How to Maximize Your Current Space


Situation: When the church building was new, the worship space was allowed growing room yet was full enough not to feel empty- Every class had enough space. The pastor’s study appeared made to order. The new kitchen and fellowship hall made church dinners a breeze. The building seemed a perfect fit.

But over the years the church has changed-grown in many areas, dropped off in others. On Sunday mornings now, a couple of classes have standing room only, while a beautifully paneled room used by the Home-Builders Class stands three-quarters empty. The new seven- day-a-week single-adult ministry not even dreamed of until recently is held back by inappropriate space. And about once a month, worship needs the overflow room.

A couple of deacons are starting to talk “new building,” but others favor a simpler solution: reconfiguration of the present building. Knock out a few walls; add a few others. Do whatever it takes to make the building work. Maybe this church doesn’t need a new suit, but just a few alterations to accommodate bulges that weren’t there originally.

The Principle of Use

If your church’s situation is something like this and you’re thinking remodel, you’re on the right track.

Principle: Your church doesn’t need more space until it’s fully using the space it already has.

By vigorously applying this “principle of use,” I’ve found most churches that ask me to design new buildings actually don’t need to build. Worth considering? By more fully utilizing existing facilities and redesigning them for multiple use, most congregations can grow to double or even triple the number of worshipers for which the building was originally designed, and do it without a major building program.

Seven Steps to Full Use

How can your church get the most out of its building? I recommend a seven-step process. While remodeling may yet become necessary, it comes after this process, not before.

Step 1: List your Space Needs

a floor plan of your building, write down what happens in each room during the various hours of the week. For each, evaluate: Is the present space adequate? If not, what size and kind of space is needed?

Do the same for each church activity taking place away from church.

Next: Project space needs for each of these ministries-and any being planned-for five years from now. Designate the amount of space needed and any special requirements, such as location, accessibility, and acoustics.

Step 2: Match group size to room size. Many churches have at least one little class in a big room and one big class in a little room. Simply moving classes around can relieve space pressure.

Another solution: Change group sizes to fit your rooms. You can divide large classes or combine smaller classes and switch to a team-teaching approach.

Step 3: Change furniture: You can increase worship seating up to 20 percent by replacing pews with individual seating. If that seating is movable, the room also becomes available for other uses. Additional ideas:

* A room that uses appropriate tables and chairs can hold twice as many people as one filled with overstuffed furniture.

* Children’s classrooms suddenly grow when adult-size furniture is replaced with children’s furniture.

* For preschool or kindergarten classes, consider moving the furniture out and seating the children on a carpeted floor. Oversize play equipment-such as a slide-wastes space.

* If the nursery is crowded, replace full-size cribs with half-size or stacked cribs.

Step 5: Find new uses for space not already fully used. Example: A Pennsylvania church with excess worship seating removed several back rows and installed room dividers, carving out needed space for a foyer, a fellowship area, and a Sunday school class.

Some churches use folding walls to divide large foyers for Sunday school space and then open them before people arrive for worship.

Step 5: Build a storage building. One church was able to empty out three rooms after erecting a storage shed, an inexpensive way to add lots of space.

Step 6: Use creative scheduling

Multiple Sunday services and Sunday school sessions are a must for almost any fast-growing church, but you don’t have to stop there. How about an additional worship service or “Sunday” school session at another time?

Example: One children’s ministry brought in scores of children from the community by meeting on Saturday. Because they gathered when there wasn’t a worship service, they could use the only space big enough – the worship area.

Step 7: Use alternative space. Every community has meeting space churches may use, often just for the asking – homes, motel party rooms, schools, lodge halls, community rooms in banks or apartment complexes. Benefit: Young-singles classes often work better in restaurants than in church buildings. Some people who are uncomfortable coming to a church building will gladly participate in groups that meet elsewhere.

Then You May Build

You may try steps one through seven and still need minor remodeling or a modest addition. Some considerations to keep it simple:

Can you increase usable space by taking a wall out? Putting a wall in? Installing a folding wall across part of the foyer? Enclosing a hall-way with a folding wall?

Would a larger foyer make multiple worship services practical by giving worshipers a place other than the worship area in which to visit between services?

Could remodeling bring scattered staff offices together into a single administrative complex, enhancing teamwork and making the staff more accessible to the community and one another? With creative planning and the willingness to try new approaches, your church may be able to get more use from its building than you ever dreamed.

(The above material was published by ‘Your Church’, August 1991)

Christian Information Network