Sunday, September 30, 2012

Using Church Buildings as Outreach Tools – Part One

Many churches do not have all the space they desire, but they often have an advantageous physical location, such as at the center of the community or at a major crossroads. Such locations would be hard to acquire now but were often made available to churches in the past. Churches that find themselves in such a choice location should use that location as an advantage. God put churches in specific locations for a reason. While some churches may be forced to relocate or close because they are in locations that are no longer near population centers, most churches should consider their locations to be their primary mission field.

But it is not just the location of the church that should be considered, the facilities themselves should also be looked at as a major outreach too. God’s plan for world redemption includes using both the location and the facilities of a church to reach those outside the church, not just as a clubhouse for the current members. Churches that fail to take advantage of their location and facilities as an outreach tool will struggle. Churches that learn to use their location and facilities to their advantage will find it easier to reach newcomers to the community, as well as long-term residents.

If churches hope to use their buildings for outreach, the buildings should have curb appeal. People have become used to living and working in a nice environment; therefore, if the church facilities look unkempt, then people will drive right by. The church sign should be easy to read and have the main service times prominently displayed. Knowing what time the main services are scheduled is much more important than denominational aliations, descriptive phrases about the church, or even the pastor’s name.  Though that information is important to church members, it is not very important to the next generation. Some churches may struggle with this reality. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is the former president of Chicago Theological Seminary and currently a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Thistlethwaite reported in the Washington Post, “The religious landscape in the U.S. is best described these days as post-denominational. Post-denominational means that it is far less important whether you are Methodist or Baptist …” than in finding a church that works for you. She goes on to say, “When people move from one aliation to another, they are choosing a better cultural fit” more than a new denomination to relate to.

 When people notice a church building exists in their community, they often see it as a place for more than just worship services. They see the church building as the perfect place for all kinds of community meetings that may have little to do with the formal ministries of the church. Churches have large rooms, such as the sanctuary or fellowship hall, for big group meetings, and they have multiple Sunday school rooms that can be used for small-group meetings. In many smaller communities, churches often have the best facilities in town for hosting community meetings.

Small churches across the nation often allow groups like the Boy Scouts or Alcoholics Anonymous to meet in their buildings. Many of these groups are often willing to make small donations to help oset the cost of utilities. Each of these groups brings in a subset of people the church might never engage otherwise.

Obviously, just having these groups meet in a church’s building will not result in church growth if the members of the church do not interact with those using the facilities. But when church members make it a point to connect with these groups in a relational way, allowing community groups to use the church facility can become a powerful outreach eort. Churches willing to let community groups use their building for various events will increase the likelihood of new people coming to their worship services.

Adapted from Dr. Dorsett’s book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, published by CrossBooks, a division of Lifeway Christian Resources.


  1. This is great, thanks for posting.

  2. Our church does not let anyone use our building. It is for members only. We figure, the members paid for it, so they should get to use it.

  3. That is an interesting policy. I am curious, do you have a lot of unchurched people who visit your congregation?