FACILITIES & Churches that base their decision solely on price get exactly what they are after #TonyMorgan

“5 Mistakes Churches Make with Building Projects” by Tony Morgan, 4/12/10.

Tony Morgan says “Churches that base their decision solely on price get exactly what they are after.”

(Thanks to Sarah for finding this.) Read more at … https://tonymorganlive.com/2010/04/12/5-mistakes-with-building-projects

UPDATE & Point of Grace Church Case-study from book: Growth by Accident, Death by Planning

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  I use case-study illustrations in my books. But sometimes what is a good example for a chapter, can later decline.  Forecasting who will be a good example over the long term is challenging.

But, when possible I like to give update.  Here is an email from a student (Jeremy G.) with an update on a church case-study from Growth by Accident, Death by Planning: How NOT to Kill a Growing Congregation (Abingdon Press).

Dr. Whitesel,

In reading the chapter about missteps in church facilities, I could not help but notice that you hailed Point of Grace Church in West Des Moines as an example of what to do when planning a facility… You may find it interesting that, in 2015, Point of Grace sold that facility to Lutheran Church of Hope, the fastest growing church in the state, because PoG couldn’t afford the upkeep. According to reports, the congregation began contracting shortly after construction of the facility was finished …

Here is an article in the Des Moines Register about the two churches. It contains a little of the history leading up to the selling/purchase of the property and shares the insights of Lutheran Church of Hope, which continues to grow at the Waukee location and several others across the Des Moines metro area.


… Lutheran Church of Hope cited many of the same rationales in the chapter for why they wanted to buy the property.


FACILITIES & The Usefulness/Uselessness of Gymnasiums

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 4/26/16.

Oftentimes my students bring up the usefulness and missional intent of gymnasiums.

Here is how one student put it: “The gym is never used as a gym…. To many people, it is a nice addition to our church building, but not worth the $2 million dollar price tag…. $2 million dollars is a LOT of money for a small town.  Because we did not see an increase in attendance, this put a lot of strain on the current membership of the church. This has tied up finances, which has influenced church ministry.  Although we have not used the gym as a gym, the church bought room dividers and have been able to use the room in a multitude of ways. It is a sanctuary, fellowship hall, gym, youth group room, and classroom as needed. It is the most flexible and (because it’s large and flexible) most widely used room in the church.”

I answered her this way, posing a question I would like to pose to you.

I stated, “Thanks for sharing how your church made a common misstep, when you noted, ‘The gym is never used as a gym, and the office area is nice, but not necessary. To many people, it is a nice addition to our church building, but not worth the $2 million dollar price tag’.”

My experience has been that gyms are typically underutilized.  And, though as you pointed out they can be used for other things (dividers can make them Sunday School rooms, or they can be an alternative sanctuary) a gym works best as: a gym.

One church I attended built what the pastor called a “sanctinasium,” combining the words sanctuary and gymnasiums.  He hired a popular college basketball player to be youth pastor.  And, he was a very adept youth leader.  In fact, he recruited local students to play basketball in the gym several nights a week.  But in a few years he was disappointed.  He told me that he only reached about 20-30 youth a night and it left out the non-athletes.  In hindsight, he wished the church had built a more multipurpose venue.

Thus my experience has been that if you are planning to build a gymnasium, look very carefully at other options or ways to build more flexibility into the typical gymnasium design.

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

ARCHITECTURE & 17 Avant-Garde Churches Bucking the Cathedral Standard

by Amy Schellenbaum, 6/17/14

churchesrounduplead.jpgThere’s no denying that architects, as a whole, have a huge fat crush on churches, chapels, and other houses of the holy. Yes, conversions (whether they be into glossy homes, otherworldly libraries, or ‘rock n roll’ restaurants) are popular, but there’s also ample evidence to support the idea that chapels are really fun to design from scratch, particularly if one could make the building look like a deluge of random crapavant-garde. There’s no shortage of churches that resemble skirts or spools of ribbon or eggs or—well, you get the idea. Here now, 17 wacky churches, from South Korea to Belgium to Calgary, Canada.”

Read more at … http://m.curbed.com/archives/2014/06/17/wacky-church-architecture.phpo

SMALL GROUPS & Should The Church Provide Oldenburg’s “Third Place?” Yes!

by Bob Whitesel, 5/15/14.

A student of mine found a helpful article titled Walls Do Talk by Paul Louis Metzger (http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2009/fall/wallsdotalk.html) and she noted that “he explores the importance of space in the Bible and how we can apply it to our own modern Churches. Metzger urges church planners to ask the question, ‘what space will help us have the greatest gospel impact– not just quantitatively (how many people can we accommodate?) but also qualitatively (how is this space forming people spiritually?).’ He questions many churches decisions to neutralize sacred space in order to comfort unchurched people, asking what are we giving up in return. An example he explores is coffee bars inside the foyers, are these fostering meaningful relationships that help these people further impact the kingdom? Or are they an outlet for comfort, consumerism and further division in the church? ‘Churches with coffee bars may have to work harder to ensure they are fostering community around the values of Christ rather than casual consumerism’.”

I responded that while I agree with much of Metzger (e.g. we need  a space that creates an atmosphere for the supernatural to be experienced), I also disagree somewhat with his observations that “… coffee bars inside the foyers, are these fostering meaningful relationships that help these people  further impact the kingdom? Or are they an outlet for comfort, consumerism and further division in the church? ‘Churches with coffee bars may have to work harder to ensure they are fostering community around the values of Christ rather than casual consumerism’.”

What I have found is that these coffee bars can create an important fellowship space (if done right).  My church has a coffee bar, but only with a few tables that are either too big for conversing (round and 8 feet in diameter) or too uncomfortable (low tables with hard back chairs).  But, Dan Kimball in an article titled, I Was Wrong About Church Buildings tells about how the church he pastored turned a fellowship hall in a former Presbyterian church into a coffee bar that is filled with people almost every day.  (See this link for a picture: http://www.vintagechurch.org/news/theabbey).

I think the idea should be to help a church become what Ray Oldenburg (1991, 1999) calls a “third place,” where people form social networks in a space that is not at home (their first place) and not at their work (the second place).  Oldenburg sees secular businesses capitalizing on these “third places” via bars, private fraternal organizations (Elks, VFW, etc.), sports bars (remember the TV show “Cheers”?), coffee bars (remember the “Friends” TV show), etc.

In my mind, I think the church could fulfill this third place part of the time.  You see, I don’t want to see us abandon the “third places” out there were we interact with non-churchgoers. But, I want to see the church be one of these third places where people can connect with other Christians for discipleship in an environment that is not at home or at work.

For an example of how one mega-church pastor and student of mine applied the Third Place concept, see this posting titled: FELLOWSHIP & A Cast Study of How On Mega-church Pastor/Student Created Oldenburg’s “Third Place”

Ray Oldenburg, The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community (Washington, DC: Marlowe & Company, 1999).

POST-CHRISTENDOM & An Afterlife for Europe’s Disused Places of Worship #NYTimes

by Celestine Bohlen, New York Times, 6/2/14

“… Perhaps nowhere is the plight of churches more stark than in the Netherlands, where about 1,000 Catholic churches — about two-thirds of the country’s total — are due to be shut down by 2025, a reorganization forced by a steady drop in attendance, baptisms and weddings. Those were the figures given by Cardinal Willem Eijk, archbishop of Utrecht, in a report delivered to Pope Francis last December.

This trend is building up to an ‘immense tsunami,’ said Ms. Grootswagers, council secretary for the Future for Religious Heritage. ‘Every day, there is a story in the papers about another church closing. Before, it was kept quiet. Now they are saying it in the open.’

From Italy to Estonia, communities are scrambling to find ways to save oft-beloved buildings from destruction, neglect, and in some cases the ravages of mass tourism. The status of religious buildings varies widely. In France, churches built before 1905 mostly belong to the municipalities. In Britain, most belong to the Church of England.”

Read more at … http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/world/europe/an-afterlife-for-europes-disused-places-of-worship.html?_r=1&referrer=