives, or because someone invited them. Therefore, the main factors are still the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and the obedience of churchgoers to the Great Commission in inviting their unchurched friends and neighbors.
3. The worship area is the unchurched’s favorite part of the church. The formerly unchurched group we interviewed declared the worship area to be the most important part of the church building. Our respondents ranked beauty, comfort and worship setting as the three key components of a worship area. Therefore, an attractive, comfortable and worshipful sanctuary is extremely important when drawing and keeping the unchurched.
4. The unchurched blame poor finances for unattractive buildings. Churches that did not have adequate or attractive buildings were perceived by the unchurched as underfunded. But the credit for attractive facilities was given to the leadership of the church. Church leaders need to know that pouring more money into their buildings is not a solution in itself. However, if little financial care is allotted to the church facilities, the formerly unchurched see lack of money as a major hurdle to their attendance.
Pastors and lay leaders can learn valuable lessons about their church building by viewing it through the eyes of the unchurched. Invite someone from the community who has never visited your church and ask them to write a step-by-step narrative of their experience in your church building and worship service. You may be surprised at what they say about your signage, seating, navigation and other aesthetics. What’s more, they may give you some fresh ideas on how to better draw visitors to your church.
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of Life Way Christian Resources (lifeway.com). Sam S. Rainer III is the president and CEO of Rainer Research (rainerresearch.com) and author of the Outreach blog, “Church Forward”
This article “How Important is a Building?” written by Thom S. Rainer and Sam S. Rainer III is excerpted from Outreach magazine a September/October 2007 edition.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat, throw away the bones.”