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 & Megachurch Expands Reach by Downsizing Main Facility

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  I’ve written a chapter in one of my books about how “over building” usually stunts church growth (you can read that chapter, the “The 7 Don’ts & 7 Do’s of Building” here).  Below is a recent story about how over building has thwarted one church’s missional flexibility.

(Download the chapter from my book by clicking on this link > 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.)

“Southern Baptist megachurch to downsize its campus by 90 percent.”

by Bob Allen, Baptist News Service, 9/10/19.

First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, once one of America’s most influential megachurches, determined Sept. 8 to downsize its downtown property footprint by 90 percent in a cost-cutting move the senior pastor described as necessary for the church’s long-term survival.

Under the leadership of pastors and co-pastors Homer Lindsay Sr., Homer Lindsay Jr. and Jerry Vines, First Baptist Church earned the nickname Miracle of Downtown Jacksonville after buying up real estate left behind when department stores and smaller retailers started relocating into suburban malls in the 1970s.

Today the church covers 10 city blocks with buildings including a sanctuary built to seat nearly 10,000 people that was dedicated in 1993.

image.pngHeath Lambert, named last year as sole senior pastor of First Baptist, said once a blessing, the congregation’s central location has become a curse as the city continues to expand farther away from its urban core.

“If you want to get people to come to First Baptist Church on Sunday morning, you have to get them to do two things they never do,” Lambert said during his Sunday morning sermon. “You have to get them to come to church, and you have to get them to come downtown.”

Lambert said that after 20 years of declining membership, the downtown church needs about one-tenth of its current space. Plans approved by the congregation on Sunday call for consolidating all operations into one city block.



“What we can’t do on one block, we won’t do,” the pastor said.

The plan includes borrowing $30 million to renovate Hobson Auditorium, the original 1,500-seat worship space built after a fire destroyed much of downtown Jacksonville in 1901, and to replace other buildings now used for offices with state-of-the-art construction.

Lambert said the church will eventually sell off downtown property and move toward a multi-site church model. The church currently has a south campus in Nocatee, which moved into its own building after meeting at Ponte Vedra High School for a decade in 2019.

“Instead of being the big church downtown that we ask everybody from all over to come to, we want to be a church for the whole city,” Lambert said. “Instead of asking our city to come to our church, we’re going to take our church to the city.”

Read more here … https://baptistnews.com/article/southern-baptist-megachurch-to-downsize-its-campus-by-90-percent/#.XXkddC3MywQ

FACILITIES & Minnesota church flipper gives empty religious buildings new life

FACILITIES & The do’s and don’ts of renting your church facility #ChurchExecutiveMagazine

by Eric Spacek, JD, ARM, Church Executive Magazine, 2016.

Opening your church’s doors to outside organizations is another way to extend your ministry into your community — but it might also open the door for safety and liability issues, such as property damage, theft, or tumbles on slippery surfaces.

With smart planning, trusted use policies and a thorough review process, it’s possible to protect your place of worship and be a good neighbor. Keep these considerations in mind when renting your facility:

DO set ground rules. Saying “yes” or “no” to use requests is much easier when you have streamlined guidelines in place — guidelines influenced by legal and financial advisors. Create a go-to facility use policy that includes, but is not limited to, the following factors:

• Will you allow members of the public or outside organizations to rent your facility, or limit it to church or ministry uses? Note that opening your facility to the public can have potential tax and/or legal liability implications.

• Which rooms in your church (the sanctuary, fellowship hall, classrooms, kitchen and nursery, for instance) are open to users, and which aren’t?

• What will you charge for rental fees and related expenses? Will church members pay less than nonmembers?

• Who is responsible for setup and cleanup?

• Will you allow sales during events?

• Do church members get priority if two groups want the space at the same time?

• Must someone from the church be present when an outside group uses the facility?

• Must childcare providers be selected and screened by your church?

• How will damage, injury or theft be handled?

DON’T make decisions alone. Form a team of church leaders, plus legal and financial counsel, to approve or deny rental requests depending on the organization, the type of event, and potential legal and tax implications. The approvals team should document their decisions.

DO ask questions. Before giving a group the green light to use your church’s space, do your homework. Find out what specific type of event the group is hosting, approximately how many people will attend, which room(s) the group needs, and how exactly participants will use the space. When possible, check venue references at places where the group has held past events.

DON’T skimp on insurance. Make sure that any group that rents space in your church has insurance coverage limits that are equal to or higher than your church’s insurance policy limits, and confirm that the group names your church as an additional insured on their policies. Secure proof that your church has been named as an additional insured on their insurance.

Read more at … https://churchexecutive.com/archives/insurance-essentials-9


FACILITIES & What should be considered before renting space in a church?

by Deborah Miller, CCA and Charles Kneyse, Church Professionals LLC, 2015.

…What should be considered before renting space in a church?

Often church buildings sit idle much of the time. It would seem that if your church leaders could find a way to increase your building’s utilization it would demonstrate better stewardship of what God has entrusted to the church. And besides, it might even provide another way that your church could reach out to your community.

But because churches hold a special status in our society—that of a tax-exempt organization—a church renting extra space to a for-profit could result in costly problems for the church—costs well beyond the church’s ability to pay.

Property Taxes
One of a variety of taxes that churches are exempt from is property tax. Generally the property values of churches can be in the hundreds of thousands, if not the millions, of dollars. If a church was on the local property tax rolls, the amount of taxes that it would be obligated to pay would be thousands of dollars annually. Instead the church pays nothing.

But the reason that churches pay nothing is important. As long as a church’s property is used exclusively for programs and activities that furthers its exempt purpose as a charitable, educational and/or religious organization, it most likely will not be required to pay any property tax. But because property tax laws can vary so much from state to state, and even from county to county, we recommend that churches seek qualified legal counsel if they wish to let another organization use any part of its facilities or property.

Much of what a church can and cannot do depends on what its legal documents state is the “why” of a church’s existence.
One of the questions that a good attorney will ask church leaders is what is your organization’s purpose? A good place to look for the answer is your church’s governing documents, its Articles of Incorporation and/or its Bylaws. In fact, that’s probably where any inquiring taxing authorities would look, too. So if your church’s tax exempt purposes were drawn up too narrowly many years ago, we suggest that they be revisited and maybe even revised sooner rather than later. Much of what a church can and cannot do depends on what its legal documents state is the why of a church’s existence.

Returning to the issue of property tax exemptions, some states allow church facilities to be used up to a certain percentage of the time for non-exempt activities—even for-profit organizations—without requiring that they pay property taxes. Other states set the bar much higher, not allowing any non-church group—even other tax-exempt ones—to use church facilities before requiring that property taxes are owed. In a worse case situation a church’s property tax exemption could conceivably be revoked altogether. Could your church afford to pay the resulting tax bill?

Sorry, but asking the church down the street how they’re able to have a day-care operate in their building is not a prudent way to proceed—instead contact an attorney who is qualified to advise your church about local property tax laws and ordinances…

Read more at …


FACILITIES & 8 tips for making the most of your church’s space

by United Methodist Church, Communications Dept., n.d.

Opening your doors to the community can do two things. First, you expand your congregation’s role in the community. Second, you might help the church’s bottom line. Here are eight ideas to get you started…

Involve your congregation before opening your facility doors. Seek their ideas, address concerns and work together to create a facility-use plan that meets a variety of needs. Appoint a church employee to oversee the facility schedule…

Rent rooms.
Many churches already do this, but most can do it more successfully by expanding their marketing. Some possibilities include:

  • Advertise room rentals on your Web site. Include costs and an up-to-date calendar, if possible. Make sure to identify how many people each room can accommodate and the various set-up styles available (theater, round tables, etc.).
  • Hold an open house for leaders of your community’s nonprofit, charitable, educational and arts organizations to tour the available spaces.
  • Put rental fliers on public bulletin boards in bookstores, cafes and supermarkets.
  • Advertise space availability on your church’s Facebook page.
  • Post an ad on Craigslist.com. Although it is a national site, it is divided into geographical areas. Listings are free.

Host a food pantry.
Few tasks are more basic to a church’s mission than helping to feed the hungry. Start a food pantry or give space to a community pantry. Central Community United Methodist Church of Shell Knob, Mo., hosts a two-days-a-week pantry sponsored by its community alliance of churches. Food pantries require ongoing space to store donations and pickup space to distribute food…

Share space.
When the single Sunday morning service ended at Cove United Methodist Church, Lakewood, Ohio, the worship sanctuary sat silent. Now, it comes alive later in the morning when the Lakewood Christian Church, which sold its building recently, holds its services. As churches of all denominations face declining congregations and increasing costs, sharing service space can make sense in the right situations. Such decisions should involve members from the host church, and both congregations should outline each other’s rights and responsibilities in a formal, written agreement.

Talk to counsel.
Options may involve bringing in groups outside your congregation. It’s a good idea to consult an attorney—perhaps a member of the congregation—regarding legal or tax consequences of renting space. In this “Just Ask” online forum, a tax attorney responds to an inquiry about endangering the church’s exempt status if it rents space. While he gives a quick response, consulting an attorney who is familiar with your church is critical. Your attorney or insurance adviser also can identify your liability and protection if someone gets injured at your facility and what steps you can take to minimize your liability.

Read more at … http://www.umcom.org/learn/8-tips-for-making-the-most-of-your-churchs-space

SMALL CHURCHES & How to increase community impact by making your facility available to emerging cultures in your community. #EdStetzer #TheExchange #CT

by Ed Stetzer, The Exchange, 2/27/18.

… Typically, small churches use their facilities no more than six hours per week. The other 162 hours of the week buildings sit empty and woefully underused. Open your property to a church plant in need of a place to worship. Invite the local addiction recovery chapter to meet in your building for as long as they want. Offer to provide coffee and cookies baked by a different member each week.

Neighborhood association meetings are often looking for a place to hold gatherings. These take place no more than once a month (usually much less frequently) and are a wonderful way to get people to come to your building. Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops are always looking for places to hold weekly meetings. Let your building(s) be a blessing to your community. Value relationships with your neighbors more than you value the cleanliness of the carpet in your sanctuary.

Serving people is more important than a pristine fellowship hall. Your community will soon take note of which churches care about them and which churches care only about themselves. Be the former, not the latter.

One of the most successful ways of serving your community is to offer a free night of babysitting so parents can have a date night. Sometimes this is structured around Christmas so parents can shop together without having to bring their kids and hide purchases.

Often it is simply a random Friday or Saturday evening where parents can spend an evening strengthening their marriage without shelling out $20–$40 on a babysitter. The kids are served a meal, presented a Bible lesson, and allowed to play together.

At pickup, church members tell parents about one unique thing their child(ren) did that night, showing that each child was valued. It is also a time where families can be invited to attend worship the following Sunday. Something as simple as taking down their name, address, or email for the promise of inviting them to future ‘Date Night’ babysitting events produces a ready-made list of prospects for future contact and evangelism.

In any way that you use your building(s) to serve your community, make sure you have members at each meeting to unlock the facilities and to welcome all who enter. They are there to assist, not to eavesdrop on the meetings.

A warm welcome goes a long way towards showing them you really care about them, not simply that you’re begrudgingly providing a community service. And it should go without saying, but just so no one misunderstands, all of these opportunities should be rent-free for the users. Don’t try to make a buck off of your community. Don’t even justify it as covering your costs.

Excerpted from “Getting Small Churches on Mission (Part 3).” Read more at … http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/february/getting-small-churches-on-mission-part-3.html

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

FACILITIES & A Video Introduction to Avoiding Missteps w/ Ministry Facilities

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/17/17.

In this video introduction I explain how missteps with facility expansion, renovation or even just reallocation can severely hinder church health.  If you are a colleague, student, client or friend who would like to undertake an exercise designed to help you analyze past missteps and how to avoid them, start with this video intro.  Then read a chapter on this I have penned available 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. The download is excerpted from my book: Growth by Accident – Death by Planning: How Not to Kill a Growing Church, Abingdon Press, 2004, pp. 76-80.)

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.


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.

FACILITIES & An Example of a Floor-plan That Promotes Multiple Venues

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 4/25/16.

One of the most cost-effective yet efficient tactics to reach multiple cultures is to offer multiple worship expressions within the same church facility. But unfortunately, most churches are built to hold only one worship celebration at a time. We should learn from movie theaters, who long ago abandoned the one-theater/one-screen to embrace the multiple screen approach (see the interesting history of movie mulitplex here). This allows them to reach out to multiple movie-going cultures at the same time.

I’ve posted elsewhere on this wiki- a leadership exercise to help leaders visualize multiple venue and multiple culture church designs. The attached map is a church in Southern California that is reaching out with multiple worship services at the same time.  Here is the description a friend gave when he visited.

Multiple_Worship_Services_SoCal“A few years ago I visited and was blown away by the number of services they offered, and the way they truly embraced the southern California culture.  Honestly, I felt dressed up and I was wearing pants, nice shirt (untucked), and sandals.  Anyway, regarding their campus layout they have a service for everyone.  Their worship center hosted their main service, where the pastor taught, and the worship was very similar that you would find in most modern churches – mix of acoustic guitar, keyboard, drums, etc..  Outside the worship center, people were seated on the pavilion.  Here people could casually check out the service, while enjoying the beauty of southern California.  Other areas of their campus had different styles of worship, but they all showed the pastor’s message, except the youth service, which had their own message.  The “Plaza Room” and “Terrace Cafe” had a traditional feel where people sang hymns before the message.  Tent 2 was rockin!  Worship is this tent was alternative.  They labeled it by saying it had a ‘Vineyard feel.’  Since I work at a Vineyard Church, I chuckled at this because the worship consisted of some screaming guitar, and people don’t like the screaming guitar when we have it on a Sunday morning.  Tent 3 was a Spanish service.  Tent 1 – I don’t know what was in tent 1.  However, there was a wide range of opportunities for people to check out, and I found it to be very non-threatening.  Also, because the parking was so far away, there was little congestion.  Overall, it was a great experience, and I was amazed at all the different venues they had on one campus.”

Any idea which church this might be and who might be the pastor.  The pastor and I earned our Doctor of Ministry degrees at Fuller Seminary in the same program.  As a result he wrote a book about what he learned (any idea about the name of that book?).

Granted, this floor-plan is from sunny So Cal, but couldn’t this be adapted to more northern climes with a covered mall-type roof over the common areas? The average church couldn’t do this of course, but a mega-church could learn much from this design. And, since some of my readers will be leading (or advising) a mega church one day, I wanted them to be familiar with this design.

For more ideas about multiple venues see these wiki- articles:

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

FACILITIES & Building a New Church Auditorium, Research Suggests Millennials Prefer This Size

FACILITIES & Church Finds Creative Alternative to Building a Bigger Box

VENUES & Are We Dividing the Church With Separate Celebrations? Maybe so, but for a mission

FACILITIES & A Case Study of A Church The State Bypassed – Literally.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/19/15.

Another question regarding facilities is the usefulness of leasing and/or renting a facility.  Here is a short case study created from a student’s actual situation.

The student wrote,

“My church is at an interesting crossroads.  The church building was built 11 years ago at the cost of approximately $500,000.  The property was located on a busy road that ran into a busy highway.  So, all was good.  The previous pastor bought an additional 12 acres of land and added 6 new classrooms onto the back of the building.  All of this added another $350,000 to the debt.  No problem, the church was growing.

“However, the state came in at cut the road off from the highway.  This was six years ago, just prior to me coming to the church.  So now we have a church that is difficult to get to, sits back on a hill on a corner, so you can pass it and not even realize you passed a church.

“All that being said, we are now a neighborhood church that even GPS has trouble finding.  In addition, I have a growing youth and children population in the church and we need a facility for them.  So my dilemma is ‘Do I build on this site?’ or ‘Do I build at all?’ because I want to get the debt down and money is tight.”

Such experiences may be why many emerging churches are choosing to lease their facilities, so that they can move with missional intent.

FACILITIES & Floor Plans That Promote Multiple Venues (a leadership exercise)

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., 11/13/15.

QUOTE: “As you know, Sunday morning continues to be the major time that unchurched people are the least busy and when they will visit a church.  Thus, we should offer as many culturally relevant worship encounters as possible, to lead as many different cultures as possible to an encounter with Christ.” 

A Leadership Exercise:

This is a leadership exercise designed for churches (or students) who are considering facility expansion.  It is designed to help leaders think creativity about church designs that will equally promote church expansion and health.

Search on the Internet and find a church floor plan (i.e. the diagram of the floor/room layout an architect might use).

The floor plan should be one that promotes multiple worship encounters.

In other words, the floor plan should allow:

  • multiple worship encounters (services) to be held at the same time,
  • so that 2+ (the more the better) different worship services in different styles could be held at the same time,
  • with a minimum of congestion before and after the encounters.

This is a fun little exercise to look for church floor plans that allow a church to hold multiple worship services at the same time. Be sure to look for floorplans that allow people to enter and exit as well as have spaces for fellowship between services. And, it should also be a floor plan that allows several sub-congregations to worship at the same time in different styles in and different parts of the same building.

Post a paragraph about why you think this floor plan promotes multiple worship encounters.

Here are some hints for finding church floor plans:

  • Many churches will have “maps” of the church available under “newcomer” or “visitor” information on their website.
  • Churches that are building new facilities will usually have floor plans on their website too.
  • Church architects will often show church floor plans on their websites (but be careful, as you noticed in your reading my research has led me to conclude that most architects who build churches build them in such as way that they do not promote multiples services).
  • Also, if any of you have hints about where other leaders could find such floor plans, share those URLs here too (more points can be garnered).
  • A good way to do this is to search the Internet for “church floorplans” and look through the images you find.  Then pick one that you think would promote multiple simultaneous worship options.  Logically in my courses, the best examples garner the most points.

Surf the Internet for a floor plan that promotes multiple worship encounters at the same location and share that floor plan with a one paragraph explanation about why it promotes multiple worship encounters.

Then comment on at least two other leaders’ diagrams/analysis bringing in 2-3 relevant textbooks and 3-5 relevant outside sources.

As you know, Sunday morning continues to be the major time that unchurched people are the least busy and when they will visit a church.  Thus, we should offer as many culturally relevant worship encounters as possible, to lead as many different cultures as possible to an encounter with Christ.

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

BUDGETING & Benchmarks for Church Finances from 4 Scholars

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  “Below are excerpts from writings of five nationally-recognized scholars on suggested benchmarks for church budgets. Compare these with your budgets and expenditures to measure your fiscal health.”

Thom Rainer, Jun 16, 2012, retrieved from http://thomrainer.com/2012/06/16/three_questions_pastors_often_ask_about_church_finances/

What is the amount of personnel expenses that should be in a church budget? First, I’ll give the simple response. Personnel expenses typically should not exceed 55% of a budget. But such guidelines are subject to a number of caveats. If the church has debt obligations in its budget, for example, those payments will reduce the amount a church can put toward personnel costs. The average personnel costs are about 40% of budget, but averages can be misleading as well. As a general guideline, however, I would say the broad range of personnel costs should be 35% to 55% of budget.

What are the sources of income for most churches? As you would expect, the tithes and offerings are the dominant source of income for churches. About one-third of all churches have no other sources of income. But many church leaders may be surprised to know that, on the average, churches receive 13% of their income from other sources. These sources include investment income, ancillary ministry income (such as a school or mom’s day out program), denominational support, and rental income.

How can I know if the amount our members give to the church is healthy or not?   Begin with an average and work from there. The average weekly per capita giving (WPCG) in an American church is $26. That is the amount, on the average, that every adult and child gives to the church each week. To calculate your church’s WPCG, divide your average weekly undesignated receipts by your average worship attendance (including children). For example. If the average weekly budget receipts are $4,000 (roughly an annual budget of $200,000), and the average worship attendance is 150, the church’s WPCG is $26.67 ($4,000 divided by 150). That number would be very close to the national average. The economic demographics of your church, however, could affect this number significantly

Kent E. Fillinge, 5/02/11, retrieved from Christian Standard Magazine, http://christianstandard.com/2011/05/is-the-church-in-a-recession/

Average Weekly Giving Per Person

Weekly per person giving (that’s general fund giving divided by average weekend worship attendance) increased among three of the four church size categories last year.

After taking a slight dip in 2009, the weekly per person giving average in megachurches rebounded to surpass 2008 levels, but still fell short of 2007, prerecession giving figures. The average megachurch attendee put $26.77 per week in the offering plate last year. The average weekly giving ranged from a high of $40.66 per person at one megachurch to a low of $12.93 per person at another.

Emerging megachurch attendees were the most generous givers last year, with average weekly per person giving of $27.48, a 16 percent increase from 2009. Giving at emerging megachurches ranged from $76.30 per person to $13.31 per person.

Large churches also saw weekly per person giving increase in 2010, to an average of $26.63, a 50-cent per person increase from the year before. Average weekly giving ranged from $42.28 to $15.59.

Medium churches experienced a decline in average weekly giving of more than a dollar per person, to $25.60. Average giving ranged from $39.28 per person to $10.66.

James D. Berkley, 1997, Christianity Today, “Is Your Church Fiscally Fit? Ten ways to assess you financial strength,” retrieved from http://www.buildingchurchleaders.com/articles/1997/le-7l3-7l3057.html

Total annual income

Church-expert Lyle Schaller provides a simple benchmark for annual contributions. He writes in The Interventionist: “A useful beginning point is to multiply the average worship attendance times $1,000.” If my church has 125 attenders on an average Sunday, and annual giving is $125,000, we’re in the ballpark.

Another way to look at the same figures is to multiply $20 per head in worship for any given week. If my church averages two hundred in attendance, it should be receiving about $4,000 a week. Of course such figures need to be adjusted for churches in particularly wealthy or poverty-stricken areas, for especially small or large churches, for new church plants—well, for just about any church, because there is no typical church.

The Typical Churchgoer Pays about $10 A Week For Personnel Costs

“The ‘price’ of church is rising faster than the cost of a movie ticket,” notes Schaller. “It used to be the per capita ‘cost’ of church was close to the cost of going to a movie. Now it’s closer to the expense of going to a professional sporting event—about $20.” Of course, no church charges attenders their proportion of the weekly church expenses (“Marge, I’ve only got two twenties on me. We can’t afford to bring Billy to church this week!”). But Schaller’s analysis does show the comparative costs of “doing church.”

Another way to look at annual giving is to compare this year’s receipts per attender to 1968’s figures. Between 1968 and now, according to Schaller, the Consumer Price Index went up roughly 400 percent, and personal income rose even more. So if my church received an average of $200 per attender per year in 1968, and now it receives an average of $900, we’re ahead!

A third way to look at annual receipts is comparing them with total household income. What percentage of members’ income is being given to the church?

A little sleuthing at the local planning agency will probably produce a figure for average household income. Multiply that by the number of households in the congregation (and adjust a little for the comparative wealth of a given church), and this approximates church members’ total earnings.

Then, divide the church’s total giving by its total earnings. If the result is 10 percent, the church is a biblical lot! More likely it’s under 5 percent or perhaps around 3 percent. If we can find the figures, we can compare the percentage of income given in previous years to establish a trend.

 Stephen Anderson, excerpted from the book, Preparing to Build retrieved 2013 from http://www.frugalmom.net/giving_in_the_church.htm and http://amichurchconsulting.com/purchase/?hop=frugalmom

When initially working with churches that need to build, I always ask two very simple questions.

1) What is your average attendance, counting men, women and children of all ages?

2) What was your total income in tithes and offerings last year (or last 12 months)?

Once these two numbers are ascertained with reasonable accuracy, it is a simple process to divide the total income by the total average attendance to determine the average giving per person per year. A church with 150 average attendance and annual giving of $165,000 would be $1,100 per person per year.

Over the years, I became aware of what seemed to be an emerging pattern in the relationship between income and attendance. It appeared that for a significant percentage of churches, one could take their average attendance and by adding three zeros, come up with a very close approximation of their annual income. If true, this would mean that average giving in the church was approximately $1,000 per year for every man, woman and child in attendance. This happened so many times I decided to put my impressions to the test. Over the years I had accumulated hard data, including giving and attendance information, from churches into a database. I exported the information into a spreadsheet and did the simple math. I was pleased to discover that mathematical analysis confirmed my anecdotal estimate.

An analysis of nearly 200 churches, with average total attendances ranging from 9 to 2,500 persons, indicated a median giving per person per year of $1,038.

There appears to be no significant correlation between the size of the church and giving per person. In fact, 80% of the churches that ranked in the top 10 for giving per person had attendance of less than 500 with 2 of those reporting attendance of less than 50 persons and 2 reporting 1000 or over. The average attendance of churches in the giving per person top 10 was 305, with an average income to the church per person per year (counting men, women and children of all ages) of $2,250.

It is important to remember that averages are just that, an average…

Church giving drops $1.2 billion reports 2012 Yearbook of Churches, retrieved from http://www.ncccusa.org/news/120209yearbook2012.html

New York, March 20, 2012 — Churches continue to feel the effects of “the Great Recession” of 2008 as contributions dropped $1.2 billion, according to the National Council of Churches’ 2012 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.

Membership trends in denominations reporting to the Yearbook remain stable, with growing churches still growing and declining churches still declining, reports the Rev. Dr. Eileen Lindner, the Yearbook’s editor.

The 80th annual edition of the Yearbook, one of the oldest and most respected sources of church membership and financial trends in the U.S. and Canada, may be ordered for $55 each at www.yearbookofchurches.org.

Not all churches report their financial information to the Yearbook, Lindner said, but the downward trends are reasons for concern.

The nearly $29 billion contributed by nearly 45 million church members is down $1.2 billion from figures reported in the 2011 Yearbook, Lindner said.

“This enormous loss of revenue dwarfs the $431 million decrease reported last year and provides clear evidence of the impact of the deepening crises in the reporting period,” Lindner wrote.

In terms of per capita giving, the $763 contributed per person is down $17 from the previous year, according to Lindner, a 2.2 percent drop. The decline “took place in the context of ongoing high unemployment and a protracted economic downturn,” Lindner wrote.

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


[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.

FACILITIES & Building a New Church Auditorium, Research Suggests Millennials Prefer This Size

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Ever since Robin Dunbar’s research suggested that the optimum auditorium size for community events is around 150, there has been a push to establish church sanctuaries is in the 150 size range for optimum fellowship. Here is more research that suggests that Robin Dunbar is right. In this Barna survey different generations were asked which church sanctuary they preferred. The more intimate space of under 200 was preferred by the Millennials.”

Taking a friend to church? Keep this in mind …

by Michael F. Haverluck (OneNewsNow.com) Monday, December 01, 2014

Even though megachurches have been receiving all the attention over the past couple of decades, many of the preferences 18- to 29-year-olds have when conceptualizing the ideal church will come as a surprise to many pastors, current churchgoers and armchair Christians alike.

After taking a handful of Americans of various faiths from major U.S. cities on tours to suburban megachurches, urban cathedrals, coffee shops and city parks, researchers from the Barna Group and Cornerstone Knowledge Network were asked about their likes and dislikes regarding different facets of worship areas.

After showing the Millennial participants four different sanctuaries, one of the selections was the hands-down favorite, drawing more than twice as many votes of the entire group of 18- to 29-year-olds as any of the other three worship spaces.

Barna survey Sanctuary

“Sanctuary 2 was the ‘Goldilocks’ space for many respondents — not too big, not too small — just right,” Barna researches disclosed. “It’s big enough to retain some anonymity as a visitor — the marginally churched (63 percent) and those who are not practicing Christians (50 percent) preferred it more strongly than the average — but small enough to feel part of a community. Parents with children under 18 (50 percent) also preferred Sanctuary 2 more than average.”

The megachurch worship area (Sanctuary 1) received the lowest — just 18 percent of the overall vote — while Sanctuary 3, which is devoid of religious symbols or screens but smaller than the previous two, received 20 percent of the vote from the overall group (32 percent of those in the group coming from faiths other than Christianity chose this option). Sanctuary 4 is also a smaller, cozy space with religious imagery and a large screen. This setting only received 18 percent of the overall vote.

Read more at … http://www.onenewsnow.com/church/2014/12/01/taking-a-friend-to-church-keep-this-in-mind