FACILITIES & right-size sanctuaries: converting part into classrooms, welcome centers & prayer spaces can create intimacy in the once larger space. Look for ways to earn income from facilities… lease out portions of your facilities, create local business hubs, develop shared working spaces, etc.

What Kinds of Churches Will Survive the Pandemic?

Which churches will thrive, which will struggle, and what is the way forward?

… Look at ways to right-size sanctuaries. Converting part of the sanctuary into classrooms, welcome centers and prayer spaces can create intimacy in the once larger space. And look for ways to monetize facilities. My co-author Mark DeYmaz suggests ways churches can lease out portions of their facilities, create local business hubs, develop shared working spaces, etc. to increase income from aging buildings. – @BobWhitesel via @OutreachMag

Read the full article here … https://outreachmagazine.com/resources/54174-what-kinds-of-churches-will-survive-the-pandemic.html

BUILDINGS & A church building craze exploded in the ‘70s and ‘80s and led to many sanctuaries that are outsized for their current congregation… But the cost of oversized facilities and their upkeep may mean that that even these churches have little resources available for unexpected expenses or low offerings. – @BobWhitesel via @OutreachMag buff.ly/2UTWevK

A church building craze exploded in the ‘70s and ‘80s and led to many sanctuaries that are outsized for their current congregation… But the cost of oversized facilities and their upkeep may mean that that even these churches have little resources available for unexpected expenses or low offerings. – @BobWhitesel via @OutreachMag

Read more here … buff.ly/2UTWevK

FACILITIES & Church Finds Creative Alternative to Building a Bigger Box

By Warren Bird, Leadership Network, 6/30/15.

The Heritage Square campus in Golden, CO, was once an old, rundown amusement park that now hosts thousands of people in more than four services each week.

Instead of sinking huge dollar amounts into a new facility for their rapidly expanding church, Shawn Johnson and his leadership team bucked conventional wisdom and battled their own egos to turn two unusual sites into what became, somewhat to their surprise, launching pads for even faster growth.

“There aren’t many people who can say they meet in a creepy theme park and a rundown dinner theater—but that’s us,” Shawn says of the Denver-metro-based Red Rocks Church. “We’re even looking for a third junky place no one else would want so we can reach even more people.”

As a church of 3,000 attenders in 2011, which had started with 6 people just 6 years previously, Shawn and his team were heading full-steam into planning a building project. “We were out of chairs, we were doing multiple services,” Shawn says. “Isn’t that what you do when you have lots of people and you’re out of room—raise millions of dollars and build a new facility?”

A Little Help from His Friends

Shawn posed his plan to the 35 senior leaders who were part of a Leadership Network-facilitated Rapid Growth Churches Leadership Community; and to a person, they advised him to find another way.

“All of them owned property,” says Shawn. “But all of those pastors said unanimously, ‘If we could go back in time and put ourselves in your position, we would not commission a multi-million dollar building and put ourselves in that kind of debt.’

“They told us we didn’t need a new building to reach more people. Instead they urged me, ‘Go find another creepy facility, use that and stay cheap.’ ” (Hear Shawn tell the story himself )

Read more at … http://leadnet.org/church_finds_creative_alternative_to_building_a_bigger_box/

FACILITIES & How North Point Church (Andy Stanley) Does Multiple Venues Right

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “As you may know, I advocate churches build more auditoriums of smaller size so that they can: 1) offer more culturally diverse worship options and 2) take advantage of the “Dunbar number” whereby smaller venues create more community.  (For more on the Dunbar Number can be found by searching this wiki.)  Here is how one student aptly describes how North Point Church (which Andy Stanley pastors) leverages two auditoriums with back-to-back backstages.”

A.P. (student) reply to Dr. Whitesel, 6/11/2015.

RE: Do you have an innovative church designed to share?

northpoint-mapNorth Point Community Church (Andy Stanley’s church) emphasizes their children’s programs and seeks to keep their worship spaces smaller to build community.   What they have done is to build large facilities for kids and families to worship together and they built two mirrored sanctuaries (back to back) to all space for kids and their families to grow and learn together ( you can learn more about their children’s programs in Deep and Wide) and the worship facilities are small enough to accommodate people without the feeling of the space being overly large.

I think, however, that I would include a greater space for common meeting.  A very large area for gathering between services would be wonderful (I would place it between the two sanctuaries and the children areas)  This space would have a large living room feel (couches, tables, circular seating) for people to congregate and build relationships

FACILITIES & Mega-church in a Mall? A Case Study #OrganicChurch

(Excerpted with permission from Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations by Bob Whitesel, Abingdon Press, 2006)

Chapter 3

Mars Hill, Grandville, MI

This is not your father’s mega-church.

A community preserves a sense of unity despite differences and forces that seek to splinter it… – Stiepan Mestrovic, postemotional sociologist and author[i]

First Encounters:

When visiting organic communities I have found it helpful to interview a person engaged in entry-level volunteer ministry. Such interactions often connect me with those who give an insightful appraisals. I soon encountered Doug Luyk, and explained to him the reason for my sojourn this morning with Mars Hill.

“This is a large church,” I mused. “What’s the key?” Expecting to hear about the pastor’s oratory skills, or about the church’s popular music ministry, Doug quickly replied, “It’s about small groups …. everyone needs to be in a small group. It’s the purpose and power behind Mars Hill. Small groups are the ‘church in the world,’ not just the church on Sunday.”

The remark was unexpected, but welcome. I wondered if Doug was a leader of a small group and thus might have a bias. But it soon became clear that Doug was simply a volunteer, who found small groups to be the glue that connected him to Mars Hill.

*OC Cover 64KDashboard (2006)

Church: Mars Hill

Leaders: Steve Webber (lead pastor), Rob Bell, Jr. (teaching pastor), Joe Hays (student ministries pastor), Denise Van Eck (community life pastor).

Location: The former Grandvillage Mall in Grandville, Michigan

Affiliation: Non-denominational.

Size: 10,000+ per week

Audience: people in their twenties to late-forties, middle to upper middle class, college/postmodern thinkers, multiple generations, dechurched and unchurched people

Website: http://www.mhbcmi.org

A Fusion of Rhythms:

Shared Rhythms

The Rhythm of Place

At first encounter, Mars Hill feels like a boomer mega-church,[ii] with a large auditorium filled three times on Sunday. The venue is a former mid-sized mall, in the auditorium of a former anchor tenant. With little decoration, the iron beams and metal roof give the impression of a warehouse; which could easily be mistaken for the habitat of boomers. However, a closer introspection of Mars Hill’s unassuming yet pervasive strategies reveals that this is not your father’ mega-church.

The Rhythm of Worship

The worship setting and format share common elements with boomer churches, perhaps more so than they do with many organic churches. Due to the congregation’s size, features of the organic church such as low-lighting, interactive stations, comfortable chairs, and the like were missing. And, the direct and concise format was similar to many boomer churches: twenty minutes of worship, an engaging sermon of forty minutes, followed by ten minutes of praise. Though the format was reminiscent of boomer congregations, the content was not, with a refreshingly modest and unpretentious spirit. This ability to create an unassuming ambiance amid a mega-sized congregation is a unique rhythm that will be discussed later in this chapter.

The worship music and its mode of presentation on the other hand paralleled other organic congregations. Worship songs by Matt Redman, Paul Oakley, and Delirious were given an edgy musical interpretation, that fused together a spiritual rallying call with personal submissiveness and introspection.

The culmination of this atmosphere led, as it so often does in organic congregations, not to an emphasis on the music, musicians, execution, or even my enjoyment … but rather on the majesty and supremacy of our Lord Jesus Christ…

Download the entire chapter here (not for public distribution … and if you like it or are helped please purchase the book): BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – OC Chpt.13 Mars Hill MI

Footnotes:

[i] Stjepan G. Mestrovic, Postemotional Society (London: SAGE Publications, 1997), p. 95. This is Mestrovic’s summation of Ferdinand Tonnies classic arguments on the distinctions between communities and societies in Community and Society (New York: Harper and Row, [1887] 1963).

[ii] Former city-planner turned church growth consultant Lyle Schaller, tendered the first well-known classifications of church size. He labeled churches over 700 attendees as “mini-denominations,” since they function as a network of sub-congregations (Lyle E. Schaller, The Multiple Staff and the Larger Church [Nashville: Abin

gdon Press, 1980], p. 28; see also George G. Hunter III, The Contagious Congregation [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1979], p. 63). Gary McIntosh in his book, One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Bringing Out the Best in Any Size Church (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Fleming H. Revell, 1999, pp. 17-19) labels churches over

400 “large” and notes the “organizational basis” of their focus. While these labels are better descriptors for ecclesial management, the more trendy mega-church label has prevailed in popular culture, and customarily describes a church of over 1000 weekend attendees.

COMMUNICATION & 7 Biblical Ways to Increase a Church’s Visibility – from my interview w/ Outreach Magazine

by Bob Whitesel, 2/25/15.  The following is from my interview with Outreach MagazineI was asked, “What you would want to convey to the church that says, ‘We aspire to be better known in our community’.”  Below are my thoughts about how to organically and biblically increase a church’s visibility.  (It is probably not what you anticipated.)

——————-

ELEVATE: Raise Your Visibility Before a Skeptical World

Today in an increasingly skeptical world, the church must move beyond branding and build a new, more powerful reputation.

15-MJ_BobWhitesel-300x225Here are 5 steps to elevating your visibility in a community.

1. Elevate the visibility of your need-meeting. Churches should be known as the place in a community where people go when they have a crisis. Churches that offer divorce recovery programs, grief support groups, 12-step programs, etc. increase their visibility as the primary place where needs are met in their community.

2.  Elevate the visibility of spiritual-change. People are looking for ways to change their lives and often psychologists or self-help programs are their first choice. While these can offer the physical change that people need, I believe only Christ can offer the spiritual change that people long for deep inside. So in the name of helping people better their physical lives, do not neglect their higher needs for a supernatural transformation that only comes through Christ.

3. Elevate the visibility of your openness and honesty. Churches often promote that they have the best program or the most exciting worship. But non-churchgoers sense that this is not the real purpose of the church. Acknowledge that your church doesn’t do everything well and sometimes you get fixated on your organizational needs. Then remind them that your church is a spiritual community, seeking to work together to draw closer to Christ.

4. Elevate the visibility of your unity in diversity. In an increasingly diverse world, people want to go to a church that mirror’s the diversity of God’s creation. But such diversity must not be only symbolic, but also heartfelt. It is important for people of diverse cultures to run the church together, to worship together and to learn from one another about cultural background and baggage. The church should be visible in the community as a place that not only promotes spiritual reconciliation to God, but also physical reconciliation between cultures.

5.  Elevate your visibility as a place to learn. People today have a conceptions of the church as a place that lectures and criticizes, rather than a place that promotes learning. Jesus gave us a Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) to “make learners.” Thus our goal must be to acquaint them with His words, while we exemplify how these words are lived out in community.

6.  Elevate your visibility as a place where everybody can find a place to fit. Emphasize smaller fellowship groupings within the larger whole. Most people today are not only looking for a large event, but also a smaller group where they can ask spiritual questions and receive support on their spiritual journey.

7. Elevate your visibility as a community that promotes and seeks God’s wisdom. The church should be known as a place of Bible-study and prayer. Thus it should be a place where people who are estranged from God or even just struggling in their relationship, will find people and prayer environments that will assist them in connecting to their heavenly Father. If a person in the community needs prayer, the first place they should think of is your church.

If you can’t elevate one or more of these areas, because they don’t yet exist in your church, then start with the easiest but don’t stop until you develop these seven ways to elevate an organically spiritual and Biblical visibility.

CLICK HERE to download the entire article with contributions by my colleagues Len Sweet, Will Mancini, Tony Morgan and Tom Bandy: ARTICLE ©Whitesel Beyond Branding OUTREACH Mag

And HERE IS A LINK to the online version: http://www.outreachmagazine.com/features/11582-raise-your-visibility-before-a-skeptical-world.html

FACILITIES & The 7 Don’ts & 7 Do’s of Building

by Bob Whitesel. (Download the chapter HERE: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – GROWTH BY ACCIDENT Missteps with New Facilities 2. If you like the insights please support publisher and author by buying a copy here. Excerpted from Growth by Accident – Death by Planning: How Not to Kill a Growing Church, Abingdon Press, 2004, pp. 76-80.)

1.  Don’t build too soon. Oftentimes a rented or paid-for facility will be less expensive to operate than a new facility. Though architects often laud cost savings of new facilities, they may require large unforeseen expenditures. Repairing a boiler in an existing facility might cost $8,000 to $10,000. But in a new facility, the same size of congregation might have to pay twice to three times that amount. And though a builder/architect may suggest that this would not happen for years, it happened with in the first five years at Mt Sinai. Thus, building cautiously and patiently can help generate a fiscal reserve.

2.  Don’t build too big. Under advice of their architect/builder, and based upon their own overly optimistic projections, the church leaders built a facility that was oversized for their congregation, and their budget. We saw in Chapter 2 how multiple weekend celebrations can give the church more options for attracting community residents. And the four Sunday services at Mt. Sinai provided this benefit. Yet naively, the leaders decided to hold one large combined church service in the new facility. Thus, robbing the Sunday services of their flexibility and convenience, they undermined their attendance. “We all agreed we wanted everyone together, and only one service was the way to do it,” recollected Tim. “But we didn’t expect such a drop-off in attendance.”

3. Don’t build without flexibility. Renovated and rented facilities had given Mt. Zion Church needed flexibility. If they needed to change their usage or space requirements, a different site could be rented. And due to the cramped facilities, multi-functional areas were mandated. But when the new facility was built, many ministries were segregated into activity-specific spaces. Immovable pews were installed in the auditorium, small classrooms were designed, separated by load-bearing cement walls. Since church members were tired of years of cramped and communal space, they tried to give everyone their own area in the new facility. “Everyone was going to have their own rooms at last,” mused Tim. But creating these private enclaves weakened the flexibility that had contributed to growth.

4. Don’t use a plateaued church for your model. Mt. Zion’s leaders had visited several seemingly successful churches in the region. Unfortunately, they did not ask if these churches were plateaued or declining. Of the five churches they visited, two were declining and two were plateaued. But their impressive facilities kept Mt. Zion’s leaders from looking closer. The architect/builder who had designed the lone growing church was rejected in Tim’s words as “too wild for us, it looks like a mall.”

5. Don’t build in a detached location. The building site was an area where many of the leaders would have liked to live and worship. But unlike their first facility (and the rented spaces downtown) it lacked visibility. “It was on a moderately traveled road,” suggested Tim. “But it was across town from the main highway. I really wish we had built adjacent to Route 20.” Visibility is one of the keys to outreach. But unfortunately, churches often link their destiny to a parcel of land that is convenient for current attendees, but in a detached location that slows or undercuts growth.

6. Don’t forget to get information from the right experts. Church leaders thought they were getting the best advice available when they hired the architect/builder of another large and prestigious church. In fact, he had built dozens of churches. But because most of the churches in America are declining or plateaued, the architect/builder was inadvertently experienced in building facilities that contributed to church plateaus and/or declinations.

7. Don’t expect new facilities to increase the church’s attendance. Related to errors two and six above, this must be mentioned again because it is so prevalent in the sales pitch of many architects/builders. As I noted earlier Christians are an optimistic lot. And in my experience architect/builders succumb to this malady just as easily. Together they can give overly aggressive projections. “The architect advised us on church growth projections. He said a new facility would increase our attendance by 10-15 percent,” recalled Tim. “He said they were based on his company’s history. But now I question his figures.” While architects and builders are experts in legal codes, and civil engineering; few are acquainted with the principles and strategies of church growth.

Seven Do’s When Building a Facility

Each of the above Seven Errors have a positive alternative. I have labeled these corrective steps the “Seven Dos When Building a Facility.”

Corrective Step 1. Do wait longer than you think you should before you build. This may require restraint, but waiting can help you further define your needs and objectives. Patience also allows fiscal swings to moderate and more precise financial projections to be created. More money can be set aside for savings as well. Finally, cautious and unhurried behavior allows you to plan your future more precisely.

Corrective Step 2.  Do build a smaller sized auditorium, leaving room for expansion. Creating spaces where everyone can worship simultaneously may not be needed (combined “unity” gatherings can be held in rented facilities[i]), nor wise (we saw in Chapter 2 that multiple celebration options allow us to reach a greater percentage of a community).

Corrective Step 3.  Do create flexibility in your facility, to compensate for the smaller size. Though a smaller facility can cause tension and minor friction, it can lead to creativity. And, sharing facilities forces an expanding congregation to interact and work out this conflict, thus creating interaction between potentially divisive groups.[ii] Designing flexible spaces also provides adaptability for future programming.

Corrective Step 4.  Do use a larger, but growing church as your model. Don’t let impressive facilities and/or reputations dissuade you from discovering if your model church is growing. Ask yourself, does the architect/builder build growing churches or plateaued/declining ones? In addition, ask the architect/builder for references and interview former clients. Ask the references if they feel the facilities have hindered growth to any degree.

Corrective Step 5.  Do build in a visible location. For unchurched and dechurched people accessibility is essential. Robert Schuller tells how fellow clergypersons extended to him their condolences when he could find no other facility to rent other than a drive-in theatre. “Don’t feel sorry for me,” Schuller replied. “The Orange Drive-In Theatre is right on the Santa Ana Freeway, and that’s the heaviest traveled road in the State of California. … Nobody has a better road leading up to their front door than I do! And you have to have a road leading up to your front door before you need a building.”[iii]

Corrective Step 6.  Do get advice from the right experts. Seek out architect/builders who build malls, theatres, and colleges rather than churches. Churches are often designed with a formulaic look and inadequate flexibility. Here I cannot fault architect/builders too much. Most of their church building experience revolves around aging congregations, who are building smaller facilities or merging. As such, these architects have little experience with facilities that foster connectedness and growth. Today, the architects of malls and shopping centers are becoming the designers of connectedness in America. Malls have replaced the streets of small town America as the venue for meeting people and relationship building. One young teenager confided, “It’s at the mall where I feel at home with my friends. There’s a coffee bar, comfortable couches, TVs, a fountain, and lots of people hanging out. It sure beats church.” Unfortunately, the church is being beat by the sense of community created by many of these retail environments. Where once it was said, “I met my spouse at church,” too often today it is heard, “I met my spouse at the mall.”

Corrective Step 7.  Do plan on the size of your church to plateau or even decline moderately after a building project. Change always brings about tension, and as a result polarization between the status quo and change proponents often erupts. In the second book of this series, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It [iv] I explained how you can avoid the polarization that often arises between these groups. But because change is unavoidable, tension will be encountered. Therefore the tension involved in moving into new facilities does not usually grow a church. And because some people find this change especially jarring, they look for a congregation more in keeping with their former church experience. Thus, a decline should be anticipated in budget and usage projections. Hiring an expert in church growth can be expeditious for realistic planning. The American Society for Church Growth (www.ascg.org) lists dozens of church growth consultants trained and skilled in helping churches navigate the precipitous waters of growth, change, and facility expansion.

Read more in Growth by Accident – Death by Planning: How Not to Kill a Growing Church

[i] For ideas on “unity celebrations” that can unify churches with multiple weekend worship options, see “Unity Building Exercises” in A House Divided, p. 187.

[ii] See the second book in this series, Staying Power: Why People Leave the Church Over Change and What You Can Do About It, to discover how to keep your people from coalescing into factions.

[iii] Robert H. Schuller, Your Church Has A Fantastic Future (Ventura, Calif.” Regal Books, 1986), p. 286.

[iv] Bob Whitesel, Staying Power, op. cit.